7 Wild Rabbit Idioms in 7 Languages

Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit! Rabbits are considered the luckiest animals in the Chinese zodiac, so we hope that bodes well for a great year. Another cool thing about rabbits: you can find them on every continent except Antarctica. Nearly every person on Earth has seen a rabbit at some point. That means that almost every language you can think of has some kind of figure of speech about rabbits.

In English, we might say you 'go down a rabbit hole' if you're delving way too deep into a topic. Clumps of dust and lint might be called 'dust bunnies.' And a proud carnivore who hates salad and veggies might call them 'rabbit food.' But what about in other languages? We've got you covered!


How to say 'rabbit:' Le lapin.

Maybe the Year of the Rabbit will be the year of cancelling unwanted plans. The French use the phrase "Poser un lapin à quelqu’un," which literally means something along the lines of "to put a rabbit on someone," "put a rabbit down," or "give someone a rabbit," to mean standing someone up or backing out of plans. It's a hard saying to translate literally, but might be more fun than just saying someone ghosted you.


How to say 'rabbit:' El conejo

If you think someone's laughter sounds fake or forced, you might say it's risa de conejo, or literally, the laughter of a rabbit. We can't say we've ever seen a rabbit laugh outside of cartoons, so we guess it might come across as fake if one did. Crazy fact: some experts think Spain's name means 'land of rabbits.' If you believe this theory, Carthaginians first called it "Ispania" from the word for rabbit, "sphan." Then the Romans called it "Hispania," and then it became "España" in Spanish. But we weren't there in 300 BCE, so we can't tell you for sure if that's what the name meant!


How to say "rabbit:" die Hase or das Kaninchen

How would you describe the middle of nowhere? A place so far away that everything is different, so little-known that anything might be going on there, or so small that everybody knows everybody else? German has an extremely delightful saying for that: “Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen." Literally, it means "where the fox and the rabbit say goodnight." Never assume that the German language can't be cute and whimsical!


How to say 'rabbit:' 兔子 or Tùzǐ

There's a Chinese saying for idly waiting for fortune to fall into your lap, "守株待兔." That means, "To stand by a tree stump waiting for a rabbit to appear." Sounds highly specific, right? That's because it comes from a famous tale. Once upon a time, a farmer working in the field saw a rabbit come out of its hole, run into a tree stump, and break its neck. Instant dinner for the farmer! He thought, "Wow, I don't need to work so hard on this farm anymore! I just need to wait for more rabbits to run into this tree stump!" As you might imagine, that, uh, never happened again.


How to say 'rabbit:' Il coniglio

If someone is especially brave, you might say they have the heart of a lion. But what about the opposite? If you ask an Italian, they might offer up the phrase "Cuore di coniglio," or the heart of a rabbit. Rabbits do seem pretty easily startled, but we don't know if we'd call them cowards. Maybe the real problem is a rabbit-sized heart in a human body? Or maybe a coward's heart beats really fast, like a rabbit hopping around in their chest.


How to say 'rabbit:' うさぎ or Usagi or 兎

Have you ever tried to do two things at once and failed at both? Maybe you tried to join a phone interview while driving and ran into a median and yelled something embarrassing. Or maybe you tried to brush your teeth while putting the finishing touches on a school project and put a gluestick in your mouth. There's a Japanese saying for that: "二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず." It means, "Those who chase after two rabbits won’t even catch one." The popularity of this saying isn't limited to Japanese– you'll hear it in other languages, too, including Russian!


How to say 'rabbit' in Russian: кролик (rabbit) or заяц (hare)

If you live in a city, you've probably seen someone hop over the turnstile or pay gate to avoid paying a fare in the Subway. It's also not unheard of to see someone sneak onto a train without a ticket. In Russian, there's a term for that: "Ехать зайцем," or "to ride like a hare." We've seen dogs, rats, and once even a seagull on the Subway, but never a hare so far! We might welcome the change of pace!