“Ни рыба ни мясо” or animals in Russian idioms

Every language has and abundance of phrases, idioms, proverbs and aphorisms which include animals. Russian is no exception. Some of them can be rather straightforward to understand, while others sound pretty odd to an English speaker. Below is the compilation of the Russian animal-related phrases that are very popular and widely used on an everyday basis. Include them in your speech to sound more Russian!

Phrase Translation to English Meaning
Голодный как волк Hungry like a wolf Self-explanatory
Как сонная муха Like a sleepy fly When one is sluggish, slow and barely does anything
Медведь на ухо наступил The bear stepped on one’s ear One has no musical talent
Упертый как осел Stubborn like a donkey Self-explanatory
Как корова на льду Like a cow on ice Very clumsy
Волком выть To howl like a wolf To suffer from a severe pain (like a wolf from hunger)
Преданный как собака Loyal like a dog Self-explanatory
Как белка в колесе Like a squirrel in a wheel So-called rat race
Как рыба в воде Like fish in water To feel relaxed, confident and comfortable (doing something/in a situation)
Собаку съеcть To eat a dog To acquire a considerable experience, skill in anything; to do something perfectly
Свободный как птица Free like a bird Self-explanatory
Мудрый как сова Wise like an owl Self-explanatory
Как сельди в бочке Like herring in a barrel In a very crowded place where impossible to move
Заладить как дятел Talk like a woodpecker To repeat something said or done again and again
Ни рыба ни мясо Neither fish nor meat Flavourless, nothing special (can be a thing or a person)
Наставить рога Place horns (on someone) To deceive/cheat (usually on a men/husband)
Белая ворона White crow Out of place, awkward; one does not belong
Хитрый как лиса Cunning like a fox Foxes are perceived as cunning animals
Слона бы сьел I would eat an elephant Very hungry
Работать как лошадь Work like a horse Work very hard
Лучше синица в руках, чем журавль в небе Better a tomtit in hands than a crane in the sky It is better to have something small but certain than a mere potential of a greater one.


За двумя зайцами погонишься, ни одного не поймаешь If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither one By going after too many things at the same time, you will not achieve a result in any of them
Делать из мухи слона To make an elephant out of a fly “Make a mountain out of a molehill” or exaggerate the importance of something trivial
Доходит как до жирафа As slow as a giraffe (in understanding something) When it takes a long time for someone to understand something

Any other phrases you want to add?

Team EBC