25 Ukrainian Famous Sayings, Proverbs, and Idioms to Get Your Head Around

25 Ukrainian Famous Sayings, Proverbs, and Idioms to Get Your Head Around

In this post, we will list the most popular sayings which are widely used in Ukraine, although not all of them are originally Ukrainian. But the knowledge and understanding of them will make your speech more natural. 

1.Тéпле слόво й лід розтόпить.

A warm word melts ice.

Pleasant words have emotional power.

E.g. – Натáля погáно себé почувáє сьόгодні.

– Трéба з нéю поговорѝти. Тéпле слόво й лід розтόпить.

-Natalia doesn’t feel well today.

– We need to talk to her. A warm word will melt the ice.

2.Життя́ прожѝти ー не пόле перейтѝ.

Life to live is not a field to cross.

Life is not all smooth sailing. Life is not a bed of roses.

This saying is about the complexity of life.

E.g. -У мéне зáраз непростѝй перíод життя́.

-Розумíю тебé. Життя́ прожѝти ー не пóле перейтѝ.

-I am going through a difficult period in my life right now.

-I understand you. Life is not all smooth sailing.

3.Водá кáмінь тóчить.

Water is sharpening a stone.

Little strokes fell great oaks.

Small but persistent efforts can lead to big results.

E.g. -Дýмаю, що я нікóли не заговорю́ украї́нською, хочá займáюся двíчі на тѝждень.

-Заговóриш. Водá кáмінь тóчить.

-I think I will never speak Ukrainian, although I practice two times per week.

-You will. Little strokes fell great oaks.

4.Лóжка дóгтю в бóчці мéду.

A spoonful of tar in a barrel of honey.

A fly in the ointment.

Something small can spoil something really good.

E.g. На зýстрічі все булό дόбре, протé без лόжки дьόгтю в цій бόчці мéду не обійшлόсь. 

The meeting went well, but still, there was a fly in the ointment.

5.Під лежáчий кáмінь водá не течé.

Under the lying stone, water does not flow.

No pain, no gain. No effort makes no progress.

E.g. -Я мáло готувáвся до екзáмена і томý не здав йогó.

-Що я мóжу сказáти тобі? Під лежáчий кáмінь водá не течé.

-I spent little time preparing for my exam and eventually didn’t pass it.

-What can I say? No pain, no gain.

6.Я́блуко від я́блуні недалéко пáдає.

An apple is never far from the apple tree.

An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

This proverb is usually used to describe similarities in habits and behaviour between family members.

E.g. -Софíя дýже цілеспрямóвана дíвчина.

-Пря́мо як її мáма. Я́блуко від я́блуні недалéко пáдає.

-Sophia is a very goal-directed girl.

-Just like your mother. An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

7.Схóжі як дві крáплі водѝ.

Like two drops of water.

Like two peas in a pod.

This proverb says that two people are really similar in appearance or behaviour. 

E.g. Дві сестрѝ схóжі як дві крáплі водѝ.

Two sisters are like two peas in a pod.

8.Усьóму свій час.

Everything has its time.

If you have to make an important decision, you should not rush.

E.g. Ти хóчеш усé й одрáзу, алé всьóму свій час.

You want everything at once, but there is a time for everything.

9.Сім разíв відмíряй одѝн раз відрíж.

Measure it several times before cutting.

Think about things deeply before making a final decision.

E.g. Не трéба робѝти швидкѝх рíшень – сім разíв відмíряй одѝн раз відрíж.

Don’t make quick decisions measure twice and cut once.

10.Два чóботи пáра.

Two shoes make a pair.

Birds of a feather.

It indicates that the behaviour of the two individuals is remarkably similar. This saying is frequently used sarcastically to describe the couple’s behaviour.

E.g. Ми з чоловíком два чóботи пáра – постíйно запíзнюємося.

My husband and I are always late. We are birds of a feather.

11.Робѝти з мýхи слонá.

Making an elephant out of a fly.

Make a mountain out of an anthill. 

This proverb means that you shouldn’t make a big deal out of something small.

E.g. Павлó постíйно перебíльшує, він рóбить із мýхи слонá.

Pavlo constantly exaggerates. He makes a mountain out of an anthill.

12.Показáти, де рáки зимýють.

To show where the crayfish is wintering.

To teach someone a lesson.

This proverb is often used as a threat.

E.g. Він такѝй злий на нас, що зáраз покáже, де рáки зимýють!

He is so angry with us that he will teach us a lesson now.

13.Про вóвка промóвка (а ось і він).

Talking about the wolf (and here he is).

Speak of the devil. 

It’s used when a person appears just after being mentioned.

E.g.: -Ти знáєш, що Сашкó вчóра ходѝв на побáчення з Надíєю?

-Ні. А ось і він iдé. Про вóвка промóвка.

-Do you know that Sashko went on a date with Nadia yesterday?

-No. And here he goes. Speak of the devil. 

14.Німѝй як рѝба.

Mute as a fish/carp. 

It is used to say that you won’t say anything.

E.g.: -Тíльки нікóму не кажѝ мій секрéт.

-Я німá як рѝба.

-Don’t tell my secret to anyone.

-I won’t breathe a word.

15.Вѝчавлений лимóн.

A squeezed lemon.

Dead tired.

It is used to talk about someone very tired.

E.g.: Мéне сьогóдні не чіпáйте, бо я як вѝчавлений лимóн.

Don’t touch me today because I’m dead tired.

16.Язѝк до Кѝєва доведé.

The tongue will get you anywhere.

If you are willing to ask, you can find the way.

This wise saying means that if you are willing to ask for help or advice, you will learn and figure out how to deal with whatever problem you are facing.

E.g. Я не знáю, де автовокзáл у цьóму мíсці. Алé я запитáю людéй – язѝк до Кѝєва доведé.

I don’t know where is a bus station in this city. But I’ll ask people.

17.Абó пан, абó пропáв.

Either lord or lost.

All or nothing. Go big or go home. Sink or swim.

This idiom means to either gain everything or be completely lost.

E.g. Я вѝрішив почáти все зáново в Амéриці. Абó пан, абό пропáв.

I decided to start over in America. It’s going to be all or nothing.

18.Апетѝт з їдόю прибувáє.

Appetite comes with eating.

This proverb says that desire or facility increases as an activity proceeds.

E.g. -У мéне немáє натхнéння, я не мóжу працювáти сьóгодні.

  -Головнé почáти, а апетѝт з їдóю прибувáє.

-I have no inspiration, and I can’t work today.

-The main thing is to start, and appetite comes with food.

19.Бережéного Бог бережé (а козакá шáбля).

God helps those who help themselves (and a sabre helps a cossack).

It’s better to be safe than sorry. You can’t be too careful.

This saying indicates that if you want to be safe, you have to care about your safety.

E.g. Трéба зáвжди зачиняти двéрі будѝнку, бо бережéного Бог бережé.

You must always close the house door because it’s better to be safe than sorry.

20.Вовкíв боятися – у ліс не ходѝти.

If you are afraid of wolves, don’t go to the forest.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

According to this saying, if you never take any risks, you can’t expect to gain anything.

E.g.: Менí стрáшно починáти щось новé, алé вовкíв боятися – у ліс не ходѝти.

I’m afraid to start something new, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

21.Підливáти мáсло у вогóнь.

Add fuel to the fire.

This idiom refers to making a quarrel or challenging situation worse or more intense.

E.g.: Кричáти під час суперéчки – це підливáти мáсло у вогόнь.

Yelling during an argument adds fuel to the fire.

22.Вѝскочити як Пилѝп з конопéль.

To pop out like a Philip out of hemp.

Out of the blue.

This saying means to say or do something inappropriate when and where no one expects it.

E.g.: На урóці він чáсто говóрить щось не до тéми – як Пилѝп із конопéль.

He often says something off-topic in class, just out of the blue.

23.Де тóнко, там і рвéться.

Where it is thin, it tears.

A weak side. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link. (Not equivalent, but close).

This proverb says that in a critical moment, the most vulnerable is the most problematic aspect. 

This proverb says that the most susceptible element is always the most problematic.

E.g. -Під час стрéсу в мéне починáє болíти головá.

-Мáбуть, де тóнко, там і рвéться. Бережѝ себé.

-I get a headache when I’m stressed.

-Probably, it’s your weak side. Take care of yourself.

24. Крáпля в мóрі.

A drop in the sea/ocean.

A minimal compared to the amount needed.

E.g. Мій одинóчний протéст був крáплею в мóрі.

My single protest was just a drop in the ocean.

25.Удóма й стíни допомагáють.

At home, even the walls help.

My house is my castle.

This proverb means that your home is a place of your strength.

E.g.: Багáто українців хόчуть повернýтися додóму, томý що вдóма й стíни допомагáють.

Many Ukrainians want to come back home. Because their house is their castle.

Dear Friends, if you wish to learn Ukrainian idioms and sound more natural, we have prepared a set of flashcards “100 Ukrainian idioms” for you.

Hopefully, this material was helpful. Let us know in the comments what Ukrainian sayings you have heard before. What idioms are similar to the ones in your language?

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