We were having a conversation in French about asteroids, and I said:

Je ne suis peut-être pas expert en astronomie, mais... Qu’est-ce qu’un petit humain de rien du tout peut contre quelque chose d’aussi imposant, si ça reprend la route direction Terre ?

  • I’m not greatly experienced in astronomy, but... What hope does one puny human have when faced with such an astronomically huge object, if they one day end up on a collision course with Earth?

Or in German, this is where I'd have said:

≈ In der Astronomie bin ich zwar nicht sonderlich erfahren, aber ... Was könnte ein kleiner Mensch je gegen solch ein überwältigend großes Objekt ausrichten, wenn es direkt auf die Erde zusteuerte?

The expression "X de rien du tout", literally meaning "X of nothing at all", is used to emphasise the insignificance of X, added on to the similarly functioning word "petit". The adjective "klein" in German works the same way as "petit".

I'm wondering how this idea is commonly/idiomatically expressed in Russian?

4 Answers 4


I would say:

  • Что может ничтожный человечек против...

The dimunitive suffix -ек works as little/klein and ничтожный means insignificant, puny, obviously derived from ничто, rien.


In this situation you can use the phrase:

  • маленький человек:

Я не очень опытен в астрономии, однако... какая надежда остаётся у одного маленького человека, когда такой огромный объект может столкнуться с Землей?

If a huge astronomical object is about to collide with Earth and there is nothing people can do, we can also add беспомощный (helpless):

  • маленький беспомощный человек

But after all, беспомощный is optional.

  • Also consider: жалкий, несчастный
    – ddbug
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 2:06

I agree with @Enguroo that "маленький человек" is the most appropriate wording. I would like just to add that this term bears a strong allusion to a certain type of hero from classical Russian literature.

Having appeared for the first time in Pushkin's "The Station Master" and for the second time in Gogol's "The Overcoat", this kind of character was later greatly explored and developed by many prominent Russian writers (e.g., by Ostrovsky in his "Without a Dowry"). The main message of this line in the Russian literature is that this type deserves respect and attention, although he is so distant and different from a powerful romantic figure favoured in the literature thitherto.

To make long story short, this term carries a lot of weight and connotation. Use it!


you could used words and phrases like these - ничтожный, крохотный, микроскопический

or resort to comparisons or even hyperbolas - как пылинка во времени и пространстве, как микроб, меньше атома, потерянный во Вселенной, голый и ничем невооруженный, безоружный пред такими проблемами... этот карлик перед гигантами... :>

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