short answer

Polish language

Polish (język polski, polszczyzna) is the official language of Poland. It is the West Slavic language with the greatest number of speakers . Polish is spoken in a uniform manner through most of Poland, and has a regular orthography. The language developed indigenously and retains many ancient Slavic features of pronunciation and grammar. Although the Polish language was suppressed by occupying powers during some historical periods, a rich literature has nonetheless developed over the centuries, and many works by Polish authors are available in translations in English and other languages.


Polish is the official language of Poland; it is spoken chiefly by the Poles, who make up most of the 38 million inhabitants of Poland (census 2002). There are also native speakers of Polish in western Belarus and Ukraine (see: Kresy), as well as eastern Lithuania (in the area of Vilnius), southeastern Latvia (around Daugavpils), northern Romania (see: Polish minority in Romania), and the northeastern part of Czech Republic (see: Zaolzie). Because of emigration from Poland in various periods, millions of Polish-speakers now live in countries such as Germany, France, Ireland, Australia, Mexico, Israel, Brazil, Iceland, the United Kingdom, United States, etc. The estimated number of Poles who live beyond the borders of Poland is 21 million. It is not clear, however, how many of them can actually speak Polish - the estimates range from 3.5 to 10 million. This puts the number of native speakers of Polish worldwide at between 40 and 48 million. According to Ethnologue, there are about 43 million first language speakers of Polish worldwide.

Polish has the second largest number of speakers among Slavic languages after Russian. It is the main representative of the Lechitic branch of the West Slavic languages. The Polish language is indigenous to Poland, having developed within its current territory from several local Western Slavic dialects, most notably those spoken in Greater Poland and Lesser Poland. It shares some vocabulary with the languages of the neighboring Slavic nations, most notably with Slovak, Czech, Ukrainian, and Belarusian.


The precursor to the Polish language is the Old Polish language.

Polish was a lingua franca from 1500 to 1700 in small parts of Central and large areas of Eastern Europe, because of the political, cultural, scientific and military influence of the powerful Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Geographic distribution

Polish is mainly spoken in Poland. Poland is one of the most Homogeneous European countries with regard to its mother tongue; nearly 97% of Poland's citizens declare Polish as their mother tongue, due to World War II, after which Poland was forced to change its borders, which resulted in various migrations (German expulsions). After the Second World War the previously Polish territories annexed by the USSR retained a large amount of the Polish population that was unwilling or unable to migrate toward the post-1945 Poland, and even today ethnic Poles constitute large minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Polish is by far 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 is most often used in the Lviv and Lutsk regions. Western Belarus has an important Polish minority, especially in the Brest and Grodno regions.

There are also significant numbers of Polish speakers in Argentina, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, 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, Polish Americans number more than 11 million (see: Polish language in the United States) but most of them cannot 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, which is 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%) were found in three states: Illinois (185,749), New York (111,740) and New Jersey (74,663).

In Canada, there is a signifcant Polish Canadian population and there are 242,885 speakers of Polish according to the most recent census in 2006 with a particular concentration in the city of Toronto, Ontario (91,810 speakers).


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 east was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, during World War II.

"Standard" Polish is still spoken somewhat differently in different regions of the country, although the differences between these broad "dialects" are slight. There is never any difficulty in mutual understanding, and non-native speakers are generally unable to distinguish among them easily. The differences are slight compared to different dialects of English, for example. The regional differences correspond mainly to old tribal divisions from around a thousand years ago; the most significant of these in terms of numbers of speakers are Great Polish (spoken in the west), Lesser Polish (spoken in the south and southeast), Mazovian (Mazur) spoken throughout the central and eastern parts of the country, and Silesian spoken in the southwest. Mazovian shares some features with the Kashubian language (see below).

Some more characteristic but less widespread regional dialects include:

  1. The distinctive Podhale dialect (Góralski) is spoken in the mountainous areas bordering the Czech and Slovak Republics. The Górale (highlanders) take great pride in their culture and the dialect. It has some cultural influences from the Vlach shepherds who migrated from Wallachia (southern Romania) in the 14th-17th centuries. The language of the coextensive East Slavic ethnic group, the Lemkos, which demonstrates significant lexical and grammatical commonality with the Góralski dialect, bears no significant Vlach or other Romanian influences. Most urban Poles find it difficult to understand this very distinct dialect.
  2. In the western and northern regions that were largely resettled by Poles from the territories annexed by the Soviet Union, the older generation speaks a dialect of Polish characteristic of the Eastern Borderlands.
  3. The Kashubian language, spoken in the Pomorze region west of Gdańsk on the Baltic sea, is closely related to Polish, and was once considered a dialect by some. However, the differences are significant enough 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. Poles living in Lithuania (particularly in the Vilnius region), Belarus (particularly the northwest), and in the northeast of Poland continue to speak the Eastern Borderlands dialect which is more "slushed", and is easily distinguishable.
  5. Some city dwellers, especially the less affluent population, had their own distinctive dialects. An example of this is the Warsaw dialect, still spoken by some of the population of Praga, on the eastern bank of the Vistula. (Praga was the only part of the city whose population survived World War II somewhat intact.) However, these city dialects are now mostly extinct due to assimilation with standard Polish.
  6. Many Poles living in emigrant communities, e.g. in the USA, whose families left Poland just after World War II, retain a number of minor features of Polish vocabulary as it was spoken in the first half of the 20th century, but which now sound archaic to contemporary visitors from Poland.


The Polish vowel system is relatively simple with only six oral and two nasal vowels. The Polish consonant system is more complicated and its characteristic features are 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.


The Polish alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet but uses diacritics, such as kreska (graphically similar to acute accent), kropka (superior dot) and ogonek. Unlike other Latin-character Slavic languages (apart from Kashubian), Polish did not adopt a version of the Czech orthography, but developed one independently.

Name of the letter Usual
phonetic value
phonetic values
A   a   a [a]  
Ą Ą ą ą ą [ɔɰ̃] [ɔ], [ɔm], [ɔn], [ɔŋ], [ɔɲ], [ɔj̃]
B   b   be [b] [p]
C   c   ce [t͡s] [d͡z], [t͡ɕ]
Ć Ć ć ć ci [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], [ɛj̃]
F   f   ef [f] [v]
G   g   gie [g] [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] [g]
L   l   el [l]  
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 [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 [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 that Polish [ʂ], [ʐ], [t͡ʂ], [d͡ʐ] are laminal postalveolar and may perhaps be most accurately transcribed using the IPA retracted diacritic as [s̠], [z̠], [t͡ʂ̠], [d͡ʐ̠] respectively. Also note that Polish ń (transcribed here [ɲ]) is not palatal; it has the same articulation place as [ɕ] or [ʑ]. However, as the IPA does not have a symbol for a nasal alveolo-palatal consonant, it would perhaps be more accurately transcribed as [nʲ].

The letters Q (ku), V (fau) and X (iks) do not belong to the Polish alphabet but they are used in some commercial names and foreign words. In Polish pronunciation there is no need for them. They are replaced with K, W and KS/GZ respectively.

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 [d͡ʐ̠] [t͡ʂ], [d-ʐ]
Rz   rz   [ʐ] [ʂ], [r-z]
Sz   sz   [ʂ] [ʐ]

Note that although the Polish orthography is mostly phonetic-morphological, some sounds may be written in more than one way:

  • [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 spelt 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.)

Two consonants rz are very rarely read as "r z", not [ʐ], as in words "zamarzać" (to get frozen), "marznąć" (to feel cold) or in the name "Tarzan".

The pronunciation of geminates (doubled consonants) in Polish is always 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

Polish is highly inflected and retains the Old Slavic case system with seven cases for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative. There are two number classes, singular and plural.

As in many Slavic languages, including Russian, there are no definite or indefinite articles in Polish.

The Polish gender system, like Russian and almost all the other Balto-Slavic languages, is 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 are characterized by the following inflectional properties (with rare exceptions):

  1. Personal masculine: accusative = genitive (both singular and plural), distinctive nominative plural ending
  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.

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 verbs are inflected 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 is a grammatical category of the verb, and almost all Polish verbs have two aspects, in each tense. One imperfective (often translated as a progressive tense in English with -ing, for example 'was going', 'is going', "will be going") and one 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) are usually attached to the verb or to the most accented word of a sentence, like question preposition.

The fifth Polish tense, the future imperfective, is an analytic form, and 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?
  • Cóżeście zrobili? (a form that could be derived from Cóż zrobiliście?, which actually sounds archaic and is not often used, except for eg. biblical usage)
  • Co żeście zrobili? (though almost identical, this form is incorrect. Many Poles nowadays make the mistake (in Cracow region it is naturally spoken with "że")of putting unnecessary "że" with the past tense suffix, e.g. Wczoraj żem to kupił. instead of Kupiłem to wczoraj. (I bought it yesterday.) Better educated Poles consider such sentences to be coarse. Sometimes it may seem they contain the -ż(e) particle, but in most cases the unnecessary -że does not bring any emphasis.)

(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))

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 examples below show how the subject could be included in such sentences, where possible:

  • Co wy zrobiliście?
  • Coście zrobili? (a native speaker would not use a subject here)
  • Co wyście zrobili? (this example emphasizes the pronoun -- "wy"+ście)
  • Co żeście zrobili? (this example emphasizes the że- particle, but it is not correct in a written form) (The mentioned correctness could be subject to an argument. It is clearly not an "official language" form, no apparent reason I can see for deeming its written form as incorrect, though.)

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. In increasing order of markedness:

  • Alicja ma kota - Alice has a cat
  • Alicja kota ma - Alice does have (own) a cat (and has not borrowed it)
  • Kota ma Alicja - The/a cat is owned by Alice
  • Ma Alicja kota - Alice really does have a cat
  • Kota Alicja ma - It is just the cat that Alice really has
  • Ma kota Alicja - The relationship of Alice to the cat is one of ownership (and not temporary possession)

However, only the first three examples sound natural in Polish, and others should be used for special emphasis only, if at all.

If a question mark is added to the end of those sentences they will all mean "does Alicia have a cat?"; an optional 'czy' could be added to the beginning (but native speakers do not always use it).

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

  • Ma kota - can be used if it is obvious who is the person talked about
  • Ma - short answer for "Czy Alicja ma kota?" (as in "Yes, she does")
  • Alicja - answer for "Kto ma kota?" (as in "Alice does")
  • Kota - answer for "Co ma Alicja?" (as in "The cat")
  • Alicja ma - (as in "Alice does [have one]") answer for "Kto z naszych znajomych ma kota?" ("Who among our acquaintances has a cat?")

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

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, "ja" (I) and "ty" (you, singular), and their plural equivalents "my" (we) and "wy" (you, plural), are almost always dropped, much like the respective Spanish pronouns.


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/femine) 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/femenine) were
  • Pan/Pani był/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 "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 (neutral) - 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) - We 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 large number of words from other languages. Borrowed words have been usually rapidly adapted in the following ways:

  1. Their spelling was usually altered to approximately keep the pronunciation, but have them 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), produkcja (production), korupcja (corruption) etc. Slang sometimes borrows and alters common English words, e.g. luknąć (to look), but these borrowings are usually short lived, going out of fashion after several years. 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 '-tion' 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 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, e.g. jar (deep valley), szaszłyk (shish kebab), filiżanka (cup), arbuz (water melon), dywan (carpet), kiełbasa (sausage) , 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 .

There are also few words borrowed form 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.

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


(Notice lower case)
czas time
sekunda second
minuta minute
godzina hour
dzień day
doba 24 hours
tydzień a week
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
pochmurnie cloudy
wietrznie windy
sucho dry
gorąco hot
duszno muggy
żar leje się z nieba it's boiling hot


wiosna Spring
lato Summer
jesień Autumn
zima Winter


słoń elephant
koń horse
kot cat
pies dog
krowa cow
wilk wolf
świnia pig
mucha fly
osa wasp
pszczoła bee
niedźwiedź bear
ślimak snail
jeż hedgehog
komar mosquito
sowa owl
ptak bird
ryba fish
rekin shark
pająk spider
wieloryb whale
motyl butterfly
wydra otter
drzewo tree
kwiat flower
jezioro lake
las forest
morze sea
niebo sky
łąka meadow
rzeka river

Selected countries

  • Europe: Europa

Stany Zjednoczone Ameryki United States of America
Kanada Canada
Anglia England
Szkocja Scotland/Scotia
Walia Wales
Irlandia Ireland
Wielka Brytania Great Britain
Zjednoczone Królestwo United Kingdom
Niemcy Germany
Holandia/Niderlandy Netherland
Szwajcaria Switzerland
Belgia Belgium
Nowa Zelandia New Zealand
Francja France
Hiszpania Spain
Norwegia Norway
Węgry Hungary
Rosja Russia
Ukraina Ukraine
Meksyk Mexico
Dania Denmark
Wyspy Owcze Faroe Islands
Portugalia Portugal
Monako Monaco
Włochy Italy
Słowenia Slovenia
Słowacja Slovakia
Litwa Lithuania
Wenezuela Venezuela
Brazylia Brazil
Chiny China
Irak Iraq
Zjednoczone Emiraty Arabskie United Arab Emirates
Republika Czeska/Czechy Czech Republic/Czechia
Szwecja Sweden
Antarktyda Antarctica
Japonia Japan
Republika Południowej Afryki Republic of South Africa
Wybrzeże Kości Słoniowej Republic of Cote d'Ivoire


kwadrat square
prostokąt rectangle
trójkąt triangle
koło disk
okrąg circle
wielokąt polygon
sześcian cube
ostrosłup pyramid
graniastosłup prism


północ north
południe south
zachód west
wschód east
północny zachód north-west
północny wschód north-east
południowy zachód south-west
południowy wschód south-east
lewo left
prawo right
góra up
dół down
przód front
tył back

Common phrases

Polska Poland
Polak (m)/ Polka (f) Pole (Polish person)
język polski/ polski * Polish (language) / Polish (adjective)
Cześć Hi/Hello
Miłego dnia Have a nice day
Dzień dobry Good Morning/Afternoon (literally good day)
Dobry wieczór Good Evening
Do widzenia Good bye (See you later)
Dziękuję Thank you
Przepraszam I'm sorry/Excuse me
Do zobaczenia/Na razie(informal) See you later
Do jutra See you tomorrow
Dobranoc Good night
Dobra robota! Good job!
Nieźle! Nice (not too bad)
Nie ma mowy! No way! (literally "there is no talk of it")
Jak leci? How's it going? (literally "how is it [time] passing by?", sounds like "how is it flying?")
Miło mi Cię poznać Nice to meet you
Ile to kosztuje? How much does this cost?
Poproszę jedno jabłko One apple please

* Note that adjectives based on proper nouns (polski, amerykański, etc) are not capitalized, unlike in English.


dom house/home
lotnisko airport
dworzec kolejowy train 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 prison/jail
poczta post office
szkoła school
cmentarz cemetery
ulica street

See also


External links


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