In English, the term red flag is used as a metaphor to mean a sign suggestive of a possible danger or problem:

(1) Boyfriend not showing you his home is a huge red flag. (Link)

(2) I've just spent the last 3 weeks being scammed by an alleged Timeshare owner of the Harborside Resort. ... I saw other forums where it was normal for the owners to accept Paypal which is what I used, however it was person to person instead of business. There were so many red flags that I now look back on and should have noticed. (Link)

(3) In the past few months I lost $2000 on a project that I spent over 26 hours on. There were so many red flags that this was going to happen. I had that gut reaction, those knots in my stomach telling me something was going to go horribly wrong. (Link)

(4) In hindsight, there was a huge red flag which I had chosen to overlook. Before we had even gone on our first date, he had Whatsapped a picture of me to his mum, and told her that he was going to marry me. He even screenshot that conversation with her, and sent it to me! (Link)

I'm curious how such things are expressed in the mighty language of Pushkin and Dostoevsky. How do Russians refer to signs suggestive of a possible danger or problem?

  • 4
    Stars and Stripes, comrade!
    – komodosp
    Aug 13, 2020 at 16:42
  • 4
    Приезжает иностранец в СССР. Идет по улице, смотрит по сторонам. Зазевался и упал в открытый люк. Его вытаскивают. Он возмущается: - Почему вы не огородили люк красными флажками? - Мужик, ты когда в страну въезжал - ты большой красный флаг видел?
    – fraxinus
    Aug 14, 2020 at 8:24

4 Answers 4


The closest match I can think of is "тревожный звонок" / "тревожный звоночек" (more popular form), like in:

Если твой парень никогда не приводит тебя в свой дом - это тревожный звонок.

Here a some other (real-life) examples:

«Авангард» завершил регулярку четырьмя поражениями и упустил второе место на Востоке, это тревожный звоночек. ("Avangard" lost four games in a row and missed second place in the East, it's a red flag.)

Если женщина пишет тебе первая — это тревожный звоночек. (If a woman writes you first - it's a red flag.)

Десять тревожных звоночков в общении с новыми друзьями, о которых надо рассказать подростку. (10 red flags in communication with new friends you need to tell a teenager about.)

Keep in mind, though that it's not necessarily a red flag and can be used in a wider set of situations when one is just worried, it's sort of worrying sign, however, again, it's the closest I can think of.

  • 5
    I think it's the closest equivalent, but “тревожный звонок” is much softer than “red flag”. It's more like “sign to be cautious” while “red flag”, I think, is closer to “sign to just walk away immediately”.
    – Alissa
    Aug 11, 2020 at 20:42
  • 4
    @Alissa well, let's be honest, many of us would say just something like "в этих отношениях было так много пиздецов, что я диву даюсь, как я тогда вообще об этом не задумывался".
    – shabunc
    Aug 11, 2020 at 21:35
  • 3
    ну, в этом контексте п...ц - скорее не "красный флаг", а "черная метка")))
    – Slo_nik
    Aug 12, 2020 at 0:36
  • 1
    thb this expression is highly informal, "тревожный знак" is stylistically neutral
    – Swift
    Aug 13, 2020 at 1:15
  • @Alissa taking the English metaphor literally, a single red flag means take great caution, 'walk away immediately' would be two red flags surfertoday.com/surfing/…
    – user14917
    Aug 14, 2020 at 15:48

It could be also "Тревожный знак".


То, что нынешние санкции связаны с внутренней политикой Китая, это очень тревожный знак в санкционной войне между Соединенными Штатами и КНР.

Тревожный знак для рубля: доллар перешел черту 70 руб./$.

Главный транспорт столицы все чаще подводит пассажиров. Это тревожный знак?


When you use red flag as mark that something is suspicious - then it's OK to translate as тревожный звоночек, or just подозрительно as other answers mentioned.
Example: Если твой парень никогда не приводит тебя в свой дом - это тревожный звонок (это подозрительно).

When you use red flag meaning to identify or draw attention to (a problem or issue to be dealt with) then it could be поднять тревогу
Example: In the Madoff case, we were looking at missing funds in excess of $65 billion, so excuse me if two million didn't raise a red flag. - В деле Мэдоффа мы искали пропавшие 65 миллиардов, [так что] извините, что не подняли тревогу из-за 2 миллионов.

In some cases I would use visual analogue красный свет or even красная тряпка.
Example: It's like a red flag for him. - На него это подействовало как красная тряпка [на быка].

Sometimes it translated just сигнал or признак (as sign).
Example: Ah, we just look for obvious red flags. Ну, мы искали очевидные знаки.

  • 3
    Also, for the first example - это повод (серьёзно) задуматься.
    – tum_
    Aug 13, 2020 at 12:59

Note that "red flag" in English lingo also might be not a metaphor but a term for a characteristic reason for alarm (Enter the term "flagged"). It literally may mean to mark something with red in some cases and related to practice using red tape, stickers ("page flags") or red bookmarks in document folders to signify something suspicious or alarming. In that context this doesn't translate stylistically correct to Russian specialist lingo at all, instead a semantically equivalent statement should be used.

"Compliance department brought this particular transaction to our attention because there were too many red flags."

Отдел внутреннего контроля привлек наше внимание к данной транзакции по причине наличия множества поводов для беспокойства. (lit. "multiple reasons for alarm")

Colloquial equivalent is "тревожный знак" or "тревожный признак" (both lit. "alarming sign"). Sometimes whole phase must be reworked because things like "huge red flag" doesn't translate directly.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.