Looking back on a time when we ran into what briefly seemed like a bear in the woods, I wanted to say something in Russian to the effect of our finding ourselves fear-struck and helplessly "riveted to the spot", as we say "like a stump (of a tree)" in English.

In Russian, is it more like:

стоять как столб

than: стоять как пень

I'm also wondering if the usage of "как столб/пень" can extend to instances where you cannot tear/pull yourself away from the TV etc, as if to be rooted in front of them, only because you are completely engrossed in that activity?

Can "как столб/пень" be used to convey the idea of being riveted to the TV screen etc of your own accord, as opposed to fear-induced temporary paralysis? Or in the case of such voluntary immobility, would you use some other expression?

3 Answers 3


как пень usually refers to sitting, that is сидеть как пень in statements disapproving of lack of activity, e.g.

Сидит целыми днями у телевизора/за компьютером как (тот) пень

как столб is also a disapproving comparison referring to someone else's immovability which creates obstacles

Стал как столб в проходе и ни тебе ни пройти, ни проехать very colloquial

In this sense как вкопанный (as if dug in) is used as well, but it also fits in the context of having to stop dead in one's tracks because of a startling event or sudden emergence of an obstacle

Меня заворожил протяжный шум лесных верхушек, и я остановился как вкопанный на дорожке

Перед самым барьером конь остановился как вкопанный

In the context of immobile or lifeless laying the comparison is with a log - лежать как бревно

  • Basically, one of them is higher, hence the difference in usage. And Остолбенеть от ужаса should be considered a special case since you can стоять как стоб for other reasons, like great surprise.
    – sr9yar
    Aug 16, 2018 at 8:05
  • 1
    fear-struck also can be оцепенеть
    – ddbug
    Aug 19, 2018 at 16:57
  • @ddbug must too have something to do with пень - оце-пенеть )))) Aug 19, 2018 at 17:12

Остолбенеть от ужаса (страха, неожиданности и т. п.). Literally, to become immovable like a pole (столб).


Остолбенеть (to be stunned) is a verb, then there's an idiom «на него столбняк (tetanus) нашел».

For a voluntary action there's «не мог оторваться от телевизора».

  • "Остолбенеть" is good when immobility is caused by an event that is more surprising than threatening. For fear-struck people, "замереть" ("turn still like a dead") or "окаменеть" ("get petrified") is more appropriate.
    – Alexander
    Aug 16, 2018 at 18:26

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