10 words that look the same in Polish and English but have totally different meanings

1. But

In English, you have “but” and “butt,” and they’re very different things. In Polish, but is pronounced “boot” and means simply, “shoe.”

2. Jest

In English, “jest” is an old-fashioned word for joke. In Polish, pronounced “yest,” it’s the third person singular of the word być (”to be”). IS.

3. Pan

In English-speaking countries, a pan is used for cooking. In Polish, you can say, for example, Pan Kowalski or Pan Nowak. In this language, it simply means “mister.”

4. Most

In English, this word is used to form superlatives (the most important thing, for example). In Polish, most is “bridge.” Just keep in mind that the “O” is pronounced like “aw” in “awesome.”

5. Brat

We all know who “brat” is: an unruly, loud, badly behaved child. In Polish, brat means “brother.” And while the meanings of these two words can definitely overlap, not all brothers are brats and not all brats are brothers.

6. Fart

In Polish, mam fart doesn’t mean what you think it means. In fact when someone tells you that, you should be either happy for them because in Polish, fart simply means “good luck.”

7. Windy

In Polish, this word has nothing to do with the weather. The Polish word for “elevator” is winda, pronounced “veenda.” The plural form is windy, making it look similar to the English word describing a certain kind of weather.

8. Herb

In English, herb is something that you use in your cooking. In Polish, it means “coat of arms.” But if you ask me, I find the culinary herbs much more interesting.

9. Chart

Pronounced in a similar manner to the word “heart” but with a rolled R, it actually refers to a certain breed of dog, a sighthound to be exact. It has nothing to do with an actual, English “chart.”

10. Prom

There is no connection whatsoever between the “prom” that all American secondary school children are looking forward to and the Polish word prom, which is actually a ferry.



Henry Sapiecha

10 ultra totally meaningful Polish expressions

An article

1. Masakra, tragedia

Yes, these words mean what you think they mean: massacre and tragedy. But they’re applied to totally different situations. For example, my husband and I went to Cracow once, and we wanted to take the last train to Warsaw, but the lady selling our tickets was rather slow. When she finally managed to print out our passes, she said, “Okay, now hurry up or there will be a tragedia.” This one’s similar to the Croatian word, katastrofa.

2. Bo tak

My favourite word to stop being questioned by my kids all day long: “Why do I have to do this?” Bo tak. “Why is the world round?” Bo tak. It’s the Polish equivalent of “because I said so.” Or simply “because yes” or “because so” — that’s what bo tak literally means.

3. No ba

No ba is used similarly to the English word “indeed”, even if it is way more colloquial. By itself, ba can mean “duh”, as in when someone states the obvious.

“So, did you win all that money?” “No ba!”

4. No

This little word has so many meanings. Just remember that the “o” is pronounced like in the English word “port”. Depending on the context, this word can mean yes (wanna go to the cinema? Noooo!), be used to issue a warning (no, no, no, most effective when accompanied by a waggling finger), to show sign of agreement (This film was so cool, right? Nooo!), stalling (so what do you think about this problem? No… I think it’s complicated) and many more.

5. No co ty!

This means “don’t exaggerate”.


“I am sick, I need to go to the doctor.”
No co ty, it’s just a headache.”

It’s also used to mean “Are you insane?”


“I asked her to marry me.
No co ty!”

6. Jak nie jak tak!

Literally, “how not when yes”, this one’s used to offer encouragement: “Of course you will do this. How can you not do this, when you’re totally capable?”

I was telling myself this multiple times while writing this article.

7. Spoko, wporzo

Abbreviations of spokojnie (calmly) and w porządku (okay), they’re used in a similar way — meaning cool, all right, okay, and the like. They’re also sometimes used in the context of “not so bad”.


How was your exam? Spoko.

8. No nie!

I don’t know how many times I use this to talk to my kids: “No nie, you made a mess again!” This one’s similar to “Oh no”. It can also be used in expressions like “No nie mów” (You don’t say) or no nie wiem (I don’t know).

9. Won! Precz! Spadaj!

These words have the same meaning, which goes along the lines of “please kindly remove yourself from this place”, but put less nicely. I really want to say this to some trolls who, without a doubt, will show up on my articles on Matador Network (including this one).

10. Ojej/Ojejku

Another handy word, this one allows you to express various emotional states, from admiration to panic, surprise to helplessness. For example, when your friend tells you some unexpected happy news, you can react with a loud “Ojej!” If you come back home to find that your laptop got stolen, shake your head and say ojej (it should be pronounced like ‘oyey’). And sometimes, it’s the only appropriate response to my kids wrecking chaos on the house.

P.S. If you point out to me that I didn’t include the most concise of Polish words, also known as the Polish K-word, let me tell you that it’s because I don’t swear.


Henry Sapiecha


20 of the rib-tickling Polish phrases (and how to put them to use)

1. A Pole won’t tell you to get lost.

They’ll tell you to “stuff yourself with hay” (wypchać się sianem).

2. Poles don’t snack.

They “take something on a tooth” (wziąć coś na ząb).

3. A Pole never beats around the bush.

He prefers to “wrap the truth in cotton” (owijać prawdę w bawełnę).

4. Polish people are not nit-picky.

They are “looking for a hole in the whole” (szukać dziury w całym).

5. Polish people don’t count their chickens before they’re hatched.

They “divide the skin on the bear” (dzielić skórę na niedźwiedziu).

6. A Polish person doesn’t sulk.

He “has flies up his nose” (mieć muchy w nosie).

7. Polish people don’t mess things up.

They “make bigos” (narobić bigosu) or “brew beer” (nawarzyć piwa) instead.

8. A Pole doesn’t daydream.

They “think of blue almonds” (myśleć o niebieskich migdałach).

9. Poles will not speak bluntly.

They’ll “tell it straight from the bridge” (mówić prosto z mostu).

10. A Pole is not uninformed…

He just “fell from the Christmas tree” (urwać się z choinki).

11. Poles do not simply grin and bear it.

They “put up a good face for a bad game” (robić dobrą minę do złej gry).

12. A bad Polish writer doesn’t waffle.

He “pours water” (lać wodę).

13. A Polish person doesn’t just run away.

He “gives a leg” (dać nogę) or “takes his legs under his belt” (brać nogi za pas).

14. A Pole is never a know-it-all.

Instead, he “ate all wits” (pozjadać wszystkie rozumy).

15. Polish people won’t pull your leg.

They’ll “stick you into a bottle” (nabić kogoś w butelkę).

16. A Pole won’t take you apart.

He’ll “mix you with mud” (zmieszać kogoś z błotem) or “hang dogs on you” (powiesić na kimś psy).

17. A Pole won’t promise you the world.

But you might get “pears on a willow” (gruszki na wierzbie).

18. Polish people don’t run like hell.

They “run where the pepper grows” (uciekać gdzie pieprz rośnie) or “where the devil says goodnight” (gdzie diabeł mówi dobranoc).

19. Poles won’t pester you.

They’ll “drill a hole in your belly” (wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu).

20. Polish people don’t bite off more than they can chew.

They “jump at the sun with a hoe” (porywać się z motyką na słońce).

This article was originally published on March 5, 2015. Featured Photo: PolandMFA



Henry Sapiecha