What does «остаться с носом» Russian expression mean?

 Russian expression

If you know Russian you know that Russian word  "нос" is  "nose" - is a part of our face.  
The phrase остаться с носом means literally - to stay with nose. Something strange, isn't it?

It’s strange because in Russian ancient  times the word «нос» had  the second meaning: 
a present, a gift, a tribute, an offering. Something that was «carrying» to somebody. 

We still have the cognate words like носить ( to carry), поднос (server), подношение (tribute) 

All of you know that in ancient times if a man wanted to marry a woman, he applied to the special people called "сваты" (matchmakers) Matchmakers with a lot of presents which were called «нос» came to the house of a woman and presented to her these gifts with the hope that she would agree to marry. If a woman refuse to marry, a disappointed man stayed with these gifts alone. He «оставался с носом»

Nowadays the word «нос» in this meaning disappeared, but actively used in this phraseological unit. 

Russian saying «Остаться с носом» means:

  • to be disappointed in one’s expectations
  • to be left in a basket
  • to get the cheese
  • be left looking a fool

Examples from literature: 

С их курса ее [Майю Якутину] любили четыре парня: все остались с носом. На последнем курсе Майя вышла замуж за какого-то… физика. (В. Шукшин.)

Пока мы будем тут гадать да раздумывать, эта идея может родиться в другой области, и мы останемся с носом. (Е. Мальцев.)

Торопитесь получить по сотне марок! А то, чего доброго, не хватит, тогда останетесь с носом (Н. Островский)


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