Polish language: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

język polski, polszczyzna
Pronunciation /pɔlski/
Spoken in  Poland[1] Minorities: Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, United Kingdom, Romania, Czech Republic, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, United States, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Ireland, Israel and elsewhere.
Total speakers 50 million[2]
Ranking 27
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin (Polish variant)
Official status
Official language in  European Union

Minority language:[3]
 Czech Republic

Regulated by Polish Language Council
Language codes
ISO 639-1 pl
ISO 639-2 pol
ISO 639-3 pol

Polish (język polski, polszczyzna) is a West Slavic language[4] and the official language of Poland. Its written standard is the Polish alphabet which corresponds basically to the Latin alphabet with a few additions. Polish-speakers use the language in a uniform manner throughout most of Poland.

Despite the pressure of non-Polish administrations in Poland which often have attempted to suppress the Polish language, a rich literature has developed over the centuries and the language is currently the largest in terms of speakers of the West Slavic group. It is also the second most spoken Slavic language, after Russian.[citation needed]


Geographic distribution

Geographical distribution of the Polish language

Nearly 97% of Poland's citizens declare Polish as their mother language. Ethnic Poles constitute significant minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Polish is the most widely used minority language in Lithuania's Vilnius County (26% of the population, according to the 2001 census results), and it is also present in other counties. In Ukraine, Polish can often be heard in the cities of Lviv and Lutsk. Western Belarus has a significant Polish minority, particularly in the Brest and Grodno regions.

Polish speakers also live in: Argentina, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, China (Harbin), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Peru, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, UAE, the UK, Uruguay and the United States.

In the United States, it is estimated that citizens of Polish ethnic extraction number more than 11 million, but many no longer speak Polish fluently. According to the United States 2000 Census, 667,414 Americans of age 5 years and over reported Polish as the language spoken at home: about 1.4% of people who speak languages other than English, or 0.25% of the U.S. population. The largest concentrations of Polish speakers reported in the census (over 50%) occur in three states: Illinois (185,749), New York (111,740) and New Jersey (74,663).[5]

Canada has a large Polish Canadian population. The 2006 census recorded 242,885 speakers of Polish, with a significant concentration in the city of Toronto, Ontario (91,810 speakers).[6]


The Polish language became far more homogeneous in the second half of the 20th century, in part due to the mass-migration of several million Polish citizens from the eastern to the western part of the country after the Soviet annexation of the Kresy in 1939.

The inhabitants of different regions of Poland still speak "Standard" Polish somewhat differently, although the differences between these broad "dialects" appear slight. First-language speakers of Polish never experience any difficulty in mutual understanding, however non-native speakers have difficulty distinguishing regional variations. The differences are slight compared to the variety of dialects in English.

The regional differences correspond to old tribal divisions[citation needed] from around a thousand years ago; the most significant of these in terms of numbers of speakers relate to:

Some more characteristic but less widespread regional dialects include:

  1. The distinctive Podhale dialect (Góralski) occurs in the mountainous areas bordering the Czech and Slovak Republics. The Górale (highlanders) take great pride in their culture and the dialect. It exhibits some cultural influences from the Vlach shepherds[citation needed] who migrated from Wallachia (southern Romania) in the 14th-17th centuries[citation needed]. The language of the coextensive East Slavic ethnic group, the Lemkos, which demonstrates significant lexical and grammatical commonality with the Góralski dialect and Ukrainian, bears no significant Vlach or other Romanian influences. Most urban Poles find it difficult to understand this very distinct dialect.[7]
  2. In the western and northern regions where Poles from the territories annexed by the Soviet Union resettled, the older generation speaks a dialect of Polish characteristic of the Eastern Borderlands which resembles Ukrainian or Rusyn— especially in the "longer" pronunciation of vowels.
  3. The Kashubian language, spoken in the Pomorze region west of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea, a language closely related to Polish, has seemed like a dialect to some observers. However, it exhibits sufficient significant differences to merit its classification as a separate language; for instance, it is not readily understandable to Polish speakers unless written. There are about 53,000 speakers according to the 2002 census.
  4. The Silesian language, spoken in the Silesia region west of Katowice, a language related to Polish, has seemed like a dialect to some observers. However, it exhibits sufficient significant differences to merit its classification as a separate language[citation needed]; for instance, it is not readily understandable to Polish speakers[citation needed]. There are about 60,000 speakers according to the 2002 census.
  5. Poles living in Lithuania (particularly in the Vilnius region), in Belarus (particularly the northwest), and in the northeast of Poland continue to speak the Eastern Borderlands dialect which sounds "slushed", and is easily distinguishable.
  6. Some city dwellers, especially the less affluent population, had their own distinctive dialects — for example the Warsaw dialect, still spoken by some of the population of Praga on the eastern bank of the Vistula. (Praga remained the only part of Warsaw where the population survived World War II relatively intact.) However, these city dialects are now mostly extinct due to assimilation with standard Polish.
  7. Many Poles living in emigrant communities (for example in the USA) whose families left Poland just after World War II, retain a number of minor features of Polish vocabulary as spoken in the first half of the 20th century, but which now sound archaic to contemporary visitors from Poland.

Historical geographic distribution

Polish population as of 1918

As a result of World War II Poland's borders changed significantly and now accurately reflect the autochthonous ethnic territories of the Polish people. The change in borders was accompanied by a series of migrations (World War II evacuation and expulsion, German expulsions, Operation Wisła). Ethnic cleansing of the Poles as a result of the Massacres of Poles in Volhynia also resulted in significant demographic changes. Polish territories annexed by the Soviet Union after the Second World War retained a significant Polish population unwilling or unable to migrate to post-1945 Poland.


Polish has six oral and two nasal vowels. The Polish consonant system shows more complexity: its characteristic features include the series of affricates and palatal consonants that resulted from four Proto-Slavic palatalizations and two further palatalizations which took place in Polish and Belarusian. The stress falls generally on the penultimate (second to last) syllable.


This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Polish alphabet derives from the Latin alphabet but uses diacritics, such as kreska (graphically similar to the acute accent), kropka (superior dot) and ogonek ("little tail"). The Polish alphabet was one of two major forms of Latin-based orthography developed for Slavic languages, the other being Czech orthography. Slovak uses the Czech-based system, as do Slovene and Croatian; Kashubian uses a Polish-based system, while Sorbian blends the two.

Name of the letter Usual
phonetic value
phonetic values
A   a   a [a]  
Ą Ą ą ą ą [ɔɰ̃] [ɔ], [ɔm], [ɔn], [ɔŋ], [ɔɲ], [ɔȷ̃]
B   b   be [b] [p]
C   c   ce [t͡s] [d͡z], [t͡ɕ]
Ć Ć ć ć cie [t͡ɕ] [d͡ʑ]
D   d   de [d] [t]
E   e   e [ɛ] [e] after and between palatalized consonants
Ę Ę ę ę ę [ɛɰ̃] [ɛ], [ɛm], [ɛn], [ɛŋ], [ɛɲ], [ɛȷ̃]
F   f   ef [f] [v]
G   g   gie [ɡ] [k]
H   h   ha [x] [ɣ], [ɦ] (Eastern Bordelands, Silesia)
I   i   i [i] [i̯], mute (softens preceding consonant)
J   j   jot [j] [i]
K   k   ka [k] [ɡ]
L   l   el [l] [lʲ] in older pronunciation and eastern dialects
Ł Ł ł ł [w] [ɫ] in older pronunciation and eastern dialects
M   m   em [m]  
N   n   en [n] [ŋ], [ɲ]
Ń Ń ń ń [ɲ]  
O   o   o [ɔ]  
Ó Ó ó ó "o kreskowane", "o z kreską" or "u zamknięte"
("lined o", "o with line" or "closed u")
P   p   pe [p] [b]
R   r   er [r]
S   s   es [s] [z], [ɕ]
Ś Ś ś ś [ɕ] [ʑ]
T   t   te [t] [d]
U   u   "u" or "u otwarte" ("opened u") [u] [u̯]
W   w   wu [v] [f]
Y   y   igrek [ɨ]  
Z   z   zet [z] [s], [ʑ]
Ź Ź ź ź ziet [ʑ] [ɕ]
Ż Ż ż ż żet [ʐ] [ʂ]

Note the laminal postalveolars [ʂ], [ʐ], [t͡ʂ], [d͡ʐ], perhaps most accurately transcribed using the IPA retracted diacritic as [s̠], [z̠], [t͡ʂ̠], [d͡ʐ̠] respectively. Also note that Polish ń (transcribed here as [ɲ]) is not palatal, having the same place of articulation as [ɕ] and [ʑ]. However, as the IPA does not have a symbol for a nasal alveolo-palatal consonant, a more accurate representation would be [nʲ] or the obsolete [ȵ].

The letters Q (ku), V (fau) and X (iks) do not exist in the Polish alphabet, but they occur in some commercial names and in some foreign words. Some letters, such as those listed are used but not that often. In Polish pronunciation there is no need for them. They are replaced with K, W and KS/GZ respectively. Some letters, like Y and W are pronounced differently.

Polish orthography also includes seven digraphs:

Capitalized HTML
phonetic value
phonetic values
Ch   ch   [x] [ɣ]
Cz   cz   [t͡ʂ] [d͡ʐ]
Dz   dz   [d͡z] [t͡s], [d͡ʑ], [d-z]
DŹ dź [d͡ʑ] [t͡ɕ], [d-ʑ]
DŻ dż [d͡ʐ] [t͡ʂ], [d-ʐ]
Rz   rz   [ʐ] [ʂ], [r-z], [r̝] or [r̝̊] (in some dialects),
Sz   sz   [ʂ] [ʐ]

Note that although the Polish orthography mostly follows phonetic-morphological lines, some sounds may appear in more than one written form:

  • [x] as either h or ch
  • [ʐ] as either ż or rz (though denotes a [r-ʐ] cluster)
  • [u] as either u or ó
  • soft consonants are spelt either ć, , ń, ś, ź, or ci, dzi, ni, si, zi (ć, ń etc. are spelled before a consonant or at the end of a word, whereas ci, ni etc. are used before vowels a, ą, e, ę, o, u; c, dz, n, s, z alone are used before i.)

The two consonants rz very occasionally reflect the sounds "r z", not [ʐ], as in words "zamarzać" (to freeze), "marznąć" (to feel cold) or in the name "Tarzan".

The pronunciation of geminates (doubled consonants) in Polish always sounds distinct from single consonants. Note that they should not be pronounced in a prolonged manner, as in Finnish and Italian, but it happens often in informal conversations. In correct pronunciation, speakers should articulate and release each of the two consonants separately. The prolongation is therefore rather a repetition of the consonant. For example, the word panna (young lady/maiden) is not read the same way as pana (mr.'s/master's), but should be pronounced pan-na, with two n. This includes not only native Polish words (like panna or oddech), but also loan-words (lasso, attyka). In Polish, geminates may appear in the beginning of a word, as in czczenie (worshipping), dżdżownica (earth-worm), ssak (mammal), wwóz (importation), zstąpić (to descend; to step down), and zza (from behind; from beyond) but never appear at the end of a word of Slavic origin.


Nouns and adjectives

A highly inflected language, Polish retains the Old Slavic case-system with seven cases for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives:

  1. nominative (mianownik)
  2. genitive (dopełniacz)
  3. dative (celownik)
  4. accusative (biernik)
  5. instrumental (narzędnik)
  6. locative (miejscownik)
  7. vocative (wołacz)

Modern Polish has only two number classes: singular and plural. In the past there was also a dual number, which applied only to pairs. This form, however, vanished around the 15th century and now is present only in few traces. For instance, the proverb "Mądrej głowie dość dwie słowie" (Two words are enough for a clever head) may seem to be not grammatically correct ("Mądrej głowie dość dwa słowa"), but it is a relict of dual number.

Like many other Slavic languages, including Russian, Polish uses no definite or indefinite articles.

The Polish gender system, like that of Russian and of almost all the other Balto-Slavic languages, appears complex, due to its combination of three categories: gender (masculine, feminine, neuter), personhood (personal versus non-personal) and animacy (animate versus inanimate). Personhood and animacy are relevant within the masculine gender but do not affect the feminine or neuter genders. The resulting system can be presented as comprising five gender classes: personal masculine, animate (non-personal) masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine, and neuter. These classes can be identified based on declension patterns, adjective-noun agreement, and pronoun-antecedent agreement.

Gender Nominative singular Accusative singular Nominative plural Meaning
Adjective Noun Adjective Noun Adjective Noun
Personal masculine nowy student nowego studenta nowi studenci "new student(s)"
Animate masculine nowy pies nowego psa nowe psy "new dog(s)"
Inanimate masculine nowy stół nowy stół nowe stoły "new table(s)"
Feminine nowa szafa nową szafę nowe szafy "new wardrobe(s)"
Neuter nowe krzesło nowe krzesło nowe krzesła "new chair(s)"

The gender classes display the following inflectional properties (with rare exceptions):

  1. Personal masculine: accusative = genitive (both singular and plural), distinctive softening ending in the nominative plural
  2. Animate (non-personal) masculine: nominative singular ending in a consonant (nouns), accusative singular = genitive singular, accusative plural = nominative plural
  3. Inanimate masculine: nominative singular ending in a consonant (nouns), accusative = nominative (singular and plural)
  4. Neuter: nominative singular in "-o" or "-e", genitive singular in "-a" (nouns), accusative = nominative (singular and plural)
  5. Feminine: dative singular = locative singular, accusative plural = nominative plural.

The gender classification of masculine nouns does not always match up with their semantic reference (human, animate, or inanimate). In particular, the class of grammatically animate nouns includes a significant number of nouns referring to inanimate entities (e.g. złoty "zloty", cukierek "candy", papieros "cigarette") as well as nouns used figuratively to refer to people (geniusz "genius", oryginał "original"). In the plural, personal masculine forms are used for referring to groups of males, or mixed groups of males and females.

To determine correct adjective-noun agreement, only four genders need to be distinguished in the singular (classes 1 and 2 can be combined), and only two genders are needed in the plural (class 1 contrasting with 2-3-4-5 combined). For correct pronoun selection, the gender system can be further simplified to three classes in the singular, and two in the plural. The following table shows which 3rd person nominative pronoun corresponds to nouns of each gender class:

Gender of antecedent Singular Plural
Personal masculine on oni
Animate masculine one
Inanimate masculine
Feminine ona
Neuter ono


Polish inflects verbs according to gender as well as person and number, but the tense forms have been simplified through elimination of three old tenses (the aorist, imperfect, and past perfect). The so-called Slavic perfect is the only past tense form used in common speech. In Polish, one distinguishes between

  • three tenses (present, past and future)
  • three moods (indicative, imperative and conditional)
  • three voices (active, passive and reflexive).

Aspect, a grammatical category of the verb, affects almost all Polish verbs in their two aspects, in each tense:

  1. imperfective (often translated as a progressive tense in English with -ing, for example 'was going', 'is going', "will be going")
  2. perfective (often translated as a simple tense in English, for example 'went', 'go' 'will go').

The tenses include:

construction (for perfective verbs) (for imperfective verbs) example imperfective example perfective
verb+ć infinitive infinitive robić zrobić
verb+suffix future simple tense present tense robicie zrobicie
past participle+suffix past perfective tense past imperfective tense robiliście zrobiliście
(this suffix can be moved) coście robili / co robiliście coście zrobili / co zrobiliście

Movable suffixes (those of the past tenses) usually attach to the verb or to the most accented word of a sentence, like question preposition.

The fifth Polish tense, the future imperfective, expressed in analytic form, consists of the simple future form of the auxiliary verb być ‘to be’ (będę, będziesz...), and either infinitive or past participle (imperfective). The choice between będziecie robić and będziecie robili is free, and both forms have the same meaning.

Sometimes the sentence may be emphasised with a particle -że- ().

So what have you done? can be:

  • Co zrobiliście?
  • Coście zrobili?
  • Co żeście zrobili? (although this form is considered incorrect by linguists[8])

(It is also well worth noticing that the two latter forms—"coście zrobili?" and "co żeście zrobili?" often carry a negative emotional load, a possible translation of these examples being "what (the hell) have you done!?" The third form, using "żeście", would be even stronger—fitting for situations involving desperation, etc. (and indeed being a little archaic or regional))

All the above examples show inflected forms of the verb "zrobić" for the subject "you" informal plural ("wy"). However, it is worthy of notice that none of the above examples includes the subject itself. The inclusion of the subject is not necessary here because Polish is a pro-drop language. This means that with an inflected verb the subject does not need to be mentioned. Instead, the reader or listener can tell, by the ending on the verb, which is different for each person, singular and plural, what is the implied subject. Because the subject can be dropped, using it with an inflected verb signals emphasis. Of the above three examples, a native speaker would not include the subject in the middle sentence and would be unlikely to include the subject in the last one.

The past participle depends on number and gender, so the third person, past perfect tense, can be:

  • - singular
  • zrobił (he made/did)
  • zrobiła (she made/did)
  • zrobiło (it made/did)
  • - plural
  • zrobili (they made/did {men, people of both sexes})
  • zrobiły (they made/did {women, children})

Word order

Basic word order in Polish is SVO, however, as it is a synthetic language, it is possible to move words around in the sentence, and to drop the subject, object or even sometimes verb, if they are obvious from context.

These sentences mean more or less the same ("Alice has a cat"), but different shades of meaning are emphasized by selecting different word orders.

  • "Alicja ma kota" ("Alice has a cat") standard order
  • "Alicja kota ma" – emphasis and accent on "ma" ("has"). Used in an argumentative response to a statement maintaining the opposite: "Alicja nie ma kota." ("Alice doesn't have a cat"). Ale ona kota ma!" ("She does, too!" or "Yes, she does!")
  • "Kota Alicja ma" – similar to the word order above.
  • "Kota ma Alicja" emphasis on Alicja, the owner of the cat: "Kasia ma kota." ("Kate has a cat"). "Nie, kota ma Alicja." ("No, Alice has a cat." or "No, it's Alice who has a cat.")
  • "Ma Alicja kota" – rarely useful and often awkward, but still correct. Precise meaning is context- and pronunciation-dependent. This order is often used as a question in spoken / informal language.
  • Ma kota Alicja – similar to the word order above

Note that each word order could carry a slightly different meaning, which might be really hard to get ahold of for a non-native speaker. There are no rules governing this, and even the emphases listed above could be easily changed with proper pronunciation.

Sometimes if apparent from context, the subject, object or even the verb, can be dropped:

  • "Ma kota." ("has a cat") – can be used if it is obvious who the subject is
  • "Ma." ("has") – a short answer for "Czy Alicja ma kota?" ("Does Alice have a cat?"), as in "Yes" or "Yes, she does."
  • "Alicja." – answer for "Kto ma kota?" ("Who has a cat?"), as in "Alice does"
  • "Kota." ("[a] cat") – answer to "Co ma Alicja?" ("What does Alice have?"), as in "A cat"
  • "Alicja ma." ("Alice has"), as in "Alice does" - answer to "Kto z naszych znajomych ma kota?" ("Who among our acquaintances has a cat?") ("Alice does.").

Note the interrogative particle "czy", which is used to start a yes/no question, much like the French "est-ce que". (See also tag question.) The particle is not obligatory, and sometimes rising intonation is the only signal of the interrogative character of the sentence: "Alicja ma kota?" (see above).

There is a tendency in Polish to drop the subject rather than the object as it is uncommon to know the object but not the subject. If the question were "Kto ma kota?" (Who has [a/the] cat?), the answer should be "Alicja" alone, without a verb.

In particular personal pronouns are almost always dropped, much like the respective Spanish pronouns. This is because other language aspects define the subject easily, for example the verb IŚĆ ("to go"):

  • Idę - [I] go,
  • Idziesz - [you (singular)] go
  • Idzie - [he / she / it] goes - in this case (if not known from the context) personal pronoun should be used for clarification
  • Idziemy - [we] go
  • Idziecie - [you (plural)] go
  • Idą - [they] go - same rule apply as for "idzie"


Conjugation of "być" (to be) in the present tense:

  • Ja jestem – I am
  • Ty jesteś – You are (familiar singular)
  • On/ona/ono jest – He/she/it is
  • My jesteśmy – We are
  • Wy jesteście – You are (plural)
  • Oni/one są – They are (masculine/feminine)
  • Pan/Pani jest – You are (masculine/feminine, singular, polite)
  • Państwo są – You are (plural, both sexes together, polite)
  • Panowie są – You are (plural, masculine, polite)
  • Panie są – You are (plural, feminine, polite)

Conjugation of "być" (to be) in the past tense:

  • Ja byłem/byłam – I (masculine/feminine) was
  • Ty byłeś/byłaś – You (masculine/feminine) were
  • On był/ona była/ono było – He/she/it was
  • My byliśmy/byłyśmy – We (masculine/feminine) were
  • Wy byliście/byłyście – You (masculine/feminine) were (plural)
  • Oni byli/one były – They (masculine/feminine) were
  • Pan był/Pani była – You were (masculine/feminine, singular, polite)
  • Państwo byli – You were (plural, both sexes together, polite)
  • Panowie byli – You were (plural, masculine, polite)
  • Panie były – You were (plural, feminine, polite)

Past tense for verbs is usually made this way, by replacing the infinitive final "-ć" with "-ł(+V)".

Conjugation of "być" (to be) in the future tense:

  • Ja będę – I (masculine/feminine) will be
  • Ty będziesz – You (masculine/feminine) will be
  • On/ona/ono będzie – He/she/it will be
  • My będziemy – We (masculine/feminine) will be
  • Wy będziecie – You (masculine/feminine) will be (plural)
  • Oni/one będą – They (masculine/feminine) will be
  • Pan/Pani będzie – You will be (masculine/feminine, singular, polite)
  • Państwo będą – You will be (plural, both sexes together, polite)
  • Panowie będą – You will be (plural, masculine, polite)
  • Panie będą – You will be (plural, feminine, polite)

Conjugation of "iść" ("to go, walk" in the present tense):

  • Ja idę – I am going
  • Ty idziesz – You are going (singular)
  • On/ona/ono idzie – He/she/it is going
  • My idziemy – We are going
  • Wy idziecie – You are going (plural)
  • Oni/one idą – They are going ("oni" masculine personal, "one" feminine, neuter, masculine animate or masculine inanimate)
  • Pan/Pani idzie – You are going (masculine/feminine, singular, polite)
  • Państwo idą – You are going (plural, both sexes together, polite)
  • Panowie idą – You are going (plural, masculine, polite)
  • Panie idą – You are going (plural, feminine, polite)

Conjugation of "iść" ("to go, walk" in the past imperfect tense):

  • Ja szedłem – (masculine) – Ja szłam (feminine) - I was going
  • Ty szedłeś – (masculine) – Ty szłaś (feminine) - you were going
  • On szedł – (masculine) – Ona szła (feminine) – Ono szło (neuter) – He/she/it was going
  • Pan szedł – (masculine) – Pani szła (feminine) – You were going (polite)
  • My szliśmy (inf myśmy szli) – (masculine, masculine + feminine, masculine + neutral)- We were going
  • My szłyśmy (inf, myśmy szły) – (feminine + feminine) – We were going
  • Wy szliście (inf. wyście szli) – (masculine, masculine + feminine, masculine + neutral)- You were going
  • Wy szłyście (inf. wyście szły) – (feminine + feminine) – You were going
  • Oni szli – (masculine, masculine + feminine, masculine + neutral)- They were going
  • One szły – (feminine + feminine) – They were going
  • Państwo szli – (masculine, masculine + feminine, masculine + neutral)- You were going (polite)
  • Panie szły – (feminine + feminine) – You were going (polite)

In Polish, the use of personal pronouns to mark the subject is not necessary because flexed word contains such information. Therefore, one may omit the personal pronouns as follows, while retaining the same meaning:

  • Idę (= I am going)
  • Idziesz (= You are going)
  • Idzie (= She/He/It is going)
  • Idziemy (= We are going)
  • Idziecie (= You are going)
  • Idą (= They are going)

Borrowed words

Polish has, over the centuries, borrowed a number of words from other languages. Usually, borrowed words have been adapted rapidly in the following ways:

  1. Spelling was altered to approximate the pronunciation, but written according to Polish phonetics.
  2. Word endings are liberally applied to almost any word to produce verbs, nouns, adjectives, as well as adding the appropriate endings for cases of nouns, diminutives, augmentatives, etc.

Depending on the historical period, borrowing has proceeded from various languages. Recent borrowing is primarily of "international" words from the English language, mainly those that have Latin or Greek roots, for example komputer (computer), korupcja (corruption) etc. Slang sometimes borrows and alters common English words, e.g. luknąć (to look). Concatenation of parts of words (e.g. auto-moto), which is not native to Polish but common in e.g. English, is also sometimes used. When borrowing international words, Polish often changes their spelling. For example, Latin suffix '-tio' corresponds to -cja. To make the word plural, -cja becomes -cje. Examples of this include inauguracja (inauguration), dewastacja (devastation), konurbacja (conurbation) and konotacje (connotations). Also, the digraph qu becomes kw (kwadrant = quadrant; kworum = quorum).

Other notable influences in the past have been Latin (9th-18th century), Czech (10th and 14th-15th century), Italian (15th-16th century), French (18th-19th century), German (13-15th and 18th-20th century), Hungarian (14th-16th century), Turkish (17th century), Old Belarusian, Ukrainian, and Russian.

The Latin language, for a very long time the only official language of the Polish state, has had a great influence on Polish. Many Polish words (rzeczpospolita from res publica, zdanie for both "opinion" and "sentence", from sententia) were direct calques from Latin.

Many words have been borrowed from the German language, as a result of being neighbours for a millennium, and also due to a sizable German population in Polish cities since medieval times.

The regional dialects of Upper Silesia and Masuria (Modern Polish East Prussia) have noticeably more German loanwords than other dialects. Latin was known to a larger or smaller degree by most of the numerous szlachta in the 16th to 18th centuries (and it continued to be extensively taught at secondary schools until World War II). Apart from dozens of loanwords, its influence can also be seen in somewhat greater number of verbatim Latin phrases in Polish literature (especially from the 19th century and earlier), than, say, in English.

In the 18th century, with rising prominence of France in Europe, French supplanted Latin in this respect. Some French borrowings also date from the Napoleonic era, when the Poles were enthusiastic supporters of Napoleon. Examples include ekran (from French écran, screen), abażur (abat-jour, lamp shade), rekin (requin, shark), meble (meuble, furniture), bagaż (bagage, luggage), walizka (valise, suitcase), fotel (fauteuil, armchair), plaża (plage, beach) and koszmar (cauchemar, nightmare). Some place names have also been adapted from French, such as the two Warsaw boroughs of Żoliborz (joli bord=beautiful riverside) and Mokotów (mon coteau=my hill), as well as the town of Żyrardów (from the name Girard, with the Polish suffix -ów attached to point at owner/founder of a town).

Other words are borrowed from other Slavic languages, for example, sejm, hańba and brama from Czech.

Some words like bachor (an unruly boy or child) and ciuchy (slang for clothing) were borrowed from Yiddish, spoken by the large Polish Jewish population before their numbers were severely depleted during the Holocaust.

Typical loanwords from Italian include pomidor from pomodoro (tomato), kalafior from cavolfiore (cauliflower), pomarańcza from pomo (pome) and (l')arancio (orange), etc. Those were introduced in the times of queen Bona Sforza (the wife of Polish king Sigismund the Old) who was famous for introducing Poland to Italian cuisine, especially vegetables. Another interesting word of Italian origin is autostrada (from Italian "autostrada", highway).

The contacts with Ottoman Turkey in the 17th century brought many new words, some of them still in use, such as: jar (deep valley), szaszłyk (shish kebab), filiżanka (cup), arbuz (water melon), dywan (carpet), kiełbasa (sausage),[9] etc.

The mountain dialects of the Górale in southern Poland, have quite a number of words borrowed from Hungarian (e.g. baca, gazda, juhas, hejnał) and Romanian from historical contacts with Hungarian-dominated Slovakia and Wallachian herders who travelled north along the Carpathians.

Thieves' slang includes such words as kimać (to sleep) or majcher (knife) of Greek origin, considered then unknown to the outside world.

Direct borrowings from Russian are extremely rare, in spite of long periods of dependence on tzarist Russia and the Soviet Union, and are limited to few internationalisms as sputnik or pieriestrojka[citation needed].

There are also few words borrowed from Mongolian language, those are dzida (spear) or szereg (a line, column). Those words were brought to Polish language during wars with Genghis Khan's armies.

Borrowings from Polish

The Polish language has influenced others. Particular influences show in German and in other Slavic languages — due to their proximity and shared borders. Examples of loanwords include German Grenze (border) from Polish granica, Peitzker from piskorz (weatherfish). Quite a few culinary loanwords exist in German and in other languages, some of which describe distinctive features of Polish cuisine. These include German Quark from twaróg (a kind of cheese; see quark (cheese)) and Gurke from ogórek (cucumber). The word pierogi (Polish dumplings) has spread internationally, as have pączki (Polish donuts) and ogonek ("little tail") — the word describing a diacritic hook-sign added below some letters in various alphabets.

Brief vocabulary

Personal pronouns

Singular Plural
ja – I my – we
ty – you wy – you (Plural)
on – he
ona – she
ono – it
oni – they (group of people, including at least one male)
one – they (group of female persons or group not involving persons)


jeden – one dwa – two
trzy – three cztery – four
pięć – five sześć – six
siedem – seven osiem – eight
dziewięć – nine dziesięć – ten
jedenaście – eleven dwanaście – twelve
trzynaście – thirteen czternaście – fourteen
piętnaście – fifteen szesnaście – sixteen
siedemnaście – seventeen osiemnaście – eighteen
dziewiętnaście – nineteen dwadzieścia – twenty
dwadzieścia jeden – twenty-one dwadzieścia dziewięć – twenty-nine
trzydzieści – thirty czterdzieści – forty
pięćdziesiąt – fifty sześćdziesiąt – sixty
siedemdziesiąt – seventy osiemdziesiąt – eighty
dziewięćdziesiąt – ninety sto – one hundred
pięćset – five hundred tysiąc – one thousand
milion – one million miliard – one billion


(Note the use of lower case)

czas time
sekunda second
minuta minute
godzina hour
dzień day
doba 24 hours
tydzień week
dwa tygodnie fortnight (two weeks)
miesiąc month
rok year
dziesięciolecie or dekada decade
wiek or stulecie a century
tysiąclecie a millennium
styczeń January
luty February
marzec March
kwiecień April
maj May
czerwiec June
lipiec July
sierpień August
wrzesień September
październik October
listopad November
grudzień December


bardzo zimno very cold
deszczowo rainy
słonecznie sunny
mokro wet
pochmurno cloudy
wietrznie windy
sucho dry
gorąco hot
duszno muggy
leje jak z cebra it's raining cats and dogs


wiosna Spring
lato Summer
jesień Autumn
zima Winter


dom house/home
lotnisko airport
dworzec kolejowy railway station
dworzec autobusowy bus station
sklep shop/store
zamek castle
plaża beach
miasto city/town
wieś village, country-side
kino cinema/movie theater
kościół church
rynek market square
więzienie jail
poczta post office
szkoła school
cmentarz cemetery
ulica street

See also



  • Swan, Oscar E. (2002). A Grammar of Contemporary Polish. Bloomington, IN: Slavica. ISBN 0-89357-296-9. 

External links

Polish language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to Polish article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also polish



Wikipedia has an article on:




Polish (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. Of, from or native to Poland, or relating to the Polish language.

Derived terms


Proper noun



Polish (uncountable)

  1. The language spoken in Poland.


See also

External links

Simple English

Polish language
Spoken in: Poland (38.5 million); Also speakers in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, and other countries.
Speakers: over 50 million
Official language:
Country: Poland
Linguistic classification:
Indo-European languages
   Slavic languages
      Western slavic languages
            Polish language

Polish (język polski, polszczyzna) is the official language of Poland. It is the most widely spoken Western Slavic language and the second largest Slavic language after Russian. It is one of the most difficult languages to learn due to very complicated grammar.

In history, Polish was an important language in Central and Eastern Europe. Today, Polish is spoken by over 38.5 million people as their first language in Poland. It is also spoken as a second language in western parts of Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine. Because of the emigration from Poland during different time periods, millions of Polish speakers can be found in countries such as Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, and so on. There are over 50 million Polish language speakers around the world.



There are 9 letters in Polish which English does not have. They look like English letters with marks above or below them.

In lower case, the 9 letters are: ą ć ę ł ń ś ó ź ż

In upper case, the 9 letters are: Ą Ć Ę Ł Ń Ś Ó Ź Ż

There are 3 English letters which are not used in Polish: q, v, x.

There are 7 combinations of 2 letters which are like a single letter sound (similar to "th" or "qu" in English). These include "ch", "cz", "dz", "dź", "dż", "rz", "sz".


Many letters have the same sound in Polish and English, for instance "f", "m", and others. But other letters sound different, for instance Polish "w" sounds like an English "v", while Polish "ł" sounds like an English "w". There are also some Polish sounds which do not exist in English, and some English sounds which do not exist in Polish.

The vowels "ą" and "ę" are nasal, which means people pronounce them blowing air partly out of the nose as well as the mouth.

Most words are pronounced with an accent on the next-to-last syllable. For instance the Polish word "student" (which means the same as the English word) is pronounced with the accent on "stu" ("STU-dent"), while "studenci" (the plural form of "student") is pronounced with the accent on "den" (stu-DEN-ci).


The Polish language has several dialects, but less so than most European languages. There are small differences in "standard" Polish, but all speakers can understand one another, and non-native speakers often cannot notice the differences.


The grammar is complex, and has some features which do not appear in English.

Like many languages, Polish has grammatical gender. A table (stół) is masculine, a book (książka) is feminine, and a window (okno) is neuter.

Nouns and adjectives and verbs have many endings, depending on their role in a sentence. There are 7 cases or roles which a noun can have in a Polish sentence, each with its own ending. The endings also depend on the gender of the noun.

Word order is more free in Polish, partly because the noun endings help people understand the role of the word. In English, "The boy bites the dog" is quite different from "The dog bites the boy", but in Polish people could use either order without confusion.

Basic Phrases

Dzień dobry (Dz'ehn DOH-brih) - Good morning or Good afternoon

Dobry wieczór (DOH-brih v-YETCH-oor) - Good evening

Do widzenia (doh vee-DZEN-yah) - Good bye

Cześć! (tsheshch) - Hi, Hello! or Bye

Tak (tahk) - Yes (in Polish people may not say long-short answers - like Yes, I did Tak is enough)

Nie (nyeh) - No or Not (in Polish people may not say long-short answers - like No, I won't Nie is enough)

Jak się masz? (yahk shyeh mahsh) - How do you do?

Co robisz? (co robish) - What you doing?

Jak się nazywasz? (YAHK sheng nahZYwash) or Jak masz na imię? (YAHK mahsh nah EE-myeng) - What's your name?

Nazywam się... (nah-ZIH-vahm sheng) or Mam na imię... (mahm nah EE-myeng) - My name is...

Nie mówię po polsku (nyeh MOW-vyeng poh POL-skoo) - I do not speak Polish

Lubię Cię (loo-bee-EH che) - I like you

Kocham Cię (ko-ham che) - I love you

Nie mówię po angielsku (nye MOW-vyeng poh eng-lskou) - I do not speak English

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