What are Russian equivalents of the English idiom "spread yourself too thin", which is often used in:

"Try not to spread yourself too thin."

From The Free Dictionary:

spread yourself too thin

to try to do too many things at the same time, so that you cannot give enough time or attention to any of them.

Example: I realised I'd been spreading myself too thin so I resigned as secretary of the golf club.

5 Answers 5


Распыляться 2. Разг. Одновременно заниматься многим, не сосредоточиваясь на чём-л. одном; разбрасываться.

"Не распыляйся" means exactly the same "to do many things at the same time not paying much attention to any of them. The verb is formed from "пыль" which is translated as "dust".We also say "Не разбрасывайся по мелочам".

  • 2
    для меня всегда "распыляться" значило именно "распылять" (to spray), и никогда "пыль" не возникала в представлении. Я понимаю, что глагол от "пыль", но человек может подумать, что он как бы означает "превратиться в пыль, в прах". А это не так
    – d.k
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 3:12
  • @user907860 spray and dust are closely related - you can think of spraying as distributing dust evenly over a larger surface. Распыляться meaning is much closer to spraying, not the disintegration. native speaker here
    – Kromster
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 7:20
  • there is also "водяная пыль" – when water is sprayed so thin, that there are no separate drops that can be felt or seen, but more like water dust.
    – Alissa
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 12:38
  • 2
    Good one. From where I'm from "Разбрасываться" is more common, though. Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 2:07
  • Thank you everyone on this page. I learned a lot from your comments.
    – rapt
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 6:49

I'm not sure there is an exact translation for "spread yourself too thin" in Russian. But I can suggest the close ones:

  • Не пытайся угнаться за двумя зайцами (from proverb "За двумя зайцами погонишься, ни одного не поймаешь" - "If you run after two hares, you will catch neither")
  • Не пытайся усидеть на двух стульях (just like "Between two stools one falls to the ground")

За двумя зайцами погонишься - ни одного не поймаешь.

If you try to chase for two rabbits - you won't catch any.

Pretty simple to understand, don't try to do many things at once, or you will fail.

  • 4
    A small nitpick but "заяц" = "hare" not "rabbit"
    – Maxim
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 16:56
  • 2
    True, although the word rabbit is more commonly used in US English, so to make it feel more native rabbit can be used. trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=hare,rabbit
    – Dennis
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 14:08

Referring to speech, the possible set phrase could also be растекаться мыслью/(from растекаться мысью) по древу , which is 'to run one's thought / oneself as a squirrel along a tree, мысь being an Old Slavic for 'squirrel'.

Alternatively and more conversational-like one can also use a coinage без (лишней) воды (lit. 'without (too much) water'), e.g. one of the closest translations of your request would be

Давай только без лишней воды.

Again, both phrases are applicable in reference to speech (not to actions) only.

  • 4
    This doesn’t answer the question. Both idioms given here mean “to go into too much detail when talking”, which is not what the OP is asking for. Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 7:08

Your best bet is probably the expression with the rabbits mentioned in other answers. If the goals that a person pursues are contradictory or mutually exclusive, you can use the expression:

И капитал приобрести, и невинность соблюсти (acquire capital while staying innocent)

There is an obscene version:

И рыбку съесть, и нах..й сесть (eat the fish and sit on someone's penis at the same time)

I don't know the etymology of this expression. It's most frequently used when person A thinks that person B attempts to screw A over (get benefits at A's expense). It is also used when someone wants to do something (like buy a cheap product), but does not take into account (or take responsibility for) the consequences (the fact it is likely to break soon). In the latter form it is close to the meaning of spreading yourself too thin (action: doing many things simultaneously, consequence: less results than if the person focused on one thing).


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