A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Jonathan Swift
This is a collection of Russian proverbs and sayings
supplied from the book A Book of English and Russian Proverbs and
Sayings by author M. Dubrovin, Moscow, "Prosvesheniye", 1993.
Anyone wanting to provide additional proverbs and sayings is invited to
- A man is judged by his deeds, not by his words.
(People can say many things, because talking is easy, but
it is more important what person does than what he says
he will do)
- The sun will shine into our yard too.
(Neither the weather nor people can remain disturbed for
long; the calm (sun) must follow)
- One does not sharpen the axes after the right time;
after the time they are needed.
(It is useless to have something when there is
no use for it)
- After a storm (comes) fair weather, after sorrow
(There must be something better after every piece of
- All are not cooks that walk with long knives.
(Good looks do not always go to with virtue, and
ugliness does not always go with sin)
- All cats are grey at night.
(All shapes, all colors are alike in the dark.
The night obscures all distinguishing features)
- Every seed knows its time == All in good time
(One should not be impatient and hasten events;
everything will work out after some time, but
- Any fish is good if it is on the hook.
(The fisherman can make use of every kind of fish that
he catches, large and small. One should make use of every
opportunity that comes one's way)
- The one who draws (a cart) is urged on.
(A man willing to work is always given more work to
do than a lazy one, because the work which given to willing
man will be done well and quickly)
- All roads lead to Rome.
(A number of persons arrive at one common objective by
different means. All ways or methods of fulfilling a
certain intention end in the same results. )
- As is well that ends well.
(If the final result is good, previous failures are forgotten
and there is no need to complain, since the end result is
the most importance thing)
- All is not gold that glitters.
(A person or thing may not be as good, valuable, etc. , as he
or it first appears; appearances can be deceptive)
- (One does not regret giving) one's own ear-ring to one's
(One does not regret giving the best to one's friend)
- The appetite comes during a meal.
(Desire or facility increases as an activity proceeds)
- Onion treats seven ailments.
(If person eats an onion every day, he will remain healthy
and not need a doctor)
- As you cooked the porridge, so must you eat it.
(Every must take consequences of his own actions)
- As you make your bed, so you will sleep.
(A person must take the responsibility for the results
of his own unwise actions; just as a man who makes his
bed badly will certainly sleep uncomfortably. )
- You will reap what you will sow.
(You will be rewarded or punished in accordance with
what you have done to deserve it)
- It is a bad workman that has a bad saw.
(A careless or unskilled person blames his tools to
excuse himself for bad work, while it is his own carelessness
or lack of skill which is really to blame)
- One may make up a soft bed (for somebody), but still it will
be hard to sleep in.
(One should beware of an attractive offer, for there is very
- You needn't be afraid of a barking dog, but you should be afraid
of a silent dog.
(People who often lose their temper and make many loud threats
seldom carry them out. Dogs that bark most bite least)
- One does not look for good from good.
(By continually striving for the best one way waste good
- Better a dove on the plate than a woodgrouse in the mating place.
(It is better to accept something small than to reject it and hope
to get more later on)
- You cannot break through a wall with your forehead.
(It is often wise to give way to the wishes off others; for
to oppose them might bring ruin upon oneself)
- Better late than never.
(It is better to come (to repent, to do something, etc) late
than never to come (to repent, to do something, etc. ) at all)
- Better to stumble than make a slip of the tongue.
(It is better to do something wrong that to say something
wrong, because it is sometimes more difficult to improve
something said than something done)
- One who sits between two chairs may easily fall down.
(A person who cannot decide which of two courses to follow,
who tries to follow two courses at the same time, may fail
to follow either)
- Beware of a quite dog and still water.
(You should not afraid of people who make threats and
shout in a loud voice; it is the people who are quiet and
say little that must really be feared)
- A sparrow in the hand is better than a cock on the roof.
(It is better to be content with what we have or can easily
get than to lose it by trying to get something better, as this
may never happen)
- A bird may be known by its flight.
(A person is know and judged by his actions or behavior)
- One fisherman sees another from afar.
(People of similar interests, tastes or characters are attracted
to each other and stay close together)
- Take the bull by the horns.
(You should deal with something difficult boldly without delay)
- Once burned by milk you will blow on cold water.
(After some bitter or painful experience you will be on your
guard against similar troubles our sufferings)
- Idleness is the mother of all vices.
(There is no excuse for doing nothing - when people do not
have enough work to do, they into trouble)
- You cannot pull a fish out of a pond without labour.
(Restraint and caution achieve nothing; if you want
to get something, you should immediately start working
- No money is taken for just looking (at somebody or
(There is nothing to prevent an ordinary person from l
looking at a person of great importance so long as he
tries to do no harm)
- He would exclaim "Ah" looking at himself.
(People are inclined to shut their eyes to their own
sins and vices. )
- One would like to eat fish, but would not like to get
into the water.
(Said of a person who is anxious to obtain something
valuable but does not want to take the necessary trouble
- Where something is thin, that's where it tears.
(Each person or feature in an enterprise or process
must be equally reliable; an enterprise or process may fail
because of a single weakness or fault)
- A fly will not get into a closed mouth.
(It is desirable, and may be more effective, remain silent
in some circumstances)
- There will be trouble if the cobbler starts making pies.
(A person should concern himself with his own trade or
occupation and should not engage in, or give advice about,
other trades or occupations)
- Any sandpiper is great in his own swamp.
(It is easy to brag of your deeds in familiar surroundings
where you are safe from danger and not likely to be put
- A drop hollows out a stone.
(Persistence will achieve a difficult objective)
- We do not care of what we have, but we cry when it
(We do not appreciate the value of a thing until we have
- Not everyone who has a cowl on is a monk.
(Do not judge peoople by what they appear to be)
- Curious Varvara's nose was torn off.
(A person who tries to find out too much about other
people's affairs is likely to suffer injury or harm; a warning
to mind one's own business)
- Do not dig a hole for somebody else; you yourself will
fall into it.
(Mistakes, misdeeds, etc. , come back as an unpleasant effect
on the person who originally made the mistakes, did the
- God does not give to cow that butts.
(Example: Angry men cannot do the mischief they wish)
- Stretch your legs according to your clothes.
(One should remain within the limits of what one has
or what one can afford)
- Stormy weather cannot stay all the time, the red
sun will come out, too.
(Things are at their worst just before they get better,
or the worst stage is often the prelude to an
- You need a sharp axe for a tough bough.
(Serious evils need drastic remedies)
- The devil is not so frighful as he is painted.
(Any person of bad character is not so bad as people
say he is )
- The scythe ran into a stone.
(Said of meeting of two persons who are a match for
each other in cunning or power)
- God takes care of the one who takes care of himself.
(What appears to be cowardice may be wise caution, and
what appears to be valour may be foolish rashness;
so unnecessary risks should not be run)
- A wolf won't eat wolf.
( People of the same group, occupation, interests live,
or should live, together in amity)
- Do not praise yourself whike going into battle;
praise yourself coming out of battle.
(Do not rejjoice till you are sure that your difficulties
are at an end)
- You do not need a whip to urge on an obedient horse.
(A keep worker who is doing his best should be left
alone and not urged to work harded)
- Do not carryy rubbish out of your hut.
(Do not discuss your fault, mistakes, private, and
especially family, grievances, troubles, quarrels, scandals,
etc. , in public)
- Cut down the tree that you are able to.
(Do not undertake more than you are able to perform
or something that is too difficult)
- One does not go to Tula with one's own samovar.
(Do not do anything that is completely
unnecessary; do not take supplies, articles, etc. , to a place
where are plenty of them already)
- Chickens are counted in autumn.
(Do not be sure of success, victory, etc. , until all difficulties
have been overcome; make sure that a thing is actually yours
before you speak or act as if it were already yours)
- There will come a time when the seed will sprout.
(Do not trouble yourself about future problems and difficulties,
but wait till you have to deal with them; then will be the time
to worry about them, not now)
- Do not cut the bough you are sitting on.
(Do not act in such a way as to do yourself harm)
- The peasant
will not cross himself before it begins to thunder.
(Do not do at the last moment anything that was to be done long before.
Do not put things off untill the last moment)
- Do not look at gift hourse's mouth.
(Never criticize or express displeasure when you receive
a gift; be thankful that you have it at all. (examination
of a horse's mouth reveals a lot about its age and
- Do not make an elephant out of a fly.
(Do not worry or become excited about matters that are
not really important at all. Do not exaggerate the
importance of matters)
- Do not measure (others) by your own arshin (=28 inches)
(Do not judge others by yourself; do not apply your own
standard to other)
- Do not play with fire - you will burn yourself.
(Do not take risks with dangerous articles, especially
when it is foolish and unnecessary; do not put yourself
into a position that may be dangerous)
- Do not plant a tree with its root upward.
(Do not do or say things in the wrong order; do not
reverse the right or natural order of things)
- A man should not be struck when he is down.
(Never hit an opponent who has fallen, do not attact
or hurt a person in misfortune who cannot "fight back")
- You do not swap horses while crossing the ford.
(Do not change arrangements while yyou are in the
middle of a difficult task or till a crisis is past)
- Do not teach a pike to swim, a pike knows his own
(Do not tell or show somebody how to do something
that he can do perfectly well and propably better
than you yourself)
- Eggs cannot teach a hen.
(Do not give advice to someone who is more experienced
than you; do not teach a person who is wiser and more
- Drowning man clutches at straw.
(Anyone in desperate cirtumstances will try every possible
means to escape from danger or difficulty even though he
knows it is unlikely to be successful)
- God gives to those who get up early.
(The person who gets up early to work will be successful;
those that arrive early at a place have the advantage over
- It is good to be visiting, but it is better at home.
(Your home (i. e. your house, your home town, etc. ) is where
you are likely to be happiest, especially in comparison
with other places you may be at the time)
- An empty barrel makes the greatest sound.
(Ignorant stupid people talk more often and more loudly
than wise ones; just as an empty pot makes a loud noise
when it is struck, while a full pot makes little noise)
- The end is the crown of any work.
(It is the final result than completes all that went before
and is its culmination; it is the final result than matters)
- One is one's own master on one's own stove.
(An Englishman can do as he likes in his own home and
nobody may enter it without his permissions)
- The tongue speaks, but the head doesn't know.
(Foolish and vain people are very fond of expressing their
own opinions and talking too much)
- Every sandpiper praises its own swamp.
(Every man praises what is familar and dear to him)
- There is no evil without good.
(In every trouble and difficulty there is hope or
expectation of an improvement in the circumstances; a
misfortune may turn into a benefit)
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