What is the Russian equivalent of the English idiom elephant in the room which means (according to Wikipedia)

important or enormous topic, question, or controversial issue that is obvious or that everyone knows about but no one mentions or wants to discuss because it makes at least some of them uncomfortable and is personally, socially, or politically embarrassing, controversial, inflammatory, or dangerous.

Just recently I heard on some news station something like this:

The obvious elephant in the room is president Biden's mental condition.

The only thing that comes to my mind are the emperors's new clothes (новое платье короля) from the fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen.

  • 11
    «Слона-то я и не приметил», басня И.А. Крылова «Любопытный».
    – Yellow Sky
    Jun 20, 2021 at 19:39
  • 1
    there are multiple ways to say that, but it will depend on the context and what meaning one wishes to conduct and which things to refer - за корабальной сосной байдена был заметен лес/ворох проблем со здоровьем - as an example - maybe not a best one but ...
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 29, 2021 at 2:26
  • 3
    Бревно в глазу, которое предпочитают не замечать.
    – Alex_ander
    Jun 29, 2021 at 10:39
  • 1
    @Alex_ander that's actually analog of "not seeing own hump" (A hunchback doesn't see his own hump).
    – Swift
    Jul 4, 2021 at 13:06

3 Answers 3


There is no exact Russian analog, not that I'm aware of, but a thing close enough would be скользкая тема or щекотливая тема:

А вот о политике, зарплате или музыкальных пристрастиях лучше не спрашивать. Слишком это щекотливые темы. И опять мы видим здесь общий принцип отношения к людям. // [Софья Тарасова. От Москвы до самых до окраин // «Знание - сила», 1998]

Щекотливую тему доступа к недрам осторожные аппаратчики не стали развивать ― пусть президент сначала примет политическое решение. // [Елена Короп. Аппарат правительства переписал среднесрочную программу Минэкономразвития, чтобы не испугать президента // «Известия», 2003.10.03]

These idioms lack the notion of "important or enormous" which is present in the English one, though.


Yellow Sky correctly referred to fact that expression is well known from a fable. The stable expression is «Слона-то я и не приметил» - "But I didn't spot the elephant", and there is no room mentioned.

If you want to preserve scathing style of statement in Russian, "непримеченный слон" (archaic), "незамеченный слон", although it can be hard to connect with "mental state" stylistically. Also, this is not exact analog. The American expression suggest the fact of ignoring something, while Russian suggest inability to spot something obvious.

As first use of "elephant in the room" got murky origins in 20th century and usually щы associated with ignoring the elephant in the room occurred in the 1935 Broadway musical, Jumbo. The character is stopped by a cop while leading a live elephant across the stage. “What are you doing with that elephant?” the policeman asks. “What elephant?”

So Russian expression refers to "obvious elephant" not to "ignoring elephant"

A non-meme way to convert the latter would be some analog: "Всеми игнорируемый фактом, аспектом, и т.д. является... " (A fact, aspect, etc. ignored by everyone is...)


I can suggest some more alternatives: больное место; больная тема; головная боль; бельмо на глазу; заноза; деликатный вопрос; острая тема; табу.

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.