Russian Language Blog

Easy-breezy Russian idioms with “wind” Posted by on Jun 10, 2020 in Idioms, language, Vocabulary

The Russian language is bountiful with idioms (фразеологи́змы) and there are a few particularly fun ones that use the word “ве́тер” (wind). Wind often symbolizes uncertainty, transition, and change. It also carries notions of emptiness and void since we cannot really catch it or hold onto it, but we can definitely feel its power.


Держа́ть но́с по ве́тру


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Держа́ть но́с по ве́тру means to adapt to circumstances; to change one’s opinions based on the surroundings. The origin of this expression comes from sailing realities of relying on the wind and keeping the bow of the ship in the same direction as the wind. Since the Russian word for “the bow of the ship” is «нос су́дна» (literally “the nose of the ship”; “су́дно” means “ship”), the expression держа́ть но́с по ве́тру came to be about people who change their beliefs and behavior to better fit into what’s happening around them.

“Держи́ но́с по ве́тру и всё пойдёт как по ма́слу!” (Григорий Даниле́вский. “Девя́тый вал”.)


Ве́тер в голове́


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Ве́тер в голове́ is a common way to describe a frivolous person or someone who doesn’t take things seriously. To say “У него́ ве́тер в голове́” is to characterize the person as careless and unreliable. People can also say that someone is “ветреный” [vetrenii], meaning they are carefree and a bit flippant.

“— Как у тебя́ с учёбой? — Да не о́чень хорошо́. — Я ему́ всегда́ говорю́, — вста́вила учи́тельница, — ты мог бы учи́ться во сто раз лу́чше. Но вот беда́ — ве́тер в голове́ гуля́ет (Чингиз Айтматов, “Ра́нние журавли́”.)


Как ве́тром сду́ло

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Как ве́тром сду́ло refers to something or someone disappearing almost immediately. It could be used to describe a person who left when faced with responsibility, work, or a difficult task. Likewise, как ве́тром сду́ло can be used to describe a mood or feeling that faded too fast.

Де́тская веселость так же бы́стро улете́ла, как яви́лась, то́чно её ве́тром сду́ло. (Дмитрий Мамин-Сибиряк.)

People often use this phrase to comment on someone’s disappearance before an important task, as in “Её как ветром сдуло!” (She left so fast!). Here, the expression hints that the person who left is being irresponsible and trying to avoid their duty or chores.


Броса́ть слова́ на ве́тер


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Броса́ть слова́ на ве́тер means to talk without thinking ahead or make empty promises. This phrase is often used with a negative particle «не» as in “Он слова́ на ве́тер не броса́ет” (He does not make empty promises). Here, the speaker wants to highlight that the other person keeps their word and follows through on their promises.


Ищи́ ве́тра в по́ле

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Ищи́ ве́тра в по́ле is an expression one will utter if they believe something or someone is hopelessly lost. It is a way to say you won’t have luck finding it.

Фами́лии свое́й она́ нам не ска́зывала. Марья Петровна – вот и всё. А Омск, то́же сказа́ть, го́род большо́й, не найдёшь её там. Ищи́ ветра в поле! (Антон Че́хов, “По Сибири”.)

The phrase ищи́ ве́тра в по́ле is synonymous with ищи́-свищи́. Ищи is an imperative form of the verb искать (to look for) and свищи comes from the verb свистать (to whistle). These rhyming imperatives make for a great alternative phrase that creates an image of standing in an open field and hopelessly whistling in an attempt to attract something or someone you lost.

Деньга была́ сере́бряная, это Сенька сра́зу по́нял. Наве́рно, их тут таки́х ра́ньше по́лная су́мка лежа́ла, да Синюхин всё забра́л, перепря́тал куда́-нибудь. Ищи-свищи тепе́рь. (Борис Акунин, “Любо́вник Сме́рти.”)

So, the next time someone is blasting “Wind of Change” by Scorpions or “Ве́тер Переме́н” song from a childhood classic “Мэ́ри По́ппинс, до свида́ния”, you can blow them away with these 5 “windy” idiomatic expressions.

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