Avva links to an extremely well done site that has lists of false friends in the Slavic languages, arranged in every way you could want: bilingually (pick any pair of languages), monolingually (it will list all the words in a given language that are false friends in any other), and geographically (maps showing which regions have which meanings). Extremely useful.


  1. Adan Siegel says

    They left out my favorite:
    Cz. prujem ‘diarrhea’ vs Ru. proem ‘aperture’

  2. Most of these aren’t complete ‘false friends’. Anyone with a good knowledge of modern Russian and an acquaintance with archaic (say, 18th century) Russian — not even Old Church Slavonic — can explain away most of the differences and link confusing connotations in other Slavic languages to Russian words of the same root. E.g., Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian ‘sklad’ is ‘harmony’; Russian ‘sklad’ is ‘storehouse’. Seems like a complete ‘false friend’. But Russian ‘skladnyj’ is folksy for ‘harmonious’. Pretty obvious. For some reason, Russian ‘adres’ is billed only as ‘address’, while it also means ‘congratulatory letter’ and thus stops being a total ‘false friend’ for Ukrainian. Russian ‘meschanin’ used to mean the same as Polish ‘mieszczanin’, i.e. ‘Bürger’. I suppose one can sift the list until only a few dozen words remain.
    One classic false friend absent from the matrix: Czech ‘pozor’ (pOzor) = caution or attention; Russian ‘pozor’ (pozOr) = shame. In August 1968, when the Soviet Army re-occupied Prague, they started painting out ‘Pozor!’ signs.

  3. Great anecdote! But lists of false friends aren’t compiled primarily for people “with a good knowledge of modern Russian and an acquaintance with archaic (say, 18th century) Russian”; they’re written for people who know one language and are studying (or having to deal with) another and might be confused by surface resemblance.

  4. Adan: Write and suggest it; they solicit contributions.

  5. Actually, the list is very helpful — I enjoyed looking through it. Still, my hypothesis is that learning one Slavic language deeply before switching to others may be preferable to leaping from one to another.

  6. Yay for spam posts! I never would have found this otherwise.
    Now, if only someone would tell me how to make NHL hockey picks as well.

  7. Yes, spam often enables me to enjoy revisiting old posts I’d forgotten about. I still wish immense sufferings on the spammers, though.

  8. The site has now been converted into a Wikibook, which can be updated by all and sundry.

Speak Your Mind