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published: 14 Dec 2018 in Customs

10 Polish words that are not what they seem

Joanna Czarnecka
Joanna Czarnecka

Editor

"False friends" - the term refers to words that look similar in two languages but have completely different meanings. Which of them are considered most tricky in the Polish language?
10 Polish words that are not what they seem

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  1. Jagoda (Blueberry) - Polish names of berries are difficult to grasp if you happen to speak some other Slavic language. The most deceitful of them all is jagoda which sounds similar in Czech, Slovak (jahoda), Serbian, Croatian (jagoda), or Bulgarian (ягода). The word shares the same meaning in all these languages. Do not get tricked though! What you may consider to be a strawberry is a… blueberry in Polish. Strawberry on the other hand is called truskawka.
  1. Dres (Tracksuit) - Dres is not a dress, it is quite the opposite – you can take it to the gym, you should not wear it to a wedding reception. Be careful when going on a shopping spree in Poland or you might get a tracksuit instead of a gown!
  1. No (Well/Yes) - No is not a negation but a colloquial Polish way of expressing hesitation, understanding or even agreement. This handy word can be heard in innumerable situations but its meaning comes closest to the English "well", "indeed" or "yeah". You do not need to understand a word of Polish, a simple nod and no will convince anyone that you are practically fluent (do not use it with strangers though, unless you want to sound impolite!)
  1. Transparent (Banner) - Polish transparent should be anything but transparent. On the contrary, it is meant to be fully displayed, attracting public attention with catchy slogans.
  1. Lunatyk (Sleepwalker) - Unlike the English word "lunatic", lunatyk is devoid of any negative connotations - it is a perfectly neutral term referring to a sleepwalking person.

Not my circus, not my monkeys!

What other unusual phrases can you hear in Poland? Check here

  1. Konkurs (Contest/Competition) - Speakers of German or any Scandinavian language will surely recognise the term – konkurs translates as ”bankruptcy”. In Polish, this exact word has an utterly different (and more pleasant) meaning – you can compete in konkurs and even win a money prize.
  1. Ewentualny (Possible) - It does sound more or less like the English “eventually” but has more to do with the German word eventuell, meaning “possible”. The disparate meanings cause a great deal of confusion among Polish users of English.
  1. Akademik (Student house) - Are you planning on studying in Poland? You may move into akademik – a student house or dormitory. The English adjective “academic” is usually translated as “akademicki” into Polish.
  1. Ekstra (Great) - Are you ekstra? Good for you! The word means the same as fajny, super or świetny. In other words, you are a great person.
  1. Pies/Piesi (Dog/Pedestrians) - what about the curious case of the Polish dog? The word is not exactly a "false friend" but causes much confusion all the same. Foreign visitors in Poland tend to associate the word pies (dog) with piesi (pedestrians). Following the rules of the language, it is easy to assume the latter would be the plural form of pies. Unfortunately, the sign "Uwaga, piesi" does not stand for "Caution, dogs"!

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