Magazine Poland

How did Polish and English languages mutually influence each other?

Warsaw, Poland – After the collapse of communism, Poland became more and more susceptible to Western influences after each passing year, something exacerbated by joining the EU in 2004.

With approximately 1 million Poles living in the UK and numerous international businesses relocating to Poland, the Polish language has increasingly started to adapt new words from English. We will take a quick look at words that Polish has taken from English and list a few false friends between the two languages.

Are there any words in English that come from Polish?

There are arguments that there are some Polish words that are used in English, but most of them have Russian or Germanic origins.

Polish biochemist Casimir Funk coined the term “vitamin”, however he combined this particular word from Latin and was working in London at the time, which makes it difficult to argue that “vitamin” is an original Polish word.

Polish, like a lot of languages, has started to borrow from English in the past 20 years and most of these words tend to be from the computing and business sectors.

Some of these words have kept their English spelling or experienced only very slight changes. The pronunciation is often the same with a slight Polish accent. For example the words “e-mail”, “router” and “laptop” are all words that are commonly used in the Polish language.

It is fairly common in the Polish language to create words for something that’s new. There are therefore Polish words that can be used instead of the English alternative, but the majority tend to go for the English version.

Words borrowed from English

Nevertheless, words that have been used in Poland from English are not limited to new technologies. Some common words include: “flirt”, “edytowa”, “anti-virus”, “parkowac”, “deadline”, “fifty-fifty” and “barman”.

There are many false friends in Polish where the word is similar, but the meaning is different. In Polish, “aktualny” means “topical”, a “dres” is a “tracksuit”, “hazard” means “to gamble” and a “lunatyk” is a “sleepwalker”.

It appears that there is no end in sight for this particular trend, the words mentioned in the article are just a tiny example of English words used in Polish.

The more you walk around the streets of Poland, the more likely are you to hear random English words dropped in the middle of a Polish-speaking conversation.

What do you think of the current influences between the two languages? Are there also any Polish words that you’ve heard English speakers use?

By Daniel Stokoe