Top 10 Russian Idioms to Go from zero to hero overnight

Top 10 Russian Idioms to Go from zero to hero overnight
14 June 2023

Learning a new language is exciting, but in the earlier stages it can seem ultra-tough to not sound like a total foreigner. One of the keys to becoming fluent in any language is mastering its idioms. Idioms provide a deeper understanding of a culture and will make you seem much more “Russian”. In Russia, idioms are an integral part of everyday communication. They add color, humor, and depth to conversations. In this article, we will explore the top 10 Russian idioms that will help you go from a foreigner to a native (носитель) overnight.

  1. В голове не укладывается (V golove ne ukladivaetsya) – It doesn’t fit in my head: This idiom is used when something is hard to comprehend or believe. It expresses a sense of disbelief or confusion. For example: “Мне очень сложно понять, как он смог это сделать. В голове не укладывается.” (It’s hard for me to understand how he managed to do that. It doesn’t fit in my head.)

  2. В двух словах (V dvukh slovakh) – In a nutshell: This phrase is used to summarize or explain something briefly. It is equivalent to the English phrase “in a few words” or “in a nutshell.” For instance: “Он объяснил свою идею в двух словах.” (He explained his idea in a nutshell.)

  3. Вертелось у меня на языке (Vertelos’ u menya na yazyke) – I had it on the tip of my tongue: This expression is used when you forget or can’t recall something that you were about to say. It conveys the feeling of having the information right there but not being able to articulate it. For example: “Я забыл, как зовут этого актера, но его имя вертелось у меня на языке.” (I forgot the name of that actor, but his name was on the tip of my tongue.)

  4. Без задних ног (Bez zadnikh nog) – Without hind legs: This idiom is used to describe something or someone that is extremely fast or efficient. It implies exceptional speed or agility. For instance: “Он бежит без задних ног, как будто его преследуют.” (He runs without hind legs, as if he is being chased.)

  5. Вешать лапшу на уши (Veshat’ lapshu na ushi) – To hang noodles on someone’s ears: This phrase is used when someone is trying to deceive or fool you by telling lies or making up stories. It means to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. For example: “Не верь ему, он пытается вешать лапшу на твои уши.” (Don’t believe him, he’s trying to hang noodles on your ears.)

  6. Работать как лошадь (Rabotat’ kak loshad’) – To work like a horse: This idiom is used to describe someone who works very hard or puts in a lot of effort. It implies dedication, diligence, and perseverance. For instance: “Мой отец работает как лошадь, чтобы обеспечить нашу семью.” (My father works like a horse to provide for our family.)

  7. С лёгкостью переворачивать горы (S lyogkost’yu perevorachivat’ gory) – To effortlessly move mountains: This idiom is used to describe someone who can achieve difficult tasks with ease or overcome significant obstacles effortlessly. It signifies great capability and skill. For example: “Она с лёгкостью переворачивает горы, чтобы достичь своих целей.” (She effortlessly moves mountains to achieve her goals.)

  8. Пустить пыль в глаза (Pustit’ pust’ v glaza) – To throw dust in someone’s eyes: This phrase is used when someone is trying to deceive or mislead you by creating a false impression or distracting you from the truth. It means to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. For instance: “Не доверяй ему, он пытается пустить тебе пыль в глаза.” (Don’t trust him, he’s trying to throw dust in your eyes.)

  9. Не лыком шит (Ne lykom shit) – Not sewn with bast: This idiom is used to describe someone who is clever, resourceful, or street-smart. It implies the ability to adapt to various situations and find solutions quickly. For example: “Он не лыком шит, он всегда находит выход из сложных ситуаций.” (He’s not sewn with bast, he always finds a way out of difficult situations.)

  10. Положить все точки над “i” (Polozhit’ vse tochki nad “i”) – To dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s: This phrase is used when you want to emphasize the need for attention to detail or making sure everything is correct and in order. It means to complete or finalize something thoroughly. For instance: “Давайте перечитаем договор и положим все точки над ‘i’ перед его подписанием.” (Let’s go through the contract again and dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s before signing it.)


Mastering idioms is an essential step to truly “knowing” a language. By incorporating these idiomatic expressions into your conversations, you will quickly bridge the gap from being a foreigner to feeling like a native speaker. So, don’t hesitate to embrace these colorful phrases and take your Russian language skills to the next level. If you’ve already learned the above and can’t get enough here’s a list of over 300 idioms to add to your lexicon. Enjoy!

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