Idioms are phrases with a symbolic meaning, meant to express popular knowledge in funny, creative, and abstract ways.
Sometimes way too abstract.
Usually, regional sayings come from a noteworthy event or story, then evolve to develop their own widespread recognition within that area’s population. Phrases like “cat got your tongue?” are well-known amongst English-speaking countries, yet do not make much sense out of context.
Georgia has a long and rich history, which means we have lots of wisdom to share, and not all of it may make sense to you, but they sure sound hilarious.
Get ready to find dogs’ heads, snake holes, and complex feathery family trees—this is a list of the best Georgian sayings.
1. ყვავი ჩხიკვის მამიდა (q’vavi chkhik’vis mamida)—A raven is the aunt of a jay.
Have you ever stopped to think about the complexities of aviary family trees? A wise Georgian once did and came up with this unmatched saying.
In Georgia, the family is everything. So it’s normal for us to have vague knowledge about relatives—even the most distant ones that we barely interact with, yet still, technically count as family.
This saying is for occasions where you’re related to someone, but distantly enough not to be close to one another. Ravens and jays have little in common, but they’re still technically related as birds, right?
2. მეცამეტე გოჭი (metsamet’e goch’i)—The thirteenth pig.
Alright, now there’s one for a universal experience.
Everyone has met a person like this before. Someone who rudely interrupts others to express an opinion, make a statement or otherwise provide a needless contribution to a discussion. Speaking out of turn and giving their insight without it being needed or even wanted.
In Georgia, we call such a person the thirteenth pig.
It has nothing to do with the unlucky number. Instead, it’s a reference to how female pigs tend to have twelve breasts available to feed her piglets, so a hypothetical thirteenth one would be a spare.
3. არც მწვადი დაწვა, არც შამფური (arts mts’vadi dats’va, arts shampuri)—Hasn’t burnt neither the mtsvadi nor the skewer.
If you are not aware of what mtsvadi is, you may have a hard time understanding this saying.
Mtsvadi is a delicious Georgian dish that consists of skewered shish kebab—that is, ground meat prepared in cubes and grilled. So, when Georgians express that we have not burnt the mtsvadi nor the skewer used to make it, we are celebrating that we didn’t mess up.
This saying goes beyond saving a delicious dish. It’s used to express that we’ve achieved our goals without harming anyone on the way.
4. შვიდი პარასკევი გაქვს დღეში (shvidi p’arask’evi gakvs dgheshi)—Having seven Fridays a day.
I’m no mind reader, but odds are you look forward to Fridays week after week, as it is the gatekeeper to the glorious weekend.
But what if I told you that in Georgia, sometimes we have seven Fridays a day?
Of course, don’t celebrate just yet—it’s a mere aphorism, and we don’t mean it literally. Sadly.
When we say someone has seven Fridays a day, we are describing a hesitant individual that cannot make up his mind about a particular topic. In other words, someone that changes opinion at the drop of a hat.
5. თვალის მოტყუება (tvalis mot’q’ueba)—Cheat your eyes.
Sometimes, when you are exceptionally exhausted on a particular afternoon, you feel like taking a nap. It’ll be just five minutes, you insist. Fooling your brain for a bit into thinking you’re getting plentiful rest.
That is the logic behind this Georgian saying. Cheating or lying to your eyes means taking a small nap or a quick rest before continuing with the rest of your day.
Whether or not you succeed in keeping it to just five minutes is a whole different issue altogether.
6. თვალს წყალი დაალევინა (tvals ts’q’ali daalevina)—Eyes drinking water.
Few things are more refreshing than a glass of water after an exhausting activity. So when Georgians say their eyes are drinking water, we’re not talking about an abnormal body capacity of ours or anything associated with crying.
This saying is used to express the speaker has seen something beautiful or awe-inspiring. A sight so lovely that it has hydrated their eyes the same way water does to the body.
It can be used to refer to a lovely landscape, an attractive person, and everything in-between.
7. ბედნიერ ვარსკვლავზე ხარ დაბადებული (bednier varsk’vlavze khar dabadebuli)—Born under a happy star.
Amongst all traditional Georgian sayings, this might be my favorite. While foreigners may not understand the exact meaning of being born under a happy star, they can picture the positive emotions associated with it.
After all, who doesn’t want to be born under a happy anything?
Georgians telling you that you are born under a happy star means they consider you a lucky person. This saying comes from the ancient Georgian belief that each person’s life is tied to a fate star that appears on the sky during their birth, and vanishes as they pass away.
8. რასაცა გასცემ შენია, რას არა დაკარგულია (rasatsa gastsem shenia, ras ara dak’argulia)—What you give away is yours, what you don’t is lost.
Unlike the other sayings you’ll find here, this one doesn’t come from popular wisdom.
Instead, this magnificent phrase was coined by the legendary Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli in his magnum opus “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”, considered the country’s national epic.
It’s true that at first glance, this saying may be confusing. After all, how can you still have something you gave away? However, Rustaveli was referencing the Christian ideals of charity and immortality.
According to this saying, every act of charity you perform for someone else, without expecting retribution, is good for God and your immortal soul. However, what you do not give away will be lost forever once your mortal life ends.
9. ჩაილურის წყალი დალია (chailuris ts’q’ali dalia)—Drink the water of the Chailuri.
As confusing as it may seem, this idiom has a very straightforward meaning. When someone or something drinks the water of the Chailuri, they are lost forever without a trace, or quickly forgotten.
The roots of the saying lie in the history and geography of the country. Chailuri is the name of a beautiful river located in the region of Kakheti in Georgia. At the same time, Kakheti shares a border with Dagestan, one of Russia’s modern republics.
Historically, Dagestians would cross the river to steal or kidnap in Kakheti. Once they retreated and managed to cross the Chailuri, locals would say there is no point in chasing them anymore, thus assuming whatever they took with them is already lost.
10. ათასი მზე მიდგა ცაშია (atasi mze midga tsashia)—A thousand suns rose in the sky.
Depending on your personality, this saying may come across a very positive affirmation or a terribly apocalyptic scenario.
Luckily for the optimistic folks out there, Georgians mean the former affirmation. When we express that a thousand suns rose in the sky, we intend to say we are feeling thrilled about something.
Whether it is because we were born under a happy star, or simply because life is good, a thousand suns in the sky conveys a happy-go-lucky, cheery disposition towards life.
11. სად ყოფილა ძაღლის თავი დამარხული (sad q’opila dzaghlis tavi damarkhuli)—Where the dog’s head was buried.
Please don’t be upset, Georgia does not condone animal violence, and no puppies were harmed during the making of this aphorism.
While widespread in Georgia, this saying has an origin in the German language. Throughout these countries, finding out where the dog’s head was buried means discovering the specific truth about a situation or circumstances.
The origin of the phrase is muddy and lost in history. However, only one thing it’s guaranteed—when it comes to the roots of this famous saying, we haven’t found where the dog’s head was buried.
12. გველის ხვრელში გასვლა (gvelis khvrelshi gasvla)—Going through the snake hole.
When thinking of dangerous situations, you may come up with quite a few unsafe scenarios. And yet, I can guarantee that for some of us, only a few of them can be more terrifying than going through a snake hole.
But would you do it to achieve your goals?
That’s the gist of this famous Georgian saying. To say someone is going through the snake hole is to imply they are willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill a goal. Of course, it doesn’t matter if it is as dangerous as going straight into a pit of snakes.
13. ყურების ჩამოყრა (q’urebis chamoq’ra)—Folding ears.
If you’re familiar with the body language of dogs, then you probably understand this aphorism without further explanation.
Folding ears does not refer to the literal act of compacting body parts. Instead, it alludes to the ability of dogs and other animals to drop down their ears. Dogs, specifically, are known to do this when particularly upset or scared, which is what the saying hints at.
This, when a Georgian says someone is folding ears, they mean to say they are crestfallen and upset, even if they cannot express it as puppies do.
14. დაბალი ღობე (dabali ghobe)—Low Fence.
A low fence in your property provides little to no protection. Anyone can walk over it and get in your property and won’t face any type of resistance.
In other words, a low fence is considered powerless to stop any attack.
When Georgians call someone or something a low fence, they imply they are weak and easily oppressed. Anyone or anything that collapses easily and does not have the strength or ability to defend themselves is considered a low fence.
For example, a regular victim of bullying would be a low fence.
15. ქალაქში საცობია (kalakshi satsobia)—Cork in the city.
Look, maybe you know by now, but Georgians love wine. It is part of our everyday life to a degree some countries may not understand, so it makes sense it shows up even in our aphorisms.
For example, when we say there is a cork in the city, we actually mean to say there is a traffic jam.
As a saying, it makes plenty of sense—don’t traffic jams feel as if there is a cork blocking the route?
16. ორ ცეცხლშუა ჩავარდნა (or tsetskhlshua chavardna)—Being between two fires.
Now that’s an unfortunate situation no one would like to be in.
When Georgians say someone is between two fires, we are communicating that said person must be in something akin to a limbo state. That is, torn between two or more hard choices that leave them in a hopeless situation.
In that regard, being between two fires carries the same meaning as saying you are between a rock and a hard place, but with a bigger sense of urgency.
Because, you know, fire.
17. ვირზე შეჯდომა (virze shejdoma)—Sit on a donkey.
Ah, donkeys. The universal symbol of stubbornness.
Despite being domestic animals and a widespread cultural misconception, donkeys are well-known for being exceptionally smart animals. Thus, they are known for sometimes resisting commands and instructions—stubbornness.
So, when in Georgia we say someone is sitting on a donkey, we are calling them stubborn, and adverse to changes or admitting faults. The implication being that, by sitting on a donkey, they are unable to move forward.
18. შენს პირს შაქარი (shens p’irs shakari)—Sugar to your mouth.
Sugar to your mouth is one of the most famous sayings in Georgia. The best part is that, without knowing its meaning, you can already tell it’s full of positivity.
Who doesn’t like some sugar in their mouth, after all?
A Georgian saying sugar to your mouth carries the same significance as saying “may your words come true”. It’s usually stated as a reply to someone delivering positive news or hoping for a good outcome in a particular situation.
Historically, it derives from the fact that in medieval times it was considered polite to reward messengers carrying good news with a sweet treat for the road back.