All Slavic languages: False friends

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by decomposed06, Sep 12, 2006.

  1. decomposed06 New Member

    False friends is very "deep" subject in slavic languages:

    For example
    Polish: "Poprawić" - means to improve
    Chechs: "Popravit" - means to spoil

    Polish: "Szukać" - to find
    Chechs: "Sukat" - to fuck

    Polish: "Ja wolę" - I prefer
    Serbian: "Ja volim" - I love

    Polish: "Spawanie" - welding
    Serbian: "Spavanie" - sleeping

    and many more :D
  2. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    Just a little correction....:D

    BTW, very interesting list...:)
  3. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    False friends? Polish vs Russian:

    zapomnieć - forget
    запомнить - memorise
    zapamiętywać - remember
    запамятовать (an older version of забыть) - forget

    krzesło - chair
    кресло - arm-chair
    dynia - pumpkin
    дыня - melon
    pukać - to knock
    пукать - to fart (the word is not too rude, talking about kids, for example)

    More here:

    The one I like with Russian vs Czech:

    pozor - attention
    позор - disgrace

    Similarly "позориште" in Serbian means theatre, in Russian "позорище" - is disgrace, like позор but emotionally stronger and more colloquial.

    (Serbian "шт" maps to the Russian "щ" in most words; - in Bulgarian the letter щ is pronounced as шт but "theatre" is "театър".)
  4. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Some corrections. :)

  5. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    A little correction:
    And your example about chairs made me think of one of the rare false friends within German:
    Tvoj primjer sa stolicama me podsjeća na jedan od rijetkih primjera unutar njamačkog jezika:

    Sessel - chair - stolica
    Sessel - arm chair - fotelja

    ...and another one:
    pokój - room - soba

    pokoj - quietness, rest - pokoj ;)
  6. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    English - Polish x Czech - English

    maybe - chyba x chyba - mistake
    matter - rzecz x řeč - language, speech
    hail (weather) - grad x hrad - castle
    celebration, festivity - obchód x obchod - shop
    shop - sklep x sklep - cellar
    cellar - piwnica x pivnice - pub

    chair - krzesło x křeslo - armchair
    liquid - płyn x plyn - gas
    enemy - wróg x vrah - murderer
    berry - jagoda x jahoda - strawberry (thread)
    deck (of a ship) pokład x poklad - treasure
    ship, craft - statek x statek - farm, manor
    bed linen - pościel x postel - bed
    April - kwiecień x květen - May
    briefcase - teczka x tečka - point, full stop
    west - zachód x záchod - restroom
    capital city - stolica x stolice - chair, faeces (well, yes... :))
    day (24 hours) - doba x doba - time, duration
    a pleasant smell - zapach x zápach stench (do you know how funny it is to hear Polish commercial spots about "świeży zapach", a fresh stench? :D)
    corn - zboże x zboží - merchandize
    country - kraj x kraj - edge, margin, rarely region (thread)

    Pairs in italics are - if I am not mistaken - notoriously know in the Czech Republic.

    Kurzívou psané dvojice jsou - pokud se nemýlím - v České republice notoricky známé.


  7. GoranBcn Senior Member

    Barcelona (Spain)
    Catalan, Spanish, Croatian/Serbian
    More false friends in Slavic languages here.

    Još lažnih prijatelja u slavenskim jezicima ovdje.

  8. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Excellent link, GoranBcn.

    Запах has also positive meaning in Russian like in Polish and unlike Czech but "вонь" is "stench" Russian but "woń" is "fragrance" in Polish.

    Jana, in your list I see that Russian coinsides sometimes with Polish but sometimes with Czech. Excellent work!

    In my observation, although words can mean quite different things in different Slavic languages, which can be fun and cause some interesting situations or just a smile, they can be understood and explained when the roots are known. Words can mean opposite things but have the same roots - forget/memorise or smell/stench/fragrance, etc.
  9. janek Member

    Warsaw, Poland
    Polish, Poland
    Two funny examples that I like to give to students (these are not mine, I've learnt them off one of my university teachers), why you should be very careful when translating things that seem obvious:

    pl: kawior - caviar
    puszka - a tin
    rus: ковёр - carpet
    пушка - cannon

    kawior w puszce - tinned caviar
    ковёр в пушке - a carpet in a cannon

    The other way round, there is a whole sentence built only of false friends, which in Russian sounds fully innocent, and - if translated 'by ear' into Polish - gets a very indecent connotation:

    Сначала разберёмся, а потом будем доказывать кто на кого может положится.

    Russian: First we will assess the situation, and then we will be proving who can count on whom.

    Polish "false friend" translation: First we will undress, then go playful and lie on each other.
  10. werrr Senior Member

    English - Polish × Czech - English

    tree - drzewo × dřevo - wood
    way - droga × droga - drug, narcotic
    stick - laska × láska - love
    toilet - ustęp × ústup - retreat
    tent - namiot × námět - theme
    state - stan × stan - tent
    pool, pond - staw × stav - state
    fox - lis × lis - press, squeezer
    finger - palec × palec - thumb
    short - krótki × krotký - tame
    government - rząd × řád - order
    priceless - bezcenny × bezcenný - worthless
    livestock - bydło × bydlo - livelihood
    hypocritical - obłudny × obludný - monstrous
    institute - zakład × základ - base, foundations
    maple - klon × klon - clone

    English - Slovak × Czech - English

    bitter - horký × horký - hot
    thin, slim - chudý × chudý - poor

    I remember very furious disputation caused by these very specialized and slightly varying false friends:

    Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) krysa × krysa - rat (Rattus rattus)
    rat (Rattus rattus) - potkan × potkan - Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus)
  11. Brian P

    Brian P Senior Member

    I remember very furious disputation

    Werrr, may I give you some help with your English?

    It would be more correct to say "I remember a furious dispute .."

    "very furious" is not incorrect but "furious" is seldom qualified with "very" because the word itself means "very/exteremly angry", which makes "very" redundant. (I'm sure that it wasn't a furious dispute and that you are just using hyperbole!)

    I suppose that you could form the noun "disputation" from the verb "dispute" but this word sounds strange and I have never seen it before.


  12. werrr Senior Member

    Of course.
    Yes, I know, I always forget these "redundant" English words :D.
    Yes, dispute and disputation are cognate but I used it as a word directly derived from Latin disputatio. Czech disputace and German Disputation mean an academic dispute. In English, I used it unwittingly in the same way, but now I'm not sure it was correct.

    I think we are a little off-topic and it is suitable to open a new thread, Jana could you please...
  13. Maja

    Maja Senior Member

    Binghamton, NY
    Serbian, Serbia
    In Serbian:

    drvo - tree/ wood, lumber
    droga - drug, narcotic
    laska -
    flattery (laskati - to flatter)
    ustup(ak) - concession
    stan - flat, apartment
    stav - posture / pose, position / attitude
    lis(ac) - (male) fox / (fig.) sly person
    palac - thumb
    krotak - tame, gentle, meek
    kratak - short, brief
    rad - work, labor

    red -order
    bescenje - cheap
    zaklad - ornament / pledge, guaranty
    klon - clone
    reč - word /
    talk, speech, conversation / the right to speak, the floor
    grad - city, town / hail (weather)
    pivnica- pub, bar /
    tavern / beer hall
    plin - gas

    vrag - devil, Satan
    jagoda - strawberry

    poklade - carnival (rel.)
    postelja - bed

    posteljina - bed linen
    tačka - period, full stop / item, point / dot
    zahod - toilet
    stolica - chair /
    residence, seat, see (as in the Holy See) / bowel movement (nemati stolicu - to be constipated)
    doba - time / era, period, epoch / age / season
    kraj - end / region, area; neighborhood; / as prep. next to, near, beside;
  14. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    We have a cognate of the above in Polish too (with different meaning):
    pozór - appearance(s)

    There's I think a corresponding Polish cognate to Croatian pokoj:
    and its derivative:
    spokój - quietness, calmness

    We have stolec which means faeces.

  15. Marijka

    Marijka Member

    Lublin/Eastern Poland
    Laska in Polish can also mean "a chick" (very attractive woman) ;)
  16. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    ласка (Russian) - caressing (noun), affection, gentle handling (of kids for example)
  17. Marijka

    Marijka Member

    Lublin/Eastern Poland
    łaska (Polish) = mercy (Eng.)
  18. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    Most Russians will have heard that трус doesn't mean 'coward' in Belarusian, it means 'rabbit'. But трусы means both 'rabbits' and 'pants'! :D Люстра(n) means 'large mirror' in Belarusian - and in Russian люстра(f) stands for 'chandelier'.

    The Polish word for 'shop' is sklep which sounds somewhat discomforting to me because склеп is 'cellar' in Belarusian and 'crypt, burial vault' in Russian.
  19. !netko! Member

    Croatian, Croatia
    In Croatian, ''laska'' is a verb, the third person present form of ''laskati'' (to flatter).

    Also, the Slovenian-Croatian trudna-tired and trudna-pregnant false friend reminds me of embarazada(Spanish for pregnant)-embarassed. But, yeah, in Croatian there are a lot of archaic/poetic usages of trudna-tired.

    ''Spokoj'' also means ''calmness'' and ''quietness'' in Croatian, so it's very similar to Polish. ''Pokoj'' is mostly used in the phrase ''pokoj mu duši'' (may he rest in peace), and the deceased are called ''pokojnici''.
  20. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    Another fine example is the Russian/Bulgarian term "булка"/"bulka", "young woman" in BG & "cookie" (sweet white bread roll)" in Russian :D

    Другой прелестный пример Русское/Балгарское слово "булка", "девушка" в балгарском, и ... "булка" :D по Русски.

    Alas, Wikibooks has a big huge list of slavic false friends on

    Кстате, В викикниги есть большой список славянских ... :confused: ... Фолзфрэндсов :D

    That's one of the funnier ones. I first heared it in a Czech train station. It seemed they loudly asked for disgrace before each announcation - and i thought it was some way to excuse for a train comming late or something. :D A theatre scene vs. great disgrace/shame is also hilarous!

    Это одно из более весёлых. В первые я это услышал на Чешском вокзале. Казалось будь-то бы они громко просили позора перед каждой передачей - я-дурак подумал они прошчения просят, за то, что у них поезда постоянно опаздавают. :D Театральная сцена пр. позорища тоже просто умора!
  21. !netko! Member

    Croatian, Croatia
    Another Slovenian-Croatian one.

    ''Zahod'' is Croatian for toilet. I can't remember exactly what it means in Slovenian, but I know it's a completely different meaning and that this false friend always made me laugh when I was a kid. Can someone say what it is?
  22. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    I'm not sure about Slovenian but it mean West (cf. zapad) in several Slavic languages, including Russian.

    Just remembered, it might be "exit", like on the motorway (I seem to be recalling something from on the way between njemačkog i štokavskog govornog područja).
  23. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    It can also have a very obscene meaning, i.e dick.
  24. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    This term is used in the Russian linguistics too - "ложные друзья" (переводчиков)
  25. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    Zahod in Slovene means west.

    No, it doesn't mean exit. Exit on motorway is called izvoz, exit in general (in buildings, buses, etc.) is izhod.

    Just a note on the word trudna. This word is not in vocabulary of Slovene standard language, maybe it is used in dialects close to Croatia. I personally never use it and I don't hear it here in Ljubljana.
    We use the word utrujena and it only means tired, never pregnant (pregnant = noseča).

    And let me pass the ball back to Croatians. ;)
    Back in the days of Yugoslavia the military vocabulary here included a lot of Serbian words. In the '80 it started to change deliberately. I just wonder why the Croatian and Serbian soldiers became mad if they were sent to serve their duty in stražnica (it used to be called karavla = a border military post). :D Stražnica comes from stražiti (to guard, to ward).
  26. Agatka

    Agatka New Member

    Polish -> Poland
    Hi everybody! I'm the student of Slovenian Philology in Poland, and I during our last slovenian classes, my friend wanted to ask our lector, if she can take this yyyy somewhere... and she asked: "Ali lahko zanosim?" What meaned "Can I become pregnant??" Our lector was really surprised! Well.. In Poland "zanosić" means "to take (somewhere)"... So..... ;-) Isn't learning languages fantastic? :D
  27. Agatka

    Agatka New Member

    Polish -> Poland
    I think it means the same in Slovak.

    When it comes to croatian, yesterday everybody was laughing during croatian classes, when we were speaking about "Where is where". So.... First sentence was "Moja torba je na stolcu". What means in polish "My bag is on faeces" (not on stool). ;-)
  28. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    How one letter can change the meaning! If she would ask "Ali lahko znosim yyy v/na xxx?", it would be totally correct.
  29. ferran

    ferran Member

    rumena (slovene) = yellow (stress on the second syllable)
    rumena (croatian) = red, blushing (stress on the first syllable)

    ali (slovene) = or for ex. me or you jaz ali ti
    ali (croatian) = but for ex. he's nice, but i don't like him= drag je ali mi se ne sviđa

    ampak (slovene) = but

    grad (slovene) = a castle
    grad (croatian) = a town, a city

    priča (slovene) = a witness
    priča (croatian) = a story

    umor (slovene) = a murder (stress on the last syllable)
    umor (croatian) = exhaustion (stress on the first syllable)
  30. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    umor (slovene) = a murder (stress on the last syllable)
    umor (croatian) = exhaustion (stress on the first syllable)

    umor (Russian) = something really really funny (I guess you laugh until you die if exhaustion :D)
  31. werrr Senior Member

    úmor (Czech) = repayment (as mortage repayment, no revenge)
  32. ferran

    ferran Member

    it's like humor in english, right?
  33. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    I've found this when looking for an ethimological explanation of the word prag (threshold) from a topic next by.

    Slovene: prah = dust
    Czech: prah = threshold

    Yes, I know that Czechs "soften" all Gs to Hs. We also have a dialect where people change Gs to Hs. Here is one joke from the black humour:
    Primorec (a man from Primorska) fell into the lake and because he couldn't swim he shouted for help: "Pomahajte, pomahajte!" And people started to vawe him by hands.
    pomagati = to help
    pomahati = to vawe by hand
  34. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    Shouldn't a "Primorec" know to swim better than anybody else, having more "more" around him?
  35. Tolovaj_Mataj Senior Member

    Ljubljana, SI
    Slovene, Slovenia
    Good one. But Primorska region is Slovenia starts on the coast of the Adriatic sea and ends up in Trenta valley in the Julian Alps. :)
  36. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    (If I were to speak from a Croatian perspective: You call half of your country "Primorska" to hide the fact that you only have a few miles of coast, right? Don't be offended, as you see I am from a country that doesn't have even a centimetre of seashore.)
  37. übermönch

    übermönch Senior Member

    Warum wohne ich bloß in so einem KAFF?
    World - 1.German, 2.Russian, 3.English
    Not really. The russian word for humor is yumor. Umor(a) is something causing you to roflyao. The may derrive from the same source, but I guess the latter derives from the Slavic root for exhausition. The archaic verb "umoritsa" does mean "to get exhausted".
  38. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    The word that really got me was the Slovenian verb brati.

    Once, looking for a translation of a Latin proverb, I found a Slovenian translation on the web: Vse znaš, če vse bereš, which naturally I translated "you know all if you take all" When I tried to confirm this here, I was suprised to find out that in Slovenian brati means to read, and that they consider chitati as either archaic or SCB.
  39. Stanislav Zamyatin New Member

    Russian, русский
    Hi to rest of the slavophiliacs!!!
    I hope as many people as possible can help out in this....
    One of the main reasons why I started to learn Slavic languages was to find, what I would call in english " false friends" or in russian " ложные друзья передвочика". I love it when I see a word which I think I know but it turns out to be completely different.
    I will give a few examples of words which I have met:

    buchat' in slovak means to hit, стучать in russian.
    But the verb in russian is usually used to mean drink heavily, Hlestat', бухать.

    čerstvy hleb translates as fresh bread from slovak, in russian it means the opposite: tvrdy hleb, stale bread, чёрствый хлеб. :)

    There are these and also words which just sound funny... well from a russian point of view.

    Voňavka (cz) = perfume
    sounds like ( for a russian) someone who stinks. :)
    ty vonaš = you smell nice... if this was said to a russian he would understand it as: you stink, ты воняеш. :)

    In polish diarrohea is biegunka..... For a russian that sounds like... something thats running, бежит :)

    Well I have plenty more but I would love to see if anyone else knows any.

  40. papillon Senior Member

    Barcelona, Spain
    Russian (Ukraine)
    this is an excellent topic. So excellent, in fact, that there is a thread dealing with false friends in Slavic languages here. ;)

    I am guessing :)) ) your post will be merged into that thread, because you have some really nice examples and the discussion can be continued there.

  41. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    I am going to merge your thread with an older one, full of examples. Please remember to capitalize the names of languages. ;)

  42. Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! Member

    Czech | Czech Republic
    I recently came across an especially delicious false friend.

    In Czech, "školka" means "kindergarten" (it's literally a diminutive of "škola" - "school").
    In Slovene, apparently, "školjka" means "seashell" or "toilet bowl" (there's a similar duality in Czech with the word "mušle"). :)

    Can anyone confirm or provide the etymology of the Slovene term?
  43. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    I don't know about Slovene, but it is correct for Croatian.
  44. K.u.r.t Senior Member

    London, UK
    jsem moc rád, že se mi náhodou povedlo objevit tohle forum. Zhruba 2 roky přicházím v Londýně do styku s Polštinou a moc mě baví shodná slova s rozdílnými významy. Je to vždy zdroj legrace. Někde jsem se dočetl, že se tomu říká falešní přátelé. Napadlo mě, že se z toho dají dělat řetězy. Například:

    wiedro (PL) = kýbl (CZ) / kibl (PL) = záchod (CZ) / zachod (PL) = západ (CZ)

    nenapadá někoho podobný, popřípadě delší řetěz?

    P.S. Omlouvám se za chyby v polštině, mám jí jen naposlouchanou ...

    Díky a těším se na příspěvky!!!
  45. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Vítám Tě ve fóru. :)

    Sloučila jsem Tvůj příspěvek s vláknem, které Tě asi bude zajímat.

    Pokud chceš, aby Ti rozuměli i naši polští přátelé, piš raději anglicky.

  46. Brian P

    Brian P Senior Member

    I have never studied Czech, Jana, but from my knowledge of Russian and Polish I think that you are welcoming Kurt to the Forum but referring him to the Rules and gently pointing out that he should write in English as few Forum users understand Czech.

    Am I right?

  47. K.u.r.t Senior Member

    London, UK
    Yep, you are right. I just thought that this would only make sense to people who understand Czech, but anyways once more for all the rest of you:-

    Having lived in London for over 2 years I could not escape Polish :D it can be heard literally everywhere. So I came across the false friends subject very quickly. I realised that they can be sometimes formed into sequences like the one below:-

    wiedro (PL) = kýbl (CZ) / kibl (PL) = záchod (CZ) / zachod (PL) = západ (CZ)

    does anyone know about a similar or (even better) a longer one than the example above?

    P.S. Excuse my French Polish, I've only learnt basics by listening to people ...

    Cheers - looking forward to your posts!!!
  48. martini_ New Member

    Polska, polszczyzna
    wiadro (PL) = kýbl (CZ) / kibel (PL) = záchod (CZ) / zachód (PL) = západ (CZ)
  49. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Wiedro is definitely wrong, I'm sure I heard it in some rural areas of Poland.

  50. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Croatian and Russian have many amusing false friends that are especially hilarious because they are totally straightforward transliterations of each other, perhaps only with a change in stress. My favorite such pair is врач/vrač, meaning physician in Russian, but shaman/witch doctor in Croatian. :D

    Other funny examples:

    буква = letter (of an alphabet);
    варенье = jam, marmalade;
    запрашивать = to request;
    затвор = breech-block (on a firearm);
    шкаф = closet, wardrobe;
    запросить = to ask (a question);
    работа = work, labor;
    мука = torment, but also flour;

    bukva = beech tree;
    varenje = welding (in Serbian also digestion);
    zaprašivati = to spread dust (over something);
    zatvor = prison;
    škaf = bucket, wash-bowl (informal);
    zaprositi = to propose marriage;
    rabota = machination, an evil plot;
    muka = torment (exclusively);

    A few more examples can be found here. Note however that I've never learned Russian (unless you count the guesswork while trying to decipher Russian texts based on the similarity with Croatian :D), so a Russian speaker might have something to add or correct.

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