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Chechen Proverbs and Sayings (Noxçiyn Kicanaš)

Submitted by on Thursday, 20 January 2011.    9,401 views 4 Comments
Chechen Proverbs and Sayings (Noxçiyn Kicanaš)

Although humanity shares a common wisdom reflected in the proverbs and sayings of all nations, those of the peoples of the North Caucasus have their own paritcular value, stemming as they do from an ancient and rich multi-ethnic region that has been almost completely negleted by Western scholars and thinkers. The difficult terrain has both fostered and protected wisdom traditions, which, until recently, have been in abeyance in the Western world.

Fifty of sixy years ago it was stil common for older people in Europe and North America to inculcate their children and grandchildren with proverbs and sayings that were pithy and apt – to instruct, to admonish, to encourage, but especially to emphasize morals. In countries where the English language predominates, there is now almost a taboo against repeating anything. As a result, many of our proverbs – mean to be repeated- which helped put difficult social, ethnical and spiritual problems into perspective, have almost disappeared from everyday speech. This has not been the case in Chechnya, where the horrors of war and deportation have given hard-won traditional wisdom an ever greater value.

The Chechens have had to battle a living out of a difficult geography, and they have been forced to fight a long and ugly wars against endless incursions into their land. In spite of this, or maybe because of it,

Chechen proverbs and tales teach a child to respect all living beings and nature. There is nothing unimportant in life: As the saying goes, “If you leave a peg in the ground, you’ll have a headache, if you kill a frog, a cow will die, if you catch a butterfly, your sister will lose her joy of heart” (L.Usmanov, 1999a)

If “Discerning people must Exchange maxims”, as proposed by a poet in the Exeter Book (Anglo-Saxon Poetry, London: J.M. Dent, 1995, p.346), perhaps discerning nations should as well. It may be hoped that the wisdom contained in the proverbs of the Chechens spreads beyond the bookshelves of scholars and libraries to return to the world they emerged from, and the role they were intended for, amongst those struggling to live with a modium of decency in the everyday world.

To end with a simple truism – It is hard to be a Chechen. From this hardness springs to good sense that follows.

JonArno Lawson

Customs and traditions:

Vokkaço boxurg dinam doxkovälla vac.
Воккачо бохург динам дохковаьлла вац.
He who obeys the elder will not regret it.

Vokkaxaç’nga lacadöghnarg – or çu vözhna.
Воккахачьнга лацадоьгlнарг – ор чу воьжна.
He who didn’t listen to the elder fell in the pit.

Dottaghço bеllaçu dinna baga ma xhеzha.
Доттагlчо беллачу динна бага ма хьежа.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Khaldmarzaš a da yuuš, vaxna xhaša.
Кlалдмарзаш а да юуш, вахна хьаша.
Waiting for the cow to calve, the guest went away empty-handed [literally: without having the beestings]

Noxçi xila xala du.
Нохчи хила хала ду.
It is hard to be a Chechen.

Xhaša-da ca lorurg Dalla a lorur vac.
Хьаша-да ца лорург Далла а лорур вац.
God is mean to inhospitable people.

Personal qualities, demenaur and beauty:

Bеdеrе ma xhazha, stagе xhazha.
Бедере ма хьажа, стаге хьажа.
Don’t scrutinize the clothes, observe the man.

Von qhig von jäxa.
Вон къиг вон lаьха.
A bad cow sounds bad.

Von xila atta du, dika xila xala du.
Вон хила атта ду, дика хила хала ду.
It is easy to be bad, but very hard to be good.

Doš – doš dacaxä, duy – duy a bac.
Дош – дош дацахаь, дуй – дуй а бац.
If a word, not a word, then an oath, not an oath.

Duqalеr – dеti, jadjar – dеši.
Дукхалер – дети, lадlар – деши.
Silence is golden.

Qhünna qhu vеvza.
Къуьнна къу вевза.
It takes a thief to know a thief. Birds of a feather flock together.

Loxa stag dеgala xülu.
Лоха стаг дегала хуьлу.
A short man is touchy. He that has a great nose thinks everybody is speaking of it.

Stеgan kuc a, siy a diyrig thеyüyxina bеdar yu.
Стеган куц а, сий а дийриг тlеюьйхина бедар ю.
Demeanour, honour and toil make the man.

Xaza yoj tiša koç yüyxiça a xaza yu.
Хаза йоl тиша коч юьйхича а хаза ю.
A beautiful girl is beautiful even in old clothes.

Xazalla – sarralc, dikalla – vallalc.
Хазалла – сарралц, дикалла – валлалц.
Beauty lasts till the evening, good manners till death.

Çoa düyxinço so a ca yügu, ghovtal yüyxinçünga so a ca yödu.
Чоа дуьйхинчо со а ца юьгу, гlовтал юьйхинчуьнга со а ца йоьду.
If I have a cherkesska on, I wouldn’t have a care (in the world), but if I am wearing beshmet, I wouldn’t go out.

Humility, conceit, bad luck and malice:

Das xastiyna govr xhalxa ca yälla.
Дас хастийна говр хьалха ца яьлла.
The horse that had been praised to the skies was left behind.

Dеqhazçunna gönan mäghig a yälla.
Декъазчунна гоьнан маьгlиг а яьлла.
An unfortunate man would be drowned in a tea-cup.

Mеl mеkara cxhogal a guro läcna.
Мел мекара цхьогал а гуро лаьцна.
The most cunning fox had fallen in the trap.

Uggar xazçu stagana -cüna- m vorta yеxa yara, älla.
Уггар хазчу стагана -цуьна- м ворта еха яра, аьлла.
Even about the handsome man they said he had a long neck.

Xho cxhogal dеlaxh a, cxhogalan ċoga-m so a du xhuna.
Хьо цхьогал делахь а, цхьогалан цlога-м со а ду хьуна.
If you are a fox, then I am a fox’s tail. I am more cunning than you.

Hor xinbеdo a šеn jam xеstabo.
Хlор хинбедо а шен lам хестабо.
Every sandpiper praises his own bog. Every cook praises his own broth.

Bravery, rashness, prudence and cowardice:

Ätto bolçoxh lata, ätto bocçoxh vada.
Аьтто болчохь лата, аьтто боцчохь вада.
When you can, strike, when you can’t, run.

Barzax qäruš ša vеlaxh, xhünax ma gho.
Барзах кхаьруш ша велахь, хьуьнах ма гlо.
He who is afraid of wolves must not go in the wood.

Bеgaš – dеvnan yüxhigaš.
Бегаш – девнан юьхьигаш.
A joke is the beginning of a quarrel.

Ghaz thäxha xhadça, bеqa a ca vöxna.
Гlаз тlаьхьа хьадча, бекха а ца воьхна.
(Ironic) And Bek did not panic when goose ran after him!

Dikanig hun du älça, pxhagalo zhop dеlla: ša zhjälеna galе šеna zhjäla gar du, älla.
Диканиг хlун ду аьлча, пхьагало жоп делла: ша жlаьлена гале шена жlаьла гар ду, аьлла.
When asked, “What is good?”, the hare replied: “To see dog before it sees me.”

İrçu türna a öšu dika da.
Ирчу туьрна а оьшу дика да.
A cutting sword needs sharp wit to wield it.

Kotam a xilla vеxaçul, njäna a xilla vеlça tölu.
Котам а хилла вехачул, нlаьна а хилла велча тоьлу.
Rather than live like a chicken, it is better to die a cock.

Qеra ma qеra, xhayn bеxk bacaxh.
Кхера ма кхера, хьайн бехк бацахь.
Don’t be afraid if you are innocent. A clear conscience laughs at false accusations.

Quzza yuеta, ck’a djaxadaе.
Кхузза юета, цкьа дlахадае.
Measure thrice and cut one.

Noxçiyn vordana xi’ça, noxçiyi illi ala; ghumkiyn vodana xi’ça, ghumiyi illi ala.
Нохчийн вордана хиъча, нохчийи илли ала; гlумкийн водана хиъча, гlумийи илли ала.
When you ride in a Chechen cart, sing a Chechen song; when you ride a Kumyk cart, sing a Kumyk song. Do in Rome as the Romans do.

Oyla yocuš lеttarg ka docuš vеlla.
Ойла йоцуш леттарг ка доцуш велла.
Don’t enter rashly into a futile fight. Look before you leap.

Six a ma lo, vic a ma lo.
Сих а ма ло, виц а ма ло.
Don’t rush, and don’t doze off.

Sixalla -sonalla, sobar- qеtam.
Сихалла -соналла, собар- кхетам.
Rashness is folly, patience is a talent.

Turpalxouun nana ca yölxu.
Турпалхоуун нана ца йоьлху.
The mother of the hero doesn’t cry. Safe bind, safe find. Caution is the parent of safety.

Tür-tölan çov yörzuš yu, mеttan çov yörzuš yac.
Туьр-тоьлан чов йоьрзуш ю, меттан чов йоьрзуш яц.
A sabre/gun wound would heal but that ıf the tongue festers forever. Maany words cut more than swords.

Thäxhеnе ladiyghinçux qhonax ca xilla.
Тlаьхьене ладийгlинчух къонах ца хилла.
He who thinks about consequences cannot be brave.

Xi çu ma vala, nеka xuuš vacaxh.
Хи чу ма вала, нека хууш вацахь.
Don’t go into river, if you can’t swim.

Xhallxa xhazhaza kog ma bakqa, thеxha xhazhaza doš ma ala.
Хьаллха хьажаза ког ма баккха, тlехьа хьажаза дош ма ала.
Take no steps before you look in front of you, utter no word before you look behind you.

Çoxh mayralla – araxh stеšxalla.
Чохь майралла – арахь стешхалла.
Bravery at home, cowardice outside. Brave before a lamb, but a lamb before the brave.

Šеn kеthеxh njäna a xülu mayra.
Шен кетlехь нlаьна а хуьлу майра.
A cock is valiant on his own dunghill. Every dog is valiant at his own door.

Šina baldal aradallalc xhan lay du doš, aradеli – xho cünan lay vu.
Шина балдал арадаллалц хьан лай ду дош, арадели – хьо цуьнан лай ву.
Until a word escapes from your lips, it is your slave; once it escapes, you become its slave.

Yässa huma çhogha yеka.
Яьсса хlума чlогlа ека.
Empty vessels make the loudest sound.

Jäxça – barzo bö, ca jäxça – jüno bö.
lаьхча – барзо боь, ца lаьхча – lуьно боь.

If you bleat, the wolf will carry you away; if you keep quiet, the shepherd will cut your throat. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Work, utilitarism, mutual benefit and sloth:

Äxxka malo – jay xalo.
Аьххка мало – lай хало.
Idleness in summer, torment in winter. They must hunger in winter that will not work in summer.

Äxkеnan cxhana diyio jänan butt qobu.
Аьхкенан цхьана дийио lаьнан бутт кхобу.
A summer’s day labour provides for a whole month of winter.

Bolx bar – cxha qhinxhеgam, ca bar – ši qhinxhеgam.
Болх бар – цхьа къинхьегам, ца бар – ши къинхьегам.
To work is only one hardship, not to work is two.

Vorda yöxça – dеçig, stu bеlça – zhizhig.
Ворда йоьхча – дечиг, сту белча – жижиг.
If the wagon breaks – wood, if the bull dies – meat.

Dan dеzarg qanеnga dеxkinarg dеzaçux xhöguš växna.
Дан дезарг кханенга дехкинарг дезачух хьоьгуш ваьхна.
Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today.

Küygo küg dülu.
Куьйго куьг дуьлу.
One hand washes another. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

Oxuš ällarg oruš kariyna.
Охуш аьлларг оруш карийна.
One must reap as one has sown.

Stu oza ca xilça, ċa dеrstana xir dac.
Сту оза ца хилча, цlа дерстана хир дац.
If the ox doesn’t become emaciated, the family won’t become fat.

Xazçu bjästеnal yüzna güyrе tölu.
Хазчу бlаьстенал юьзна гуьйре тоьлу.
A replenishing autumn is beter than a beautiful spring.

Xalonax ma qеra, attanig ma lеxa.
Халонах ма кхера, аттаниг ма леха.
Don’t be afraid of asperity, and don’t look for the easy way out.

Knowledge, common-sense, wise men and fools:

Buhanna diynaxh sa cagarx, malxana bеxk ia vila.
Бухlанна дийнахь са цагарх, малхана бехк иа вила.
The sun is not to be blamed if the owl doesn’t see in the daylight.

Viran ċoga läcnarg xе växhna, dinan ċoga läcnarg välla.
Виран цlога лаьцнарг хе ваьхьна, динан цlога лаьцнарг ваьлла.
He who grasps the tail of an ass will be drowned, and he who holds on the tail of a horse will come off unhurt.

Viran ša vir yuyla ca xi’na, lеrg läcnarg välla.
Виран ша вир юйла ца хиъна, лерг лаьцнарг ваьлла.
It was only when they pulled at his ear that the ass was reminded that he was an ass.

Guraxh sеl karaxh lеqh tölu.
Гурахь сел карахь лекъ тоьлу.
A quail in the hand is better than a deer autumn. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Dеšar – sеrlo, cadеšar – boda.
Дешар – серло, цадешар – бода.
Knowledge is light, ignorance is darkness.

Diyc-diycanarš dеrrig a dac baqh xülušyu.
Дийц-дийцанарш дерриг а дац бакъ хуьлушю.
Not everything that is said is true.

Zudarša thargha bittiça, cxhogalo šеn ċoga dittina.
Зударша тlаргlа биттича, цхьогало шен цlога диттина.
Seeing the woman washing the wool, the vixen washed her tail. [Said an absurd imitation]

Körtеxh xhеk’al’ ca xilça kogaša qhaxhogu.
Коьртехь хъекьаль ца хилча когаша къахьогу.
When the head is empty, the legs must suffer.

Liyr vocuš sanna dеša, vala kiçça vaxa.
Лийр воцуш санна деша, вала кичча ваха.
Learn as if you will never perish, [and] always live as if ready to die.

Naxana däkqinçu or çu ša qеtta.
Нахана даьккхинчу ор чу ша кхетта.
He that dug a hole for others fell in it himself. He that mischief hatches, mischief catches.

Thеxh stom ca xilça, dittana ghazh ca qussu.
Тlехь стом ца хилча, диттана гlаж ца кхуссу.
If there is no fruit on the tree, don’t throw a stick into it. You can’t do the impossible. What cannot be cured must be endured.

“Xaac”, “dac” – cxha doš, “xiira”, “dayra” – yеzar doš.
“Хаац”, “дац” – цхьа дош, “хиира”, “дайра” – езар дош.
“I don’t know” make “one” word; “I know”, “I saw” lead a thousand.

Xazçu dašo jürgara läxha bäkqina.
Хазчу дашо lуьргара лаьхьа баьккхина.
A nice word enticed the snake out of its hole.

Xazçu vеdda xhеra khеl ikqina.
Хазчу ведда хьера кlел иккхина.
He escaped from the water only to throw himself under the mill. Out of the frying-pan into the fire.

Xhoqax hoz xilla bac, virboqhax din xilla bac.
Хьокхах хlоз хилла бац, вирбокъах дин хилла бац.
A stick won’t bend to form a wheel rim, nor will ass grow up to be a horse. What is bred in the bone will not go out of the flesh.

Jovdalo yäkqina šälta mayraçu staga yäkqinçul qеramе yu.
lовдало яьккхина шаьлта майрачу стага яьккхинчул кхераме ю.
A dagger drawn by the fool is more dangerous than that drawn by the brave.

Fate, outlook on life, human nature and the nature of things:

Voçu diynax dika dе xilla stagax dika stag ca xilla.
Вочу дийнах дика де хилла стагах дика стаг ца хилла.
A rainy day may turn into a fine one, but a bad man never transforms into a good person. Can the leopard change his spots?

Gaza yi’naçu körtax ċе yälla.
Газа йиъначу коьртах цlе яьлла.
He who has eaten up the goat has his head on fire. An uneasy conscience betrays itself.

Gеnara zurma xazaxеta.
Генара зурма хазахета.
The distant zurna is (more) pleasant. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Yoghuçu nabarna ghoyla xhašt yac.
Йогlучу набарна гlойла хьашт яц.
If you are sleepy, there is no need for a head for the bed.

Küpçiço pxhеghiyn tham šеna lu’uçu bullu.
Куьпчичо пхьегlийн тlам шена луъучу буллу.
The potter places the vessel handle wherever he wants.

Qhanvеllarg qhon lur vac, vеllarg dеn lur vac.
Къанвелларг къон лур вац, велларг ден лур вац.
When we grow hoary, youth is forever gone, and if we perish, we shall never arise. [Reminiscent of ‘The Song of Death’]

Qhünna qhola diça, dеla a vеlavеlla.
Къуьнна къола дича, дела а велавелла.
When they robbed the thief, even God laughed.

Lam lamanax ca qеta, adam adamax qеta.
Лам ламанах ца кхета, адам адамах кхета.
A mountain does not meet with a mountain, but man does meet with a man.

Littana thе makqal xi’ça, güyrе thеqaçaran, bilgalo yu.
Литтана тlе маккхал хиъча, гуьйре тlекхачаран, билгало ю.
The kite perched on the stok – [a sure sign that] autumn will soon be here.

Makqal thеxi’na koll a märša yac lurvöllaçu stagana.
Маккхал тlехиъна колл а маьрша яц лурвоьллачу стагана.
Even the bush on which the kite perched fears the blood enemy. Once bitten twice shy.

Nеxan vonax ca qiyrinarg šеn dikanax viylina vac.
Нехан вонах ца кхийринарг шен диканах вийлина вац.
He who knows has never dreaded evil doesn’t know whay joy is. He knows best what good is that has endured evil. Who has never tasted bitter knows not what is sweet.

Stiglaxh marxa yocuš dogha dölxur dac, kiyraxh bala bocuš bjärg bölxur bac.
Стиглахь марха йоцуш догlа доьлхур дац, кийрахь бала боцуш бlаьрг боьлхур бац.
There is no rain without clouds, and tears won’t tell up without grief in the heart.

Thäxha dika docuš, von doghur dac.
Тlаьхьа дика доцуш, вон догlур дац.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

Ċе yocuš khur xir bac.
Цlе йоцуш кlур хир бац.
There’s no smoke without fire.

Yutqha yolluçoxh xеda.
Юткъа йоллучохь хеда.
The chain is no stronger that its weakest link.

Yalaxh Hata ca yalaxha, Minga bilggal vеlla.
Ялахь Хlата ца ялахьа, Минга билггал велла.
A shot to kill is taken at Kh’ata, but it misfires; (however)Minga perishes for certain. Whatever will be, will be. There is no escaping fate.

On one’s native land, home, familial relations, friends, neighbours and ancestors:

Ala yojе, xaza nеsе.
Ала йоlе, хаза несе.
Say it to the daughter so that the daughter-in-law might hear. [North Caucasian way of dropping a hint to daughter-in-law]

Ätto mеl bu – gеrgara, ätto böxça gеnara.
Аьтто мел бу – гергара, аьтто боьхча генара.
A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Bart bocu yurt a, bart bocu dözal a hallaqilla.
Барт боцу юрт а, барт боцу доьзал а хlаллакхилла.
A village without unanimity and a family not in accord will both perish. There is strength in union.

Vaša vocu vaša – tham bocu lеça.
Ваша воцу ваша – тlам боцу леча.
A brother without a brother is like a falcon without a wing.

Voçu thäxhеno day büycu.
Вочу тlаьхьено дай буьйцу.
A bad generation praises the ancestors (instead of the descendants).

Gеnarçu yiš – vеšеl gеrgara lulaxo tölu.
Генарчу йиш – вешел гергара лулахо тоьлу.
Better a close neighbour than a distant relative.

Daymoxk – yalsamanе, nеxan moxk – zhözhaxatе.
Даймохк – ялсамане, нехан мохк – жоьжахате.
The fatherland is heaven, a foreign land is hell.

Dika lulaxo – tеšam, von lulaxo – ešna.
Дика лулахо – тешам, вон лулахо – эшна.
A good neighbour – that’s confidence; a bad neighbour – that’s deficiency.

Dikaçu khantana dottaghiy ca ešam.
Дикачу кlантана доттагlий ца эшам.
A worthy man is never short of friends.

Khanta zuda yaliyça nеnеn boyna buqh – yoj marе yaxça nisbеlla.
Кlанта зуда ялийча ненен бойна букъ – йоl маре яхча нисбелла.
The son gets married, the back of mother bends; the daughter marries, it becomes straight (again).

Nеnan öghazlo lo sanna yu, dukqa a dogha, amma sixa dеša.
Ненан оьгlазло ло санна ю, дуккха а догlа, амма сиха деша.
A mother’s anger is like snow: quick to come and quick to go.

Ċеra von daxça, arara dika ca doghu.
Цlера вон дахча, арара дика ца догlу.
If evil comes out of the house, good will not come from without. Do as you would be done by. As the call, so the echo.

Šеn ċa – ċiyn ċa, – älla bеn böxnaçu xhozano.
Шен цlа – цlийн цlа, – аьлла бен боьхначу хьозано.
“My house is a blood home,” said the sparrow about its squalid nest. [Conveys love for one’s home]

Ši mostagh cxhana txov khеl ca tarlo.
Ши мостагl цхьана тхов кlел ца тарло.
Two enemies cannot live under the same roof.

Ezar dottagh vеrg välla, ezеr stug-еtt bеrg vayna.
Эзар доттагl верг ваьлла, эзер стуг-етт берг вайна.
Having a thousand friends – you are saved; having a thousand head of cattle – you perish.

Yürtana a dеrg lovzar du.
Юьртана а дерг ловзар ду.
That which concerns the entire village is a festival. Company in distress makes trouble less.

Jazh jozhana gеna ca buzhu.
lаж lожана гена ца бужу.
An apple does not fall from the apple-tree. Like father like son.

Health, wealth and cleanliness:

Mogašalla bazaraxh yuxkuš yac.
Могашалла базарахь юхкуш яц.
Health is not sold at the bazaar.

Mrguš vеlaxh vеxaš vu.
Мргуш велахь вехаш ву.
Health is wealth.

Xox -iss djovš, säramsеq- iss darba.
Хох -исс дlовш, саьрамсекх- исс дарба.
Onion is nine poisons, garlic is nine remedies.

Ċonalla – mogašalla.
Цlоналла – могашалла.
Cleanliness is health.

Sources and References:

Aidaev, Yu.A., “Chechenskie narodnie poslovitsi i pogovorki [Chechen National Proverbs and Sayings]”, in Yu.A. Aidiev (ed.), 1996, pp.311-20
Aidaev, Yu. And Tsugaev, Kh.-M., “Noxçiyn Kicanaš [Chechen Proverbs and Sayings]”, Grozny: Chechen-Ingush Book Pres, 1976
Aidamirov, A., “Kuvshin Mudrıstei: Chechenskie poslovitsi i pogovorki [Jug of Wisdom: Chechen Proverbs and Sayings]”,
Dzhambekov, Sh.A., “Kicanaš [Proverbs and Sayings]”, in Sh.A. Dzhambekov, 1991 (1990), pp.190-221
Elmurzaev, S., “Kicanaš [Proverbs and Sayings]”, in S.Elmurzaev, 1964, vol.2
Matsiev, A.G., “Noxçiyn Xalqan Kicanaš [Chechen National Proverbs and Sayings]”, Grozny: Chechen-Ingush Book Pres, 1964
Shamba, O. (compiler), Proverbs and Sayings of the Caucasian Mountain Peoples, trans. T.Rodkina, Sukhumi: Tina Ltd, 1992
A number of proverbs and sayings were also taken from A.G. Matsiev, 1961.

Taken from “The Chechens: A Handbook“, Amjad Jaimoukha


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