List of English words of Polish origin

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"Kielbasa" derives from a generic Polish word for a sausage, which is ultimately from either Turkic or Hebrew.

This is a list English words of Polish origin, that is words used in the English language that were borrowed or derived, either directly or indirectly, from Polish. Several Polish words have entered English slang via Yiddish, brought by Ashkenazi Jews migrating from Poland to North America. Other English words were indirectly derived from Polish via Russian or West European languages, such as French, German or Dutch. The Polish words themselves often come from other languages, such as German or Turkish. Borrowings from Polish tend to be mostly words referring to staples of Polish cuisine, names of Polish folk dances or specialist, e.g. horse-related, terminology. Among the words of Polish origin there are several words that derive from Polish geographic names and ethnonyms, including the name Polska, "Poland", itself.

Derived from common words[edit]


The following words are derive directly from Polish. Some of them are loanwords in Polish itself.

Word Meaning Etymology References
Babka A leavened coffee or rum cake flavored with orange rind, rum, almonds, and raisins Polish / Ukrainian babka, ("yeast cake"), diminutive of baba ("old woman") AHD
Bigos A Polish stew made with meat and cabbage Polish bigosGerman begossen ("doused"), or German blei + guss ("lead pieces") SWO
Britzka A type of horse-drawn carriage Polish bryczka, diminutive of bryka ("wagon") EB-1911
Kielbasa A spicy smoked Polish sausage Polish kiełbasa ("sausage") ← Turkish kül bassï ("grilled cutlet") ← Turkic kül bastï: kül ("coals, ashes") + bastï, ("pressed (meat)") from basmaq ("to press"); or from Hebrew kolbasar ("all kinds of meat") AHD, OED
Klotski A sliding block puzzle Polish klocki, plural of klocek ("toy block") [citation needed]
Konik A horse breed Polish konik, diminutive of koń ("horse") [citation needed]
Marrowsky Dated - A spoonerism A Polish count's surname OED
Ogonek A hook-shaped diacritic Polish ogonek ← diminutive of ogon ("tail") ← Proto-Slavic *ogonŭ (probably originally "that which drives away (flies and the like)") : *o-, ob-, ("around, on") + *goniti ("to push, chase, drive") AHD
Paczki A Polish jam-filled doughnut Polish pączki, plural of pączek ← diminutive of pąk ("bud") AHD
Pierogi A semicircular dumpling of unleavened dough with any of various fillings Polish pierogi, plural of pieróg ("pie") ← Russian pirogOld Russian pirogŭ, from pirŭ ("feast") ← Proto-Slavic *pirŭProto-Indo-European *pō(i)- AHD
Sejm Polish diet or parliament Polish sejm ("diet, assembly") OED
Voivodeship highest-level administrative subdivision of Poland Polish województwo ("province") [citation needed]
Zloty Polish currency Polish złoty ("golden"), from złoto ("gold") ← Proto-Indo-European ghel AHD


The following words are derived from Polish via third languages.

Word Meaning Etymology References
Hetman Historical - Polish, Czech or Cossack military leader Ukrainian гетьман, het'man ← Polish hetmanCzech hejtman ← dialectical German hötmann, hetmann (modern Hauptmann) ← Middle High German houbet ("head/high") + man ("man") AHD
Horde A nomadic tribe; a crowd or swarm German Horde ← Polish horda ← Ukrainian горда/gorda ← Russian орда (ordá) ← Mongol or North-West Turkic ordï ("camp", "residence") ← Old Turkic ordu ("encampment, residence, court") AHD
Gherkin A small cucumber Early Modern Dutch gurkijn (Modern gurkje), diminutive of gurk (+ kijn), aphetic variant of agurk, or possibly via Dutch agurken, plural of agurk, taken to English as singular a gurken, from Dutch agurk, variant of augurk ← German Gurken, plural of Gurk ← Slavic source, i.e Polish ogórek, partial translation (with diminutive suffix -ek) of Byzantine Greek angourion ("watermelon, gherkin"), from diminutive of Late Greek angouros ("a grape(s)"), meaning "small, unripe fruit," from expressive alteration of Greek aōros ("out of season, unripe") ← Proto Indo-European AHD, OED
Nudnick / Nudnik A bore; a boring person variant English noodnik ← Yiddish nudne + diminutive suffix -nik, from nudyen ("to bore") ← Slavic, either Russian нудный/núdnyj("tedious"), Ukrainian нудний/núdnýj ("tedious"), or Polish nudny ("boring") ← Old Church Slavonic ноудити/nuditi or нѫдити/nǫditi ("to compell") ← Proto-Slavic *nuda ← Proto-Indo-European *neuti- (“need”), from *nau- ("death, to be exhausted") AHD
Quartz A hard white or colorless mineral German Quarz ← dialectical Polish or other Slavic kwardy (modern Polish twardy) AHD, OED
Rendzina A dark, grayish-brown soil that develops under grass on limestone and chalk Russian rendzina/rendsina ("lime-rich soil") ← Polish rędzina ← unknown origin AHD, ESS, M-W
Schav, schaf A sorrel soup Yiddish שטשאַוו, shtshav ("sorrel") ← Polish szczaw AHD
Schlub, shlub A clumsy, stupid or unattractive person Yiddish zhlob/zhlub, "yokel", "boor" ← Polish żłób ("trough, blockhead") AHD, MW
Schmatte, shmatte A rag Yiddish shmate ← Polish szmata AHD
Schmuck, shmuck A clumsy or stupid person Yiddish shmok ("penis, fool") ← probably Old Polish smok ("snake/dragon") or German Schmuck ("Jewellery"); in either case, the German word highly influenced the English spelling. AHD
Uhlan, ulan A cavalryman German Uhlan ← Polish ułan ← Turkish oğlan("boy, youth" / "servant"), from oǧul ("son") ← Old Turkic AHD, MW

Derived from geographic names and ethnonyms[edit]

Word Meaning Etymology References
Alla polacca Like a polonaise (in musical notation) Italian alla polacca, "in the Polish manner, Polish style" MW
Bialy A flat, round baked roll or bagel topped with onion flakes Yiddish bialy ← short for bialystoker, "of Białystok", a town in north-eastern Poland AHD, MW
Cracovian A mathematical symbol used in cracovian calculus Polish krakowianCracow, a city in southern Poland, former capital [citation needed]
Cracovienne, krakowiak A lively Polish folk dance French (danse) cracovienne, "Kraków (dance)", feminine of cracovien, "of Cracow"; Polish krakowiak, "inhabitant of Cracow" MW: cracovienne, MW: krakowiak
Crackowe, cracowe, crakow A long, pointed shoe popular in the 14th-15th centuries Middle English crakowe ← Cracow, the English name of Kraków MW
Czech Of or related to the Czech Republic or its people Polish Czech, "a Czech or Bohemian man" ← Czech Čech AHD
Mazurka A Polish dance or a piece of music for such a dance Russian мазурка, mazurka ← Polish (tańczyć) mazurka, "(to dance) the mazurka", accusative of mazurek ← diminutive of Mazur, "inhabitant of Masovia or Masuria", regions in north-eastern Poland AHD, OED, SWO
Polack A Pole; formerly a neutral term, now considered offensive (see also List of ethnic slurs) Polish Polak, "Pole" AHD, OED
Polonaise A stately, marchlike Polish dance or a piece of music for such a dance French (danse) polonaise, "Polish (dance)", feminine of polonais, "Polish" OED
Polonaise A woman's overdress popular in the 18th century French (robe à la) polonaise, "Polish (style dress)", feminine of polonais, "Polish" OED
Polonaise Sprinkled with browned butter and bread crumbs (of food, mostly vegetables) French polonaise, feminine of polonais, "Polish" OED, MW
Polonium Chemical element with atomic number 84 Medieval Latin Polonia, "Poland" AHD
Polska A Scandinavian folk dance or a piece of music for such a dance Swedish polska ← feminine of polsk, "Polish" MW
Poulaine (The pointed toe of) a crackowe shoe (see above) Middle French (soulier à la) poulaine, "Polish (style shoe)" ← feminine of poulain, "Polish" MW
Varsoviana, varsovienne A graceful dance similar to a mazurka Spanish varsoviana ← feminine of varsoviano; French varsovienne ← feminine of varsovien; both from Medieval Latin varsovianus, "of Warsaw" (Polish: Warszawa), the capital city of Poland MW


  • AHD, "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language". Boston: Houghton Mifflin; New York: 2000. Retrieved 2009-12-02. (included in
  • EB-1911, "The Wikisource 1911 encyclopedia project". Wikisource. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
  • OED, Herper, Douglas (November 2001). "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2008-01-28.
  • MW, "Merriam-Webster Online". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
  • ‹See Tfd›(in Polish) SWO, "Słownik wyrazów obcych". Polish Scientific Publishers PWN. 1995. Retrieved 2008-01-28.

See also[edit]