display | more...

The English language, probably moreso than any other in the world, borrows words from other languages like it's its job. Hell, our basic vocabulary looks more like Old French than Old English in some places. The Slavic languages are no exception, though their contributions are few compared to other language groups, due to minimal contact (in comparison to contact with French, Spanish, or Dutch). Some of these originally Slavic words are quite common, others are less common and only reference things present in Slavic culture. Anyway, here's a few of the more common ones, and a few less common ones from Czech, and its predescessor 'Bohemian.'

  • howitzer -- from an Old Czech/Bohemian word for a type of catapult that slung many stones at once, a haufnice or haufný. Interestingly, the root of the word is Germanic, and the path from Czech to English goes through German and Dutch, giving us the spelling and the -er ending
  • pistol -- from p횝ala, a small pipe or whistle, which is from the onomatopoeic verb pištìt, to screech or squeak. The word comes to us through Middle High German and French
  • polka -- it comes from Czech, but the word polka means 'Polish,' or more specifically 'a female Pole'
  • robot -- a word coined by the great writer and playwright, Karel Čapek, his play Rossum's Universal Robots in the 1920s. The word itself is made up from the Czech word robota, which means forced labor or drudgery, from rab, slave.
  • calash -- a calash in English is either a type of hooded carriage, the hood for that carriage, or a type of bonnet worn by ladies in the late 18th Century which folded like the hood of the carriage. The word comes from the Czech kolesa, a type of collapsible-top carriage, itself from kolo, wheel. The word gets to us via German and French
  • pram -- this is a word used in English to refer to a dinghy with a flat snub-nosed bough. It also refers to a similar flat-bottomed vessel used in the Baltic Sea as a barge. (In British English it's a type of baby-carriage, but that's short for 'perambulator' which is a Latinate construction). The word comes via Dutch from the Czech word prám, referring to such a vessel, though this is interesting since the Czech homeland has no seacoast.
  • pilsner -- I should note that this type of beer comes from the German name for the Czech city of Plzeň, Pilsen. Perhaps the best-known Czech beer (and they make good beer) is Pilsner Urquell, which is brewed in Plzeň.
  • nebbish -- refers to a person who is weak-willed or timid, a wuss. This words comes to us through Yiddish, though the word ultimately comes from the Czech nebohý, meaning 'poor.'

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.