Hi I'm looking for a tattoo and am of Russian heritage but have no family around me to help me with translations. I have a few ideas about a script tattoo and was wondering if anyone could give me the English equivalent or tell me if something is wrong and maybe correct it. My ideas are:

-Беда́ не прихо́дит одна́ (Trouble Never Comes Alone) -На ловца́ и зверь бежи́т (Prey Runs into a Trapper) - У страха глаза велики (Fear Has Large Eyes)

If anyone could help, that would be life-saving!

  • 3
    masterrussian.com/proverbs/russian_proverbs.htm Though I think if you're not sure of a script it's better not to make tattoo at all.
    – Matt
    Jun 28 '15 at 4:54
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    Completely agree with @user4419802. You gave correct translations of proverbs. However, I don't think putting any of these phrases on someone's body makes much sense.
    – Ivan
    Jun 28 '15 at 5:16
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    A great proverb for anyone planning a tattoo is что написано пером, того не вырубишь топором ("what is spoken flies, what is written never dies").
    – Quassnoi
    Jun 29 '15 at 15:52
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    write just one word татуировка. That would be awesome
    – el Dude
    Jun 29 '15 at 21:02
  • @Quassnoi a tatoo about a tatoo is a great idea. Jun 30 '15 at 12:10

Well, these are okay, but mind two things:

  • ( ` ) symbols above letters are not commonly used in Russia
  • all three statements you've given are old proverbs. It's like tattooing "East or west, home is best".
  • Yes, these are perhaps the most important points to make. Accénted wórds are a staple of broken "Hollywood Russian" (accent marks are for dictionaries, textbooks, and occasional disambiguation only), and a corny old proverb may be the least hip thing one could put on a tattoo. Jul 1 '15 at 17:37

When it rains, it pours.

The game walks into the bag.

Fear has magnifying eyes.


Во первых это не очень хорошая идея - использовать поговорки))
What about English?

Death pays all debts.
Divide and rule.
Dog eats dog.
Live and learn.
No flying from fate.
No wisdom like silence.
Time and tide wait for no man.

Sure, you understand.

Нет, конечно, вы можете себе подобрать что-нибудь, что не будет звучать слишком архаично и просторечно, но это будет не просто. Попробуйте поискать среди тех пословиц, которые употребляли известные русские люди - цари, полководцы, ученые. Либо их цитаты. Или часть цитаты. Мне кажется это будет наиболее адекватное решение.


As for me those proverbs look great in English (where they have no background), but in Russian they look rather strange.

For example "На ловца и зверь бежит" is used in a situation like this:

-- Hi Sergei, do you know where Vasia is? Can't reach him by the phone. We have to move our meeting to a different place. Oh, I see him, "на ловца и зверь бежит", I'll tell him about it myself.

So, it's used when you suddenly see a person that you need to talk to.

As for "у страха глаза велики" - this is also a simple proverb, telling that you are scared of something not really scary.


Yet another option for a tattooed proverb:

Со щитом или на щите (Russian)

I believe it originates from a wish or a mandate to warriors to come home with a shield or on a shield. Losing a shield in battle was a dishonour, because it usually meant fleeing from the battlefield. Dead warriors were carried on their shield.

It means coming home either alive, victorious and honored, or dead. The more general idea behind is that honor and some principles are above all, including life. Dropping ones shield and fleeing from challenges of life is worse than death.

This proverb expresses an intention to struggle and never give up to the upcoming troubles.

Update: wow, this has an ancient origin.

Aut cum scuta, ant in scuta (Latin)

  • I'd rather understand this on police uniform, but on women body it would look very strange if not funny, depending on the exact place it tattooed and the picture. Jul 2 '15 at 15:40

I would stay away from the proverbs. A quote from an iconic song is not as bad as a proverb. For instance, in line with the mood of your choices, consider this:

If it wasn't for bad luck, 
I wouldn't have no luck at all

It's from Albert King's song called Born Under a Bad Sign. It's not a very famous song, so when someone reads it for the first time it strikes with its interesting word play.

Similarly, you could go for a Russian song with meaning or a significance, e.g.:

Пожелай мне удачи в бою, пожелай мне 
Не остаться в этой траве.

This is a slightly modified quote from an important song by a band Kino, called Группа Крови. There's something gritty and visceral in the line "Не остаться в этой траве". It resonates even with people who didn't hear the song at all. You could think of something along these lines and find a good quote matching your mood.

I think the significance of a tattoo is exactly that: capture your state of mind now. Later on when looking at it you'll remember how you felt that day when you inked it.

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