In this passage, I'm wondering if встал колом is correct (I didn't write this - it was written by a native Russian speaker on a forum for anecdotes), and if so, what is the literal interpretation word for word?

Рассказал сегодня знакомый, далее от первого лица. Купили себе в офис шредер. Небольшой, максимально 6 листов за раз жуёт, но нам больше и не нужно. Объяснил, что к чему всем. Десять раз повторил что 6 листов максимум. Сижу работаю. К шредеру подходит Ира (имя изменено), берет 6 листов, сворачивает пополам и суёт в шредер. Тот встал колом, не работает, завтра в ремонт повезу.

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    "Stopped/stuck dead" is a good translation if you need an idiomatic expression.
    – AR.
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 23:21

2 Answers 2


When something is completely stuck, most likely in a perpendicular position - it's "встать колом".

Examples of usage:

  • Проспект Гагарина встал колом из-за ДТП. (There's a trafic jam on Gagarina Avenue because of an accident).
  • В Химках из-за взрыва водопроводных труб асфальт встал колом. (There's a hump in the asphalt following a water pipe explosion).

The other meaning is to harden:

  • Из-за застывшей грязи плащ встал колом. (The coat became stiff with dirt).

Oh, and it's worth mentioning that we also use the phrase "стоять колом в горле" - when something is hard to swallow and it feels like it's stuck.

  • Thank you, Shahen! Is there any way you can translate your wonderful examples into English?
    – CocoPop
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 17:30
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    @CocoPop added some approximate translations.
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 17:37
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    @CocoPop the shredder "встал колом" )
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 18:59
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    And is it ко́лом or коло́м?
    – CocoPop
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 22:14
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    @CocoPop кóлом (first vowel is stressed)
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 22:17

I am not a native speaker and encountered this Russian expression only once, in a very different context: a man's physiological reaction to a sexually attractive woman...

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    Well after Shabunc's explanation, that would make perfect sense! 😅
    – CocoPop
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 18:27
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    I, as native speaker, never heard that someone use "Встать колом" in this meaning. While it is possible to use in this way, i don't think it's common. But maybe it depends on area and people you're talking to
    – RedVarVar
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 8:44
  • Also a native speaker, never heard anyone use it this way.
    – Catsunami
    Commented Nov 22, 2019 at 17:49
  • This looks like a joke. I never encountered this as a native speaker. It makes a funny impression of being literally OK but the idiom means stuck, broke, so it somehow makes a contrast between idiomatic and literal meaning.
    – Anixx
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 17:05

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