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Bosnian Idioms and Their Meanings

Student reviewing vocabulary flashcards in library study room.

Learning a new language is not just about mastering grammar and vocabulary; it’s also about understanding the culture reflected in its idioms and expressions. Bosnian, like many other languages, has a rich tapestry of idiomatic expressions that often baffle non-native speakers. In this article, we will delve into some common Bosnian idioms and their meanings, along with example sentences to help you grasp how these expressions are used in everyday conversation.

Kao da mi je u uši pao
This idiom translates to “as if he/she/it fell into my ears,” and means something that happens at just the right time or when one hears something they wanted to hear.
Baš sam razmišljao o tome, i kao da mi je u uši pao tvoj prijedlog za posao.

Baciti oko
The literal translation is “to throw an eye,” but it means to take a look at something or someone.
Možeš li baciti oko na moj auto, čini se da nešto nije u redu.

Stisnuti zube
This means “to clench one’s teeth,” implying to endure a difficult situation with determination.
Morao sam stisnuti zube i nastaviti dalje usprkos boli.

Bez dlake na jeziku
“Without hair on the tongue” is the literal translation, which means to speak one’s mind plainly and candidly, without holding back.
Ona uvijek kaže istinu, potpuno je bez dlake na jeziku.

Bolje vrabac u ruci, nego golub na grani
Translating to “a sparrow in the hand is better than a pigeon on the branch,” this idiom is equivalent to “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” in English, meaning it’s better to have a small but certain advantage than the possibility of a greater one that may come to nothing.
Nemoj riskirati siguran posao za nešto neizvjesno, bolje vrabac u ruci, nego golub na grani.

Slon u staklarskoj radnji
Literally a “elephant in a glass shop,” which means someone who is very clumsy or tactless in a situation.
Svaki put kad priča o politici, ponaša se kao slon u staklarskoj radnji.

Nemam pojma
Meaning “I have no idea,” this phrase is used when someone has absolutely no clue about something.
Nemam pojma gdje je ostavila ključeve.

Tu nešto smrdi
This translates to “something stinks here,” and it’s used when something seems suspicious or dishonest.
Njegovo objašnjenje nije imalo smisla, tu nešto smrdi.

Biti na konju
“To be on the horse” means to be in a good or advantageous position.
Otkako je dobio taj posao, on je stvarno biti na konju.

Između dvije vatre
Translated as “between two fires,” it resembles the English “between a rock and a hard place,” meaning to be in a situation where one has to choose between two equally unpleasant options.
Ne mogu birati između prijatelja u ovoj svađi, osjećam se kao da sam između dvije vatre.

Understanding idioms can be a fun and insightful part of language learning. As you familiarize yourself with these and other Bosnian idioms, you’ll not only enhance your vocabulary but also gain a deeper insight into the Bosnian way of thinking and expressing emotions. Remember, language is the key to unlocking the soul of a culture, and idioms are the perfect examples of this. Keep practicing, and soon, you’ll be idiomatic in Bosnian too!

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