Every culture has its own pearls of wisdom, handed down from generation to generation. Classic phrases used by Croatians are rooted in its peasant past, with references to nature and animals, although some have modern-day origins. Many, though by no means all, have some kind of equivalent in English. Here are 15 colourful and imaginative Croatian idioms and phrases you need to know about.
Stara koka, dobra juha
‘Old hen, good soup’: An older woman might have more appeal.
Neka visi Pedro
‘Let’s hang Pedro’: Let’s find a scapegoat. It refers to a novelty hit by Zagreb beat combo Kvartet 4M, whose title fell into everyday speech.
Tko vino večera, vodu doručkuje
‘Who dines on wine has water for breakfast’: You have to pay the price for whatever you did the night before.
Čovjek snuje, Bod određuje
‘Man devises, God determines’: The best laid plans of mice and men.
Kad na vrbi rodi grožđe
‘When the willow bears grapes’: When pigs fly.
Mi o vuku, a vuk na vrata
‘We were talking about the wolf, and now it’s at the door’: Speak of the devil
Da padne na leđa, razbio bi nos
‘If he fell on his back, he would break his nose’: Whatever he does, he will always be unlucky.
‘Hurry slowly’: More speed, less haste.
Doće maca na vratanca
‘The cat will come to the tiny door’: The consequences of your actions will come back to haunt you.
Bez muke nema nauke
‘Without hardship there is no knowledge’: No pain, no gain.
Tko prvi, njegova djevojka
‘Whoever is first gets the girl’: First come, first served.
Ne trči pred rudo
‘Don’t run in front of the carriage’: Don’t jump the gun.
Ispeći pa reći
‘Bake it, then say it’: Think before you speak.
Kititi se tuđim perjem
‘Dress yourself in borrowed feathers’: To take credit for someone else’s deeds.
Bogu iza nogu
‘Behind God’s legs’: In the middle of nowhere.