25 Funny & Amazing Polish Idioms That Everybody Should Use

16 min read    35 comments


Language has become a commodity. With the ability to ride the wave of evolving slang trends being a necessity in order to fully engage in modern entertainment programs, pop culture & social media, if you can't keep up then it seems as if you will you fall out of the loop and get left behind just like your grandparents did. 

But we don't care. We don't want to understand. We don't want to be 'lit'. We don't think it's 'Gucci' to be 'thirsty', so we're finna give all you thots the t.e.a on what's REALLY straight fire. We're curving the Gen Z fam's "glow up" of language and keeping it OG. 

If you're low key looking to impress your squad with your fierce way of talking, then look no further than these old school Polish idioms to freshen up your convo.

Here are 25 traditional Polish clever comebacks, ingenious insults, sly digs, sweet sayings and funny phrases from some feathered hat-wearing, kielbasa roasting, vodka drinking, mountain climbing, Polka dancing, Slavic squatting, pickle loving ancient Poles.


Don't call the wolf from the forest 

"Nie wywołuj wilka z lasu"

Don't stir up trouble for no reason. To run into a wolf by accident while walking in the forest is a dangerous situation that we normally try to avoid. To call the wolf out of the forest would be to call danger to you unnecessarily. Aggravating a previously calm situation.. Similar English phrases are 'Let sleeping dogs lie', 'Don't poke the beast' & 'Don't wake the bear' 

Mafia Boss: "Where's my money"
Small-time crook: "Look, old man, I had a few problems, alright? Get off my back"
Mafia Boss: You ask for a loan, I give you a loan. I ask for it back, you give it back or I break your back. Simple"
Small-time crook: "Ah, you wouldn't hurt me, you're all talk"
Mafia Boss: "Don't call the wolf from the forest, kid. You don't know who you're messing with"


Where the devil says goodnight

"Gdzie diabeł mówi dobranoc"

This is a faraway and isolated place that not many people go. This could be the middle of a forest or a tiny village lost in time. Despite the devil being involved, this idiom can be used affectionately and neutrally as well as negatively. English (Australian) alternatives to this saying include "the back of Bourke" and "back of beyond".

Zosia: "We definitely missed the turn off like an hour ago. It's getting dark and it's so creepy here."
Andrzej: "No we didn't, it's fine... I totally know where we are"
Zosia: "We just passed a man dressing up a cow like a princess..."
Andrzej: "Okay, so it's a little weird"
Zosia: "And over there I can literally see a burned-out car with two snakes inside mating"
Andrzej: "Oh god... We really are where the devil says goodnight"


Bear’s favour 

"Niedźwiedzia przysługa"

While someone may have seemed like they were doing something nice, in fact, this favour caused more trouble than it did good. This can be intentional or unintentional.

Agnieszka "When I asked you to feed my cat while I was away, I didn't mean mushrooms"
Janusz "But he looked so bored" 
Agnieszka "Well, now he's definitely not bored. He's learned how to play the guitar"
Janusz "Wow! That's amazing! A cat playing the guitar!" 
Agnieszka "But Janusz - he only ever plays painful acoustic covers of tacky 2000's pop songs!"
Janusz - "Oooh, yeah okay. I'll admit I did you a real bear's favour there. Sorry mate."


Thinking of blue almonds 

"Myśleć o niebieskich migdałach"

A rather sweet way of saying that you drifted off into a daydream.

Iwona: "Oh, sorry... What did you say? I was just thinking of blue almonds so I didn't hear you."
Jan: " I said 'Ahhhhhrg! please stop your car! you just ran over my wife!'"


Not my circus, not my monkeys 

"Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy"

This is not my problem. Similar to 'not my house, not my rules'. If you say this you are basically taking no responsibility for some trouble that is going on or for the people behind it. Your hands are clean and you had nothing to do with it!

Security Guard: "Sir! I need you to keep your children under control! They have destroyed the display case, gone to the toilet in a shopping basket, called an old lady a word that I won't repeat and now they've stolen my taser! 
Male Shopper: "Sorry mate, I lost my genitals in a tragic boating accident 20 yrs ago. Not my circus, not my monkeys"


Once in a Russian year 

"Raz na Ruski rok"

Referring to something that hardly ever happens, that only happens once in a while, or that basically never happens. Can be said sceptically to indicate that the speaker doesn't believe the situation in question will ever take place. English equivalent is 'Once in a blue moon'. 

Zygfryda "Hey Borys, do you think humanity will ever truly regain its balanced moral compass?" 
Borys "No, they will just keep destroying until there's nothing real anymore and the millionaires who have been rich enough to survive will build synthetic versions of everything" 
Zygfryda "Don't you ever dream of teaching them how to live peacefully in tune with nature on earth?" 
Borys "Yeah right. Once in a Russian year I think about it....  but get real. We are scary aliens and we have this big ol' ship full of powerful lasers... I'm just going to blow it up instead."


Don't divide the skin while it’s still on the bear 

"Nie dziel skóry na niedźwiedziu"

If you're hunting a bear in the forest, you don't go promising all your friends different parts of its hide before you even shoot it. Don't make a promise that you might not be able to keep. Similar English phrases are: 'Don't speak too soon', 'Don't get ahead of yourself' & 'Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched'

Oswalda: "Uhh, I really don't want to hang out with the Hulk"
Mika: "It will be fiiiine. He's not that bad. You're exaggerating."
Oswalda: "Last time we saw him I told him he had a bit of food on his chin and he destroyed the whole restaurant."
Mika: "Come on, It's been years. He's probably changed since then, maybe he's had therapy."
Oswalda: "Don't divide the skin while it's still on the bear, buddy. I'm bringing a tranquillizer gun just in case"


Did an elephant stomp on your ear? 

"Czy słoń nadepnął ci na ucho"

Are you tone deaf? Because the music you are making/playing is awful. Didn't you hear what I said? Your ears must have been stomped on by elephants if your hearing is that bad.

Ludwika: "Who are your favourite musicians?"
Alfonsa: "Katy Perry, Justin Beiber, Kanye West & Nicky Minaj"
Ludwika: "Did an elephant stomp on your ear?"


Somebody has a snake in their pocket

"On ma węża w kieszeni"

Directed toward a person who is being cheap, stingy, tight-fisted etc. As in they are so reluctant ever to reach into their pocket (for money, wallet) to pay for something that they behave as if there is a snake in there waiting to bite. Not to be confused with similar English phrase: "Is there a snake in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

Child: "Daddy, can I have 50cents to give to that nice man playing violin in the street?"
Baby Boomer Dad: "No! he should get a real job! I built my business from the ground up and earned every penny - I'm not giving it to some hippy drug addict to spend on his woo woo juice!"
Child: "Well, somebody has a snake in their pocket..."


Throwing peas against a wall 

"Rzucać grochem o ścianę"

If you throw a pea against a brick wall, will it go through? No. It will splat against the hard, impenetrable surface. This can have two meanings. One, that talking to a particular person is useless. They're either not listening, stubbornly ignoring you because they disagree or are just plain braindead... your words are simply hitting an impenetrable wall. Talking to this person is as pointless as throwing peas at a wall. Second meaning is that you are engaged in a repetitive, fruitless activity which, again, is as pointless as throwing peas at a wall. Similar English phrases used in this situation are "like talking to a brick wall", "banging my head against a brick wall", "like walking in mud" or "falling on deaf ears".

Me: "Trying to find a single government in this world which isn't corrupt is like throwing peas against a wall"


Roll with butter

"Bułka z masłem"

This means that a task or situation is simple, easy

Maths Professor: Is it possible to calculate the sertisious mass of the boorangle tware and zmax 50570.20034% of the thruzzle at 9 degrees while dignistfying the char-blunker through the rule of flestering bravakcase?
Stanisław Lem: "Roll with butter"


Dull as tripe in oil

"Nudne jak flaki z olejem"

That the person or thing this idiom is directed towards is painfully boring and bland, much like the tasteless flavour of tripe served in oil. English equivalent is 'Dull as dishwater'.

America: "blah blah blah, left-wing, right-wing, blah blah blah Trump, blah blah American Politics"
Everyone else: "Please stop. This is as dull as tripe in oil"


Go stuff yourself with hay 

"Wypchać się sianem"

Basically, the speaker wants the person this is directed towards to go away, get lost, bugger off, get stuffed. You're an ass, I don't want to talk to you, leave me alone! Usually the speaker will have felt somehow offended and be saying this as a reaction.

Boss: "Do all these complicated things in a really short amount of time so that I can tell you how slow you were and insult the quality even though I don't really understand it myself"
Employee: "Go stuff yourself with hay"


The best virtue among all virtues is to keep one’s tongue behind one’s teeth

"Jest to cnota nad cnotami trzymać język za zębami"

That true wisdom belongs not to those who speak in order to prove how wise they are, but to those who have risen past this point to the more enlightened phase of peace within mind, acceptance, loss of ego... and have realised the pointlessness and emptiness of attempting to communicate via words and speech. A difficult and worthy point of being for anyone to reach.  Buuuut.... basically this phrase is just telling someone to shut up. That they shouldn't have spoken. This one is unlikely to be said in a very 'enlightened' tone. English equivalent is "Silence is golden", "Zip your lip" or "Keep your mouth shut". 

Foreign King:
"I'm going to invade your castle, make love to your wife, eat your children and destroy everything you love because you wouldn't let me marry your daughter"
King: I spoke to my daughter this morning and was happy to hear she loved you. I was just about to welcome your army to come enjoy my famous concubines, endless wine and join our kingdoms peacefully as you married into the family and shared in our endless riches... but I guess your mother never taught you that the best virtue among all virtues is to keep one’s tongue behind one’s teeth. It's war now.... and we have dragons and giants and stuff, so, you're basically dead.


I was made into a horse 

"Zrobili mnie w konia"

Someone has made you look like a fool by tricking or deceiving you in some way. Much as we might call someone a 'donkey' for being an idiot. Much as people see horse as property, a pet and a tool whose being they have dominion over, this is how the person treated you. A similar English saying is 'I was taken for a ride'.

Greasy Old Millionaire: "I know i'm 85 and she's only 18 but I didn't think the age difference mattered to her. I really thought that after I bought her that Chanel bag and those fake breasts she might be my girlfriend... but I was made into a horse


Make bigos 

"Narobić bigosu"

To make a big old steaming mess of a situation. Bigos is a Polish stew with just about every kind of meat or vegetable thrown in, and although it can be extremely delicious and made in a refined manner, it's still a perfect metaphor for confusion. A plate filled with hot brown anonymous lumps covered in anonymous brown sauce can be a real mess, and very unnapealling. English equivalent is "You really made a mess out of this", "messy situation" "cocked-up", "stuffed up".

"You cheated on your husband?? With his Mother?! Geez, you really made a bigos of your marriage now."


The drowning man clutches at a cut-throat razor 

'Tonący brzytwy się chwyta.'

Someone in distress/someone who knows they have already lost makes increasingly wild and impulsive, or just plain useless decisions as he desperately clings to hope. Someone clinging to bad ideas amidst a very bad situation. For instance, this can happen in the context of a debate when one person is losing the argument so they start throwing out all kinds of stupid things and probably insulting their contender because of their suffering ego and pride. A similar but less violent English saying is 'Clutching at straws'.

Artur: "Hey, do you think if I break up with one of my girlfriends, my wife wouldn't leave me?"
Jeramiaz: "You're a drowning man clutching at a cut-throat razor, mate"

(I was a drowning man clutching at a cut-throat razor when I wrote this example)


Looking for a hole in the whole 

'Szukać dziury w całym'

 Trying to find fault where there isn't any is like looking for a hole within an object which is totally intact and flawless.

Girl: "Oh isn't this just a perfect day"
Boy: "It's too hot... I want to go home"
Girl: "then lets swim in the river!"
Boy: "but there might be sharks"
Girl: "we are in the Tatras"
Boy: "and anyway the birds are too loud"
Girl: "the birds are definitely singing at a very normal volume "
Boy: "well while you're listening to the stupid birds a tree branch could fall down and kill me"
Girl: "ok, now you're definitely just looking for holes in the whole... please, go home. I'll stay."


Flies up your nose 

'mieć muchy w nosie'

To be in a bad mood, to ruminate sulkily, to harbour a grudge. Rather ruder English equivalent is 'what's up your ass'

Jakub: "Hey Bartek, you wanna go to the Generic Cinema with me later?"
Bartek: "What's the point? The cinema doesn't really exist, you don't really exist, time is infinite and yet also doesn't exist and Hollywood is just plain trash regardless."
Jakub: "Jesus, have you got flies up your nose today or something?"
Bartek: "Sorry, man. I was just learning about basic Quantum Physics this morning and I learnt that life is a lie and everything is a hologram... but, also, Hollywood films really are just trash"
Jakub: "Netflix then?" 


Speak straight from the bridge

"mówić prosto z mostu"

Telling it like it is, speaking honestly with no hiding, no exaggerations and no underplaying. Just straight up speaking the truth.

Marysza: I think I might need to find a new job.
Dominika: To speak straight from the bridge, selling stolen organs on the black market is an unhealthy work environment for anyone. You should definitely change careers.


To jump at the sun with a hoe 

"Porywać się z motyką na słońce"

Picture a farmer with his big metal rake jumping up in the field, trying to grab onto the sun with it... this isn't going to work, right? The resources you have are comparatively insufficient for the job that needs to be done. Similar to the English saying 'bite off more than you can chew'.

 'We all thought Ross was trying to jump at the sun with a hoe when he chased after Rachel... but in the end, they got together!'


Fall from the Christmas tree

"urwać się z choinki"

This person isn't the brightest star in the sky, they aren't very clever, they are a bit dim, short witted. English equivalent is "Did you get dropped on the head as a baby?".

Monika: The dating world is useless. I tried tinder last week and it's so hard to tell who's crazy or not until you're on a date with them! They all just lie so much in their profiles. Yesterday I went out with this guy who said he was a German banker, but I rock up to the restaurant and it turns out he was an Italian prince! I don't know why I even bother. Everyone on there has clearly fallen from the Christmas tree.


Pears on a willow

"Gruszki na wierzbie"

When someone promises you something they can't actually give. 

Email: "To whom it may concern, I am a Nigerian Prince writing to you from my troubled country. I have 500,0000 USD but it is not safe here as there are those usurpers who would like to overthrow my crown. The political situation is unstable and I need to keep my money where it cannot be stolen and so I write to you, a stranger, in hope that you can help. If you send me your bank account details then I can transfer you my money to save it from the criminals attempting to take control of my country. If you do this then as a reward I promise to give you half of this sum in gratitude for your kindness."
Suzanna: "Wow! What do you think, should we help him?"
Tomasz: "Don't be silly, he's a scammer offering you pears on a willow."


Put up a good face for a bad game

"Robić dobrą minę do złej gry"

When you're in a crappy situation but you have to suck it up and get on with it. You gather your strength, plaster on a smile and act like everything's okay in order to get through it. Or, when you're faced with a crappy, unfair situation but against all odds you deal with it with grace and dignity beyond expectation.

Marysza: "So, you're telling me that this guy kicked your geese, trampled on your flower patch, knocked down your fence, headbutted your daughter and even bit you but you didn't even call the police? You didn't even yell at him or anything"
Lech: "What could I do, I just had to stay calm and guide him away from my farm"
Marysza: "Jesus, you really put up a good face for a bad game"
Lech: "Well, Marysza, he was a bison, after all. They are endangered!"


Drill a hole in your belly

"Wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu"

When someone is on your case about something and they won't let up. They keep bothering you about it and it's getting annoying.

Ryszard: "Come onnnn.... let's get a cat"
Marlena: "No, I told you, i'm allergic"
Ryszard: "But i'm sure it's in your head"
Marlena: "No, I'm legitimately allergic. When i'm around them my face puffs up, I go all red, everything itches and i can't breathe"
Ryszard: "But maybe we could get one of those hairless ones"
Marlena: "They are so creepy not to mention expensive, and we are both unemployed and living in a tent!"
Ryszard: "Well.... what about a lion?"
Marlena: N.O.P.E
Ryszard: "You are really drilling a hole in my belly now"
Marlena: Yeah, well lion would do that too.



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Reply May 19th, 2024

very poor translation, better check next time before you write in public.

Reply Dec 22nd, 2023
United States

I’m looking for an old rhyme or poem that has a line - the rain it falls on flowers,, the rain it falls on shit. That’s the literal translation according to my family. It’s not meant as a nursery rhyme I wouldn’t think!

Reply Sep 19th, 2023

Pada sobie pada , pada sobie równo raz padnie na kwiatek raz padnie na gowno

Reply Nov 16th, 2023

Exact phrase

Reply Oct 25th, 2022
Emma Colgrave

What is to “shave your beard “ of something!! My neighbors car was causing him a problem and we asked him how it was doing. He said “ I will shave my beard of the Audi” - what does it mean?

Reply Jul 17th, 2022

I'm searching for a proverb that goes, "Listen with your ears, not with your stomach." Does anyone know the meaning?

Reply May 2nd, 2022

"słuchaj uchem, a nie brzuchem" basically means "listen carefully" but it's kind of rude

Reply May 26th, 2022

Thank you! Can you elaborate a little as to why it is rude?

Reply May 26th, 2022

It means something along the lines of "listen carefully"

Reply Aug 29th, 2022

it's meant to be said in a jokey way, if you say it seriously it may come across rude

Reply Oct 21st, 2022

It's implying that someone wasn't listening to what you were saying; ignoring what you just said

Reply Jul 11th, 2023
Martyna Fiejdasz

Ah yes, my home country

Reply Oct 21st, 2021

One more idiom is "zrobić kogoś na szaro" meaning to kill or at least seriously harm. Literally "make someone grey". If you don't lend me 20zł today, I will make you grey when you need my help."

Reply Jul 13th, 2021

No, it does not at all.

Reply Sep 29th, 2022
United States

Here’s another one: Lepjej zgubić z mądrym niż znaleźć z głupim. It’s better to lose (something) with ( or to) the smart (person), than to find it with the stupid one. It means that it’s better not to associate with idiots...

Reply Feb 16th, 2021

You can use idioms anytime you want, but you need to be careful. Only use idioms when you’re certain of the meaning and the context. Also, since idioms can express strong emotions, make sure that the idiom you choose expresses the idea that you want to say.

Reply Jan 26th, 2021

Last example is wrong!!! Marlena should say "Stop drilling a hole in my belly! I said No!!! We can't have cat at all! It is my last word! - No! Mothers say this sentence to their children when they continuously asking for something...

Reply May 8th, 2020

Quiet, so I can hear a fly flying :)

Reply Nov 28th, 2019
Eugen Opprecht

Love all of this my partner of 30 years died 4 years ago I embraced his Wonderful Polish culture as he embraced my Swiss. I get joy from all of this!

Reply Nov 25th, 2019
United States

Anyone heard this one? I think it goes "the butter hit you in the face", or something like that. I cannot spell the polish phrase I heard as a kid, but if were to try to verbalize it - it would sound something like "ah swa, mas wa, chaos wa ". Can anyone tell me if they've ever heard this Polish phrase?

Reply Nov 24th, 2019

That's so funny. I completely forgot about that! I suppose you're thinking about a kids' game called Maslo Trzaslo [maswo tshaswo]. It's like hopscotch, but you have to jump it with your eyes covered, and if you're stepping in the square kids say "maslo' but if you step on the line everyone yells 'trzaslo!". It means something like butter has crackled, which doesn't make sense grammatically or in general, but it rhymes :D

Reply Nov 10th, 2020
United States

The drowning man clutches at a cut-throat razor 'Tonący brzytwy się chwyta.' - to my understanding the meaning is different (or maybe there are two meanings, I was not aware of the one you wrote about). So according to what I know (I was born and grew up n Poland) it means that someone who is drowning will try to survive no matter what. So if there is nothing else to hold on in the water but a sharp razor he would not hesitate to hold on to it even if it means serious injuries.

Reply Nov 24th, 2019

Actually, you’re both right. There is no contradiction!

Reply Nov 29th, 2019
United States

You need better translations into English. Very poor literal translations and the reference to the US President was totally inappropriate

Reply Nov 23rd, 2019
United States

We here think "Little Hands" aka "Malutki Ranki" and his grifter family are "Personas Non-Gratus". Relax, pour yourself a drink and watch the Rats jump from the burning ship.

Reply Nov 24th, 2019

It's very true, though... But we could say the same about the Polish president, Duda.

Reply Jul 7th, 2020
United States

Strara baba nice ma gacze ale buzi da!

Reply Nov 23rd, 2019

Masz to jak w ruskim banku. Mean never gonna get back.

Reply Nov 23rd, 2019

Absolutely hilarious some of them, made me lots of laughter........

Reply Nov 23rd, 2019
Karol Weyna

Thanks. Learned Polish growing up in the '50s, but few of these are familiar to me. My all-time favorite: "Rap the table and the scissors will answer."

Reply Nov 22nd, 2019

I think you mean: "Tap the table and the scissors will answer."

Reply Nov 23rd, 2019

No, Karol was correct: "rap" is similar to "tap" when used in that context. Rapping on someone's door means to knock on it, usually quickly or aggressively.

Reply Mar 2nd, 2021

Check out this so cool

Reply Nov 22nd, 2019

I love it! So cool... sending it to my boyfriend who is learning Polish :) Thank you !!!

Reply Nov 21st, 2019