Russian Language Blog

Easy Does It: Sayings With Лёгкий Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in language

blue feather

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Лёгкий means “easy” or “light” (weight-wise). Apart from being a useful word in its own right, лёгкий appears in a number of common sayings.

Pronunciation note: don’t worry about trying to enunciate the г. This word is pronounced as if it were spelled “лёхкий.” A useful homonym is лёгкие (lungs, singular лёгкое).

Лёгок на помине

Лёгок is the short form of the masculine лёгкий. Other short forms are легка (feminine), легко (neuter), and легки (plural). This saying is used when someone you were just talking about shows up, similarly to the English “speak of the devil.”

А мы тебя только что вспоминали. Как говорится, легок на помине. (We were just remembering you. Speak of the devil, as they say.)
[Евгений Велтистов. Победитель невозможного (1975)]

Легка на подъём

Легка is the feminine short form. Other forms are лёгок (m.), легко (n.), легки (pl.) This expression literally translates “easy to rouse” and means that someone is easy to get going, up for anything, and does not require lengthy preparations.

Строители великих держав античности ― греки, римляне, карфагеняне ― были легки на подъем; они властвовали на море и прокладывали разветвленную сеть дорог на суше. (The builders of the great powers of Antiquity — Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians — did not stop at anyting; they ruled the seas and paved an expansive road network on dry land.) [Александр Волков. Давайте полетаем // «Знание – сила», 2005]

Час от часу не легче

alarm clock

Image from Pixabay

This expression literally means “Not easier from one hour to the next.” It is said to describe a situation that’s getting progressively worse.

― Не прогуливаю, ― настаивает мой собеседник. ― Меня выгнали из класса.
Он усматривает тут глубокую разницу.
― Час от часу не легче.
(“I’m not playing hooky,” my intelocutor insisted. “I’ve been kicked out of the classroom.”
He sees a principal difference here.
“Even better.”)
[Вадим Баевский. Центральный поселок // «Звезда», 2008]

С лёгкой руки

Рука in this context is “hand.” This expression literally translates as “off someone’s light hand” and describes a situation when people start doing something following someone’s example or decision.

С легкой руки экспертов это поколение, родившееся в период со второй половины 1980-х до начала 1990-х, получило название «поколение Y». (This generation, born from the latter half of the 80s through the early 90s, was dubbed “Generation Y” by the experts.) [Анастасия Матвеева. Амбициозные и бессмысленные // «Эксперт», 2014]

C лёгким паром

This saying, literally meaning “[I congratulate you on] easy steam,” is said to someone who has just taken a bath or a shower. It is widely known thanks to Eldar Ryazanov’s comedy film, which is shown in Russia every New Year’s eve/day. I cannot think of an equivalent English saying (“Hope you enjoyed your bath”?) since showering is not seen as a cause for celebration in Anglophone cultures. 🙂 Traditionally, this saying was used for the Russian banya (sauna), hence the reference to steam.

[жена выходящему из ванной мужу] С лёгким паром! Ну как помылся? ― Замечательно!
([a wife to a husband coming out of the bathroom] Welcome back! How was your shower? — Wonderful!)
[Домашние разговоры // М. В. Китайгородская, Н. Н. Розанова. Речь москвичей: Коммуникативно-культурологический аспект. М., 1999, 1991-1999]

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. Kjell Nilsson:

    это нет легкий изучать русский язык.

    • Maria:

      @Kjell Nilsson Спасибо за комментарий. Удачи в изучении русского языка!

      For what it’s worth, you would likely say “нелегко изучать русский язык.” Russian does not require a subject to say how something is, e.g. “it’s cold” = “холодно” and not “это холодно.”

      As for the form of “нелегко,” this is sort of an impersonal form used to describe a situation. For instance, to say “interesting” in response to some new information you heard, you would say “интересно,” not “интересный.” The personal forms (легкий, легкая, легкое, легкие) are used when there is a noun or pronoun they agree with, e.g. эта книга легкая (this book is easy).

      I hope this explains my suggestion and keep it up with learning Russian!

  2. Natalia:

    There’s one more expression: “принесла нелёгкая” (about an unexpectable visit of the unpleasant person):”А вот и он, принесла нелёгкая!” – Here he is, the breath of the devil!”(I found this example in some article on translation theory)To my mind, it is this expression that should be translated into English as “speak of the devil” as well. As for “лёгок на помине” it can be sometimes translated as “the breath of the angel” (when a desirable person is meant).

    • Maria:

      @Natalia Thank you, Natalia. This is a good addition to the list. I agree with you that “легок на помине” does not have the same negative connotation as “speak of the devil” may in some contexts, so it’s definitely good to know “принесла нелегкая” (for our readers, this part does not change and is followed/preceded by the noun/pronoun in the accusative case: принесла солдата нелегкая).