The Beauty and the Beast: Russian-Polish false friends

Russian and Polish, both Slavic languages, share a lot of vocabulary and they are indeed pretty similar, althought they are not really mutually intelligible. There are some words that are particularly tricky, however. Here is a funny list of my favourite Russian-Polish puzzles:

  • чашка — czaszka: in Russian a чашка is where your drink your tea from; if you used the same word in Polish you would be drinking from a skull


  • сутки — sutki: the Russian word means “day”, the Polish equivalent “nipples”
  • позор — pozór: pozór means appereance, but if you use the same word in Russian, your appereance would be a disgrace
  • диван — dywan: in Russia you seat on a диван (sofa), in Poland you keep your dywan on the floor (carpet)
  • вонь — woń: in Poland, your parfume can have a nice fragrance (woń), in Russia your parfume would have a bad stench (вонь)
  • дворец — dworzec: in Poland a dworzec is where trains arrive and depart from. If you used the same word in Russian, your train would take you to a palace (sometimes this might be the case, like in Wroclaw, for example)


  • Овощи — Owoce: once I presented to a Russian friend some owocowa herbata (“fruit tea”) I bought in Poland; she thought it was “vegetable tea”
  • кресло — krzeslo: in Russia you would be sitting comfortably in an armchair, in Poland it would be a plain, comfort-free chair
  • штука — sztuka: in Russia it is just a piece of plain, shapeless matter, in Poland that would be a piece of art!

And finally my (and I guess everyone’s) favourite:

  • урод — uroda: in Poland, women go to the salon urody if they want to look good, but never, never say to a Russian girl that she is full of uroda (pl. beauty), she might want to slap you (you just called her an ugly monster)!
This is what they looked like before the uroda treatment

If you know some more funny Polish-Russian false friends or other funny false friends from other language couples, you can contact us here.

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