This is a list of idioms in the Finnish language. Proverbs and idioms with direct equivalents in the English language are typically excluded.
The sections below do not cover the entire alphabet officially recognised in the Finnish language. The letters B, C, D, F, G, Q, W, X, Z and Å are omitted because they do not occur in native Finnish words.
Don't worry. We'll make through this (in a distress/stressful situation)
ei olla jäniksen selässä
not to be riding a hare
Not to be in an immediate hurry.
ei olla suu tuohesta
not to have a mouth of birch bark
Not to abstain from food or drink (always used with a negative).
ei sylkeä lasiin
not to spit into the glass
Not to abstain from alcohol (always used with a negative).
eilisen teeren poika
son of yesterday's grouse
Inexperienced, gullible (usually used with a negative, "nobody's fool")
ei nähdä metsää puilta
not to see the forest from the trees
To stick to details, failing to see from a wider perspective
elää kuin pellossa
like living in a field
To live without cleaning up after oneself, or bothering about what others think about one.
en minä voi siksi muuttua
I can't change into that
A statement that a desired object simply isn't available, no matter how much someone keeps asking for it. The word "siksi" (into that) is substituted with the object in question, in translative "-ksi".
Away, to an unknown place, never to be seen again. While the name Nevada is an obvious reference to the U.S. state, "huitsin" probably refers to Hiisi.
hymyillä kuin Hangon keksi
smile like a "a biscuit from Hanko" (a biscuit brand had an embossed "smiley" on the round biscuits. These biscuits were manufactured in Hanko from 1910 to 1940. The original name of the factory was Suomalais-Englantilainen Biscuittehdas, ‘Finnish–English Biscuit Factory’. Hangon Keksi was also one of the leading advertisers in Finland of its time, and the biscuits were marketed in an exemplary way. The smiling Hangon Keksi biscuit, appearing in constantly changing adverts, was in fact the man on the moon.)
To live outside the law (possible Biblical metaphor).
(ja) lehmät lentää
(yeah, and) cows can fly
Expressing doubt, skepticism.
(jollain on) lepakoita tapulissa
(someone has) bats in the belfry
A slow-witted or mentally handicapped person
lukea kuin piru Raamattua
read like the Devil reads the Bible
To deliberately look for loopholes, in order to follow the letter without following the spirit. Note: Based the Bible (Luke 4:1-13, Matthew 4:1-11 and Psalms 91:11-12). English equivalent: The devil can cite scripture for his purpose. (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice act 1, scene 3)
lähteä kuin hollituvasta
to leave as if leaving an inn
To leave without cleaning up after oneself. (holli from Swedish hålla (to keep) + tupa).
lähteä kuin piru seuroista
to leave like the Devil leaves a revival
To leave extremely fast (also used when an inanimate object is quickly propelled to a great speed)
to slip away from the (woollen) glove
To go out of control.
puhua läpiä päähän(sä)
to speak holes into (one's) head
To make statements without requisite knowledge. Often used of one's own words Cf. English "I may be speaking out of my ass"
An ironic expression, when faced with ingratitude after doing a favor. The name "Manu" comes from Swedish, and is used as a generic name for a soldier.
(tuli kuin) Manulle illallinen
(it came like) like an evening meal to Manu
Gaining something good without any effort. Refers to a soldier getting his food rations.
Death in a wallet
Broke (without money). The Persian for "dead" is "mat". In Finnish it is pronounced as "matti" as in "Shakki Matti" (Shah Mat). "Minulla on matti kukkarossa" could be translated "My moneypurse is dead". In a similar way "Olen täysin matti" means "I am dead tired".
menneen talven lumia
snows of winters past
Not relevant anymore, often used of past offenses or sorrows, similar in tone to English "let bygones be bygones".
mennä metsään (jossakin)
to go into the forest (in something)
To be misguided, to go wrong; usually used to describe unintended consequences of decisions or plans
to go gingerbread
Something goes completely wrong. Could be translated as "Shatters as gingerbread".
go into the tube (or pipe)
To succeed, to work as planned.
(istua ja) miettiä syntyjä syviä
(to sit and) contemplate the deep origins
To meditate on the mysteries of the world; used ironically, to do nothing (from Finnish mythology).
This idiom has been misheard as "nalli kalliolla" (explosive primer on rock). The original idiom is "Jäi kuin alli kalliolle", meaning "Was left behind, like long-tailed duck". When migratory birds are leaving in autumn, the long-tailed ducks leaves later than other birds.
Sobering up, as in the sense of not drinking alcoholic beverages for a week or a month.
nousta väärällä jalalla
to rise/get up from the bed with the wrong foot
To be very grumpy first thing in the morning when everything seems to go wrong. Similar to English "get up on the wrong side of the bed".
näyttää miten heränneet veisaa
to show how the revivalists chant (a saying from Upper Savonia and Northern Ostrobothnia, where revivalist movements are strong)
To show someone how to properly do a thing they are attempting to do.
näyttää (jollekulle) närhen munat
to show (somebody) the eggs (or, in slang, testicles) of a jay
To show that one can do something better than the person the "eggs" are to be shown to, OR, to give somebody a good beating.
As the bad exception in an otherwise good company. More commonly used in a positive way, c.f. "every little bit helps".
rye in one's wrist
from the top of a large fish trap
Caught straight from doing a no-good thing, such as stealing fish from your neighbour's trap. Cf. English "caught red-handed". E.g. the American TV program "Cheaters" is translated to "Rysän päältä" in Finnish.
"To put off/execute". Due to fire hazard, saunas were built at a distance from the house, and what was or happened behind the sauna was out of sight, "behind the backyard". Normally, there was a "tunkio" or a garbage pile behind the sauna, and when e.g. a sick or injured horse or dog needed to be put down, it was taken behind the sauna for the job.
to play one's mouth (as a musical instrument)
To boast, or to speak provocatively.
soitellen, archaic for travel, related to Estonian sõita (not to be confuced with playing an instrument) sotaan, to war
To be unprepared, whether it is a task at hand or one is going somewhere without thinking what is needed to take along.
At an indeterminate point in the future, possibly never. "Tuohikuu" is a fictional month but sounds like the rural-oriented Finnish names for the 12 months.
in the birch bark month on the day of the goat
Same as above.
knife-scabbards began to clatter
There is going to be a fight. Finnish fighting knife, "Helapääpuukko" (Puukko with bone-breaking ferrules) is carried in hardened leather scabbard, and the scabbard mouth has water-tight fit. Before knife-fight starts, fighters need to twist the knife handle to loosen it for quick-drawing. When knife is twisted within scabbard, the blade clatters against the hardened leather, and makes clattering sound.
tulla kuin havumajaan
to come as if coming into a hut made of tree needles
To enter uninvited.
with one's mittens straight
Not doing anything, with an implication that one should be doing something.
to like + some hump (the unusual grammar is hard to translate)
To dislike. Implies vindictiveness. Often juxtaposed with the antonym.
Not yet ready or finished, with an implication of not knowing when it will be. Originally army slang.
to move to a different diocese
vaikka lampaat söisi
for even sheep to eat
A great number or amount, especially one that will stay great after partaken of.
(Ei) vara venettä kaada.
Some extra care won't flip a boat
There's no harm in having some extra resources or precautions
lit. ruffe of the opposite shore, from kiiski(Gymnocephalus cernuus). A spiky fish that offers great resistance to the fishing line, in this case by anchoring it to the trees growing on the opposite shore of the lake.
Someone in constant opposition and immune to any reasoning
vetää herne nenään
pull a pea up one's nose
To be provoked.
to pull cabers / to pull logs
vetää jojoon/ kaulakiikkuun
to put in a yo-yo/ throat-swing
To execute by hanging. Almost always used of suicide.
pull to the muzzle
To beat someone, especially punch in the face. The verb vetää is a verb with diverse, disparate meanings, used to indicate a sudden jerk or a single, quick movement.
the attic blacked out
vuonna miekka/käpy/muusi ja kypärä/kivi/nakki
in the year of sword/cone/mashed potatoes and helmet/stone/wiener
Very long time ago.
vuonna yks ja kaks
in the year one and two
Very long time ago.
to twist from wire (originally used to assemble plumbing)