Polish false friends – part 2

You may have read our previous article about Polish false friends. We’ve discussed the “similarities” between Polish and English and between Polish and Ukrainian. However, our language’s history is complex. For over the millennium it has been interacting with many languages all over the world. In this article, we’ll discuss the Russian and French in detail.

Polish false friends – Russian


How did Polish and Russian interact?

Polish-Russian relations were always a sensitive topic. Russia took part in the 3 partitions, which led to part of the Polish territory being a part of Russia from 1772 until 1918. During that period the tsardom suppressed the Polish language through a strict Russification policy. It has fortunately failed, but Poles have borrowed some words.

Another episode when the Russian language was forced onto Poles was World War 2 (1939-45) and then the Polish People’s Republic (1944-1989). On 17th September 1939 Soviet Union attacked Poland. In 1944 the Soviets created the Polish People’s Republic – a satellite state in which everyone was forced to learn Russian during their education. This resulted in further borrowing.


To remember or to forget?

Polish false friends always mean something different than in the other language. But it’s rare that they mean the complete opposite. In the Polish language zapomnieć means “to forget”. However, in the Russian language запомнить (pronunciation: zapomnić) means… “to remember”.

A calendar page with date February 25th

To forget or to kill?

Polish false friends always lead to misunderstandings. But some of them may cause more awkward situations than others.

In the Polish language zabić is “to kill”. A rather serious and unpleasant verb, isn’t it? And the Russians have the word забыть (pronunciation: zabyć), which means “to forget”.


To forbid or to order?

During our Polish language course in Wroclaw, we teach a practical language. Therefore, our curriculum includes ordering something in the restaurant. But if you’re a Russian native speaker, you should pay attention to Polish false friends while in there.

Polish for “to forbid” is zakazywać. And in the Russian language заказывать (pronunciation: zakazywać) means “to order something”. Be careful while ordering Polish dishes, our Russian friend!

A waving Russian flag

Polish false friends – French


How did the Polish and French interact?

Polish-French relations were not hostile ones. France has never invaded nor occupied even a single piece of Polish soil. So how did the Polish false friends occur there?

If France retained its position as a global superpower, we’d be writing this article in French! For centuries French has been a common language in Europe. English was also of great importance but wasn’t the main language. It rose to this prestigious position after World War 2 when the US became a global superpower. 

So, the French have been a language of science and culture. The majority of foreign publications were translated from this language. When the Polish lacked a word for something, it was likely that it would borrow it from the French.

Polish false friends from France may have also originated in the so-called Duchy of Warsaw period (1807-15). It was a French satellite state, French was even its second official language! 

A French flag

Experienced employee or just an intern?

By stage French people mean professional experience at a given job. It sounds exactly like the Polish word staż. But this one means “an internship”. A very significant difference! And it has even a third meaning in English – that language stage is a specified part of a process.


A head of the hospital department or a computer?

If you’re French, you must have l’ordinateur – a computer. Can you even imagine living without it? And if you’re taking a Polish language course in Wroclaw, you’ll also hear the Polish word ordynator. But be careful! It’s not a device, but one of the most important people in the hospital! They run the entire department. They, for sure, must have the memory and speed of the computer. But they’re not one.


A dad or an aunt?


During our Polish language course in Wroclaw, you’ll learn a family vocabulary. If you’re French – be careful! In your native language tata stands for “aunt”. For example – your father’s sister. But in the Polish language, the very same word means “daddy”. 

Polish language course in Wroclaw offer. White text on the red background



In this article, we gave you a brief list of Russian and French words you should pay attention to while learning the Polish language. Of course Russian and French have much more tricky words – but this is a thing you’ll learn about in our school.