21 Funny False Friends In Polish

You'd think the Polish word 'klozet' would mean 'a closet' wouldn't you? Well, you're very wrong there!

Languages share vocabulary, that is for sure. On your way to mastering Polish you will come across words that are the same or nearly the same in both languages. These are often words that refer to modern technology, IT or science. In Polish you can hear about komputer, e-mail, modem etc. Sounds familiar?

The reason for the 'borrowing' of these words is the the speed with which the technology is developing. Rather than create new words it is often simpler just to take on already existing terms.

Some borrowings have been changed to fit the Polish spelling.  This can be done by adding Polish grammatical features and at the same time more or less keeping the original English pronunciation. Words such as multimedialny, antywirusowy,  wirtualny, klik. You can guess their meaning, right?

But good friends are just one side of the coin. Let's look at words that are likely to cause misunderstanding because of their assumed similarity to the English words.

We often called such words false friends. What are false friends?

False friends, in linguistics known as ‘false cognates’, are similar or identical in both languages but which convey a different meaning. They give us a false sense of understanding.

Here are some that you should pay attention to:

karawan- is is not caravan but hearse

  • kask - it is not cask but helmet;

Kaskader is stuntman in Polish, maybe they wear helmets?

  • szef - is not chef but chief or boss;

Mój szef- my boss jest świetny - I have a great boss.

  • komplement- it is not complement but compliment;

you can 'prawić komplementy or komplementować' - to compliment

  •  konkurencja -it is not concurrence but competition;

Konkurencja nie śpi - Competition doesn't sleep.

  •  dywan- it is not divan but carpet;

Mam różowy dywan w pokoju- I have a pink carpet in my room.

  •  ewentualnie- it is not finally but possibly, alternatively;

Pójdę spać wcześnie, ewentualnie może trochę później - I will go to bed early, (or) possibly a bit later

  •  lunatyk- it is not lunatic but sleepwalker;

Moja siostra jest lunatyczką- my sister is a sleepwalker.

  • ordynarny is is not ordinary but vulgar, gaudy;

Słyszyś to? Ależ on jest ordynarny! - You hear that? He is so vulgar!

  • recepta -it is not receipt but prescription;

Leki na receptę - prescription drugs

  • sympatyczny - it is not sympathetic but nice;

Jesteś bardzo symatyczny - You are very nice

  • klozet - it is not closet but toilet;

On spędza dużo czasu w klozecie - He spends a lot of time in the toilet

  •  konfident- it is not confident but informer;

Nic mu nie mów, to konfident- don't tell him anything, he's an informer (this word has a very bad connotation in Polish especially because of 'konfidenci,' people who were secret police (milicja) informers during communism

  • data - it is not data but date;

Jaka jest dziś data?- What's the date today?

  • deska - it is not desk but board, plank;

Po co ci ta deska?- What do you need this board for?

  • dres - it is not dress but tracksuit;

W domu tylko dres - At home (I wear) only tracksuit

  • ekstra - it is not extra but great;

To ekstra pomysł- It's a great idea

  • fatalny - it is not fatal but dreadful, horrible;

Zagrali fatalny mecz- They played a horrible game

  • hazard - it is not hazard but gambling;

Uważaj z hazardem- be careful with gambling

  • pensja - it is not pension but salary

Moja pensja jest taka sobie - My salary is so-so.

  • aktualny - it is not actual but  current, up-to-date

Ta informacja nie jest aktualna - this information is not up-to-date.

  • prezerwatywa - it is not preservative but condom

Poproszę prezerwatywy - Condoms, please.

  • brat - it is not spoilt child but brother

Mój brat jest lekarzem.- My brother is a doctor.

Do you know any other pairs like these? Have you had any funny situations due to misunderstandings?

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