Have you ever heard the expression “kill two birds with one stone” in different languages? Humans have always been about being efficient. It’s something innate to us, and it shows in our languages all around the world. Today we’ll look at the expression that describes this: “kill two birds with one stone“. While the subject of the expression may differ by the region—some prefer birds, flies, or rabbits, the meaning remains the same: achieve two things in a single action.
1. Kill Two Birds with One Stone
English: kill two birds with one stone
Spanish: matar dos pájaros de un tiro
French: faire d’une pierre deux coups
Italian: prendere due piccioni con una fava
Greek: με ένα σμπάρο δυο τρυγόνια
Turkish: bir taşla iki kuş vurmak
Chinese: 一石二鸟 (yī shí’ èr niǎo)
Japanese: 一石二鳥 (isseki-nichō)
Thai: ยิงปืนนัดเดียว ได้นกสองตัว
By far the most universally used is “two birds” and “one stone”. For Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, the origin is the Chinese Chengyu(一石二鳥). In the case of French, it does not specify “two birds” but “two blows or shots”, but it probably derived from “two birds”. Greek is interesting as they use “doves” instead of “birds”. Italian is by far the strangest—it translates to “Catch two pigeons with one fava bean“. How does one catch pigeons with a fava bean? Beats me.
2. Kill Two Flies with One Blow
German: zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen
Dutch: twee vliegen in één klap slaan
Swedish: slå två flugor i en smäll
Danish: slå to fluer med et smæk
Norwegian: slå to fluer i ett smekk
Czech: zabít dvě mouchy jednou ranou
Croatian: ubiti jednim udarcem dvije muhe
Serbian: убити једним ударцем две муве
Slovene: ubiti dve muhi na en mah
Now when we go to our Germanic languages and Central to Eastern Europe, they like to use “flies”. Indeed flies have always been a giant nuisance to humans since history, and you’ve also probably have caught two or more flies with a single swat of that glorious swatter.
3. Kill Two Hares with One Shot
Russian: убить одним выстрелом двух зайцев
Ukranian: вбити двох зайців
Belarusian: адным ударам забіць двух зайцоý
Romanian: împușca doi iepuri dintr-un foc
Bulgarian: да убиеш с един куршум два заека
Latvian: ar vienu šāvienu nošaut divus zaķus
Lithuanian: vienu šūviu nušauti du zuikius
Portuguese: matar dois coelhos com uma só cajadada
When we go more Eastward to our other Slavic regions(plus Portuguese), they sure do like to hunt. “Kill two hares(or rabbits) with one shot” is the most quintessentially Slavic way of achieving two things in a single action, from Belarus to Russia. Note the lone Portugese standing there, that “Kills two rabbits with one blow of the stick“.
3. Roast Two Pieces of Meat with One Fire
Polish: upiec dwie pieczenie na jednym ogniu
Finally we go to Poland, where we would like to end our day with “roasting two pieces of meat in one fire“. But honestly I think we can add a few more pieces of meat to our Polish rotisserie. That’s what I call a job well done.