Russian Language Blog

Time to Lighten Up Posted by on Aug 28, 2012 in language

What can be easier that learning Russian verbs? Russian adjectives, of course! And to switch gears, let’s choose лёгкое слово (easy word). In fact, why not talk about this exact adjective – лёгкий.

To begin with, лёгкий might describe an object that is light as in

Лёгкий танк весит меньше, а двигается быстрее, чем тяжёлый – A light tank weighs less and moves faster than a heavy one.

Кольцо было слишком лёгкое, явно не из чистого золота – A ring was too light, definitely not made of solid gold.

Ветер колыхал лёгкую занавеску – Wind moved the light curtain

It may also mean something easy as in

Для меня математика всегда была лёгким предметом – Math was always easy for me.

Кандидат был лёгкой мишенью для шуток – The candidate was an easy target for jokes.

Первое препятствие будет лёгкое – The first obstacle is going to be easy.

Another way the adjective is used is to describe something slight or gentle:

Её лицо озарила лёгкая улыбка – Her face lit up by a slight smile

Лёгкий ветерок принёс запах моря – A gentle breeze carried the scent of the sea.

Это была даже не влюблённость, а так, лёгкое увлечение – It wasn’t even an infatuation, just a slight crush.

And then there are all those wonderful phrases. I am not a person who is лёгок на подъём (quick off the mark). It takes me awhile to get from planning something to actually doing it. It might be because I don’t have лёгкая рука (luck, magic touch) when it comes to doing things.

Рыболов, победивший в чемпионате по рыбной ловле, утверждает, что у него просто лёгкая рука – A fisherman who won the fishing championship insists that he is simply lucky.

С лёгкой руки крёстной, девочку так и стали называть Тусей – Thanks to the godmother’s magic touch, everyone called the girl Tusya.

When someone we just talked about shows up, we might exclaim jokingly that this person is лёгок на помине (speaking of the devil). To ourselves we might mutter принесла нелёгкая (the devil brought him/her this way).

If you had a chance to watch Бриллиантовая рука (The Diamond Arm), you are familiar with the now-classic phrase лёгким движением руки (with a subtle motion of a hand). And speaking of fashion models, it’s got to be tough to maintain the kind of лёгкая походка (light steps, light strut) we associate with supermodels on catwalks. Кто сказал, что у супермоделей лёгкая жизнь (Who says supermodels have it easy).

But when it comes to something more substantial than a catwalk-worthy gate, we tend to value people who are лёгкие в общении (easy to communicate with) and, in general, с лёгким характером (easy-going). Being around such people is like listening to a good song. And everyone knows that легко на сердце от песни весёлой (a cheerful song lightens one’s heart). Speaking of hearts, when we are at ease about something, we might say that на сердце легко. Literally, it means the heart feels light. Idiomatically, we usually say that our mind is at ease.

One other лёгкая (light) phrase that you must know has to do with sports. I’m not talking about лёгкая победа (easy victory). The other day I was asked how to say “track and field” in Russian. Well, it is лёгкая атлетика and the track and field athletes are лёгкоатлеты as opposed to тяжёлая атлетика (Olympic-style weightlifting) and тяжёлоатлеты (weightlifters).

What other phrases with words лёгкий and легко do you know? Try to list as many as you can and remember тяжело в учении, легко в бою (train hard, fight easy or the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war).

Tags: , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Rob:

    In some contexts, лёгкий can mean “frivolous; morally unserious,” right? I mean, лёгкие чтение could mean simply “lighthearted, fun reading” but more pejoratively “junk reading,” depending on who’s saying it?

    And if I’m not mistaken, женщина лёгких нравов (“woman of light/easy morals”) would be a rather euphemistic way to describe a prostitute.

  2. Rob:

    One thing I know for sure is that лёгкое used as a noun means “a lung”! (At one time this was also true in English, or at least in culinary contexts — so one of the ingredients in making haggis were “sheep lights,” i.e. бараньи лёгкие. But nowadays I think we’d just call ’em “sheep lungs.” And I’m not sure if lungs were ever called “lights” in, say, a veterinary or medical context… only in cooking.)

  3. David Roberts:

    Нельзя забывать “С легким паром”!

  4. Nata:

    A note for Russian students – облегчиться in Russian does not mean “lighten up”. It is, in fact, one of the rare polite expressions for pooping. Please be careful!

    • yelena:

      @Nata Ната, thank you! Yes, literal translation of “lighten up” doesn’t work here 🙂