10 Untranslatable Bulgarian Expressions

Untranslatable Bulgarian Expressions

Written by Kristina Temelkova

I'm from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and I'm currently pursuing an English degree at the University of Vienna. My lifelong passions are languages and writing. I speak English, Bulgarian, German and Russian.

April 16, 2020

English as a world language has left its mark on many languages and Bulgarian is not an exception. As a result, many anglicisms have become a common feature of everyday language. Nevertheless, quite a few typically Bulgarian expressions have remained. Indeed, we offer you a list of ten fairly common and rather emblematic phrases that are so Bulgarian, they are basically untranslatable:

  1. Голям праз!

… which funny enough translates into ‘big leek’. As much as Bulgarians are big on leek as it is a prominent part of Bulgarian cuisine, in this expression it means ‘It doesn’t matter’ or ‘So what!?’.

  1. Честито на патерици!

We are all human and unfortunately, oftentimes we happen to forget. To save themselves some trouble, the Bulgarians have this saying which translates into ‘Congrats on crutches!’. Basically, this is a very convenient way to congratulate somebody on an occasion, although a bit late.

  1. Айляк

This is a very interesting one, meaning ‘I’m chilling’, and is currently experiencing a kind of a Renaissance. It used to be a part of young people’s slang back in the days when Bulgaria was ruled by the communists. Now three decades later this expression has come back in the spotlight.

  1. Куче марка

This one translates as ‘a dog’s brand’ and was initially used to refer to a record player brand whose logo was a dog. Interestingly, throughout the years its meaning has considerably changed and now the Bulgarians use it to name any object of unknown origin and low quality.

  1. Как я караш?

Number five translates as “How are you driving?” and  is a very common way to ask somebody how they are doing.

  1. Мани, мани.

This phrase, on the other hand, is oftentimes an answer to the question in number 5. It literally means “Remove, remove” or in other words – “Don’t ask, it’s not too good.”.

  1. Лягам си, че две не виждам

Everybody has these days when they are so tired that the only thing they want to do is go to bed. Bulgarians have a saying for it: ‘I’m going to bed because I can’t see two’.

  1. Само не ми се прави!

This one is a personal favourite. The translation ‘Just don’t make yourself to me’ doesn’t make any sense, though. But let me give you some context: This one is used when somebody is getting on your nerves and you want to tell them ‘Don’t play it so cool in front of me!’. It can come in handy in many situations, I promise!

  1. На баба ти хвърчилото

‘Your grandma’s kite’ is usually used to express doubt that something is going to happen – just like it is very unlikely that your grandma plays with a kite, right! A Bulgarian version of ‘When pig’s fly’

  1. Всичко е ток и жица

To finish off, this one translates as ‘Everything is electricity and wire’ which sounds mildly ridiculous, however, its meaning is simple: everything is going smoothly and without any problems.

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