Eight words in Polish that have no English equivalent

Polski jedzenie/ Polish food: My om nom nom nominations

You may have noticed that I’m on a bit of a Polish love-spree right now. If you’re still here and reading about it, that means you haven’t tired of my meanderings into everything to do with Polish culture, food and art.

Because of the PB I’ve decided to learn the language. After all, the PB is a native speaker so it’s almost feasible to think that I could actually speak it one day. Polsku is full of enjoyable quirks, poetry and adds a deeper meaning to my life in learning it and interacting with people.

When I was in Poland recently I was sitting in the Dentist waiting for the PB to get his teeth examined and an old woman sat there staring at me with curiosity. She finally plucked up the courage to talk to me and I was trying really hard to explain where I was from and why I was there. She loved that I was trying. Everyone there is so down-to-earth and because the language is complex and convoluted, nobody expects foreigners to actually speak the language. So it’s always delightful to surprise people by pulling out all of these Polish words.

Cycling adventures at dusk in Wrocław

Polish people are patient with foreigners, genuine and down-to-earth, well worth the effort to learn the language.

More English speakers should make the effort learn this very precise, emotionally charged and intense language. Here are some words with no English equivalent. (I didn’t know some of these words, I had to Google them, Im not that advanced yet).

Dozywocie: [dosch-VOCH] Many cultures share this concept, but Polish sums it up in a single word. “Parental contract with children guaranteeing lifelong support”.

Smacznego: [Smatch-NEGO] Similar to the French Bon appétit!. Smacznego comes from the Polish word for tasty. It’s said before you start eating by polite waitresses everywhere.

Polski jedzenie/ Polish food: My om nom nom nominations
Saying ‘Smacznego’ would be appropriate here! EPIC! 

Zalatwic: [Za-lat-vik] This means getting something done by whatever means necessary; either using legal or illegal methods such as bribes, political clout, connections, or simply personal charm. During the days of Communism in Poland, there was plenty of ‘zalatwic’ going on, but that’s all started to change now with the new Polish government introducing broad sweeping changes to laws left over from Communism. Recently the government abolished astonishingly large pensions left continuing indefinitely for people who were in positions of power, such as the Secret Police, during the Communist era.

Kamienica: [Kam-u-nitz-a] Some people translate ‘kamienica’ to mean an ordinary ‘building’. However a kamienica is anything but ordinary. It’s one of those gorgeous, colourful heritage buildings that tend to manage to find their way into all of the Instagram photos of Polish cities.

Polski jedzenie/ Polish food: My om nom nom nominations

Examples of Kamienica in Wrocław

 

Pogodnie: [Po-god-nia] This is adjective meaning ‘good’. However ‘pogodnie’ comes from the word for weather and so in Polish when there’s a fine day you would literally say ‘pogodnie pogoda’, which literally translates to ‘The weather is weather’ or ‘The weather is weatherly’ – quirky.

A Journey into Childhood Nostalgia at the Muzeum Zabawek in Kudowa-Zdrój, Poland
We had walked to the top of the hill here in Poland and found a pagoda for shade. So we literally were: ‘pogodnie pogoda in a pagoda.

Żal: [Zal] This word is often translated as ‘sadness’ or ‘grief’, but both words are too general, whereas ‘żal’ usually refers to sadness in very specific circumstances, with connotations of disappointment and betrayal – Polish culture is known for its melancholy.

Formacja: [Forma-cia] Used in academic circles and in colloquial speech sometimes. ‘Formacja’ can be described as a mind-set and a way of thinking that’s particular to a generation or era. The German word ‘zeitgeist’ comes close to this word.

wielki-spektakl-multimedialny-flow-9-1465683283

Kilkanaście: [kil-ka-NAS-CHE] A weird little word which could be translated to the ‘umpteenth’ time. Although Kilkanaście implies a number between 12 and 19. No English word that does the same thing!

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7 Comments

  1. I just love this, Athena. What marvelous words – each coming with its own multiple story possibilities. In the UK we seem to be at risk of losing our rich regional vocabularies/idioms and magic metaphor making facilities now that everyone speaks in TV speak with US overtones. We need to hoard words like treasures in as many languages as possible.

    Like

      1. I’m the eldest son of Croatian immigrants. I was five or six before I knew how to speak a word of English. Haha, so yes Croatian was kinda my first language. I know lots of swear words too 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My parents have gone back frequently since the mid 90’s. I would love to go again, maybe when my kids are older. I’ll have a think about some Croatian words with no English equivalent.

        Liked by 1 person

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