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When to use Ręka / Dłoń

anton87 2 | 2  
21 Nov 2008 /  #1
When do you use dłoń and when do you use ręka?
I don't quite understand the distinction between these two words.

Vincent 9 | 935   Moderator
21 Nov 2008 /  #2
I think dłoń refers to the palm of the hand, but wait for a second opinion.
malena 1 | 16  
21 Nov 2008 /  #3
When do you use dłoń and when do you use ręka?

1. Dłoń refers to the palm, only and it is less colloquial.
2. Ręka is more general term as it can refer to both a palm and whole limb.
Podnieście ręce (meaning whole limbs)
Podaj mi swoją rękę (meaning a palm)
You can also say podaj mi swoją dłoń, which is less colloquial as i said (but mind you it is not very formal)
Marek 4 | 867  
21 Nov 2008 /  #4
I've encountered 'dłoń' only in poetry, e.g. Tuwim, Iwaszkiewicz etc., never in standard speech or even contemporary non-fiction prose or journalism. Perhaps in earlier fiction, i.e. novels, novellae and so forth, it could be found.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446  
21 Nov 2008 /  #5
How about Mieczysław Fogg's "Całuję twoją dłoń, madam..."
Krzysztof 2 | 973  
21 Nov 2008 /  #6
I've encountered 'dłoń' only in poetry

Here is your answer, POLONIUS3, it's a lyrical song, it's like he was singing about kissing this lady's eye, feet or any other body parts, but in normal speech we use "całować kogoś w rękę" (to kiss somebody's hand, a traditional greeting, still present among older generations, normally only women are kissed by men, except for religious figures like the Pope - but it's a different kiss, not a greeting, but gratitude), not "całować czyjąś rękę".

There's also a figurative expression "całować kogoś po rękach" = to be very grateful/thankful to someone.

Generally in Polish 'ręka' is often used where in English you'd say 'hand' or 'arm'.

Here's the medical (anatomical) description
bark, (shoulder)
ramię, (arm)
łokieć, (elbow)
przedramię, (forearm)
ręka, (hand)
ręka (hand) is divided in:
- nadgarstek (wrist) - which is often considered a separate body part, between the forearm and the hand,
- dłoń (palm), inner part of the hand (I'm not sure how the outer part of the hand is called in Polish, because it's not used too often),

- palce (fingers, including the thumb)

In colloquial language, however, the word forearm is almost not used (we say 'ręka' for it), and the word 'ramię' [plural: ramiona] is quite often used not for the 'arm', but for the 'shoulder', unless you need to be specific for the medical reasons.

EDIT: While I was editing my post z_darius wrote something similar in a shorter way :)
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
21 Nov 2008 /  #7
never in standard speech or even contemporary non-fiction prose or journalism.


1. The whole limb from the shoulder to the tips of one's fingers.
2. The whole limb from the shoulder to the wrist (does not include the palm).


1. The palm including fingers
2. The palm not including fingers

Marek is in general right in his assessment of the usage, although where medical issues are concerned the term is used frequently. The word will be also used in everyday speech depending on local and social circumstances.


1. Forearm.
2. Piszczele (slangish, refers to the forearms, but really means the bones of the forearm)


1. Arm.
2. Shoulder.
Marek 4 | 867  
22 Nov 2008 /  #8
Merely curious then as to whether a Polish native speaker distinguishes in Polish colloquial or specific language between the English 'leg' and 'foot'! Some languages such as German, normally so exact, often translate 'Fuessse' (feet) as 'legs' which in German would be 'Beine'. A well-known autobiography after WWII was translated from the original 'So weit die Fuessse tragen' into English 'As far as my legs will carry me'. A German speaker once told me that if the author had written 'So weit die Beine tragen', it would sound odd in German.

Could someone enlighten me as to my question about Polish 'leg' vs. 'foot', while we're still on the subject of anatomy--:)?
Krzysztof 2 | 973  
22 Nov 2008 /  #9
Polish foot (stopa) is almost not used, we call everything "noga" (leg). I think that "stopa" is even less common than "dłoń" in everyday speech (of course except for medical or anatomical contexts)

There are some fixed phrases with stopa or dłoń, where it would sound odd to use noga/ręka, but not many.

serce na dłoni (heart on the hand - about a cordial person)
pomocna dłoń (helping hand)

stopa życiowa (living conditions)
and generally stopa in the meaning of "level"
na równej stopie (on equal terms, so it can be included into the "level" category - all parts are on the same level = noone is higher in the hierarchy)
Marek 4 | 867  
22 Nov 2008 /  #10
Many, many thanks Krzyśiu!! This is precisely the answer/info. I was looking for. I always wondered why 'noga' instantly came to mind when that part of the body was being discussed, yet 'stopa' I practically forgot about until just now as I read your post -:) Here though, the similarity I found with German ends! In German 'hand' is always 'Hand', 'palm' is 'Palme', 'arm' 'Arm' and NEVER used to mean 'shoulder' or 'Schulter'.

Very informative!
23 Nov 2008 /  #11
2. Piszczele (slangish, refers to the forearms, but really means the bones of the forearm)

Hmm, it's about bone in leg.
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
23 Nov 2008 /  #12
indeed, my mistake
23 Nov 2008 /  #13
When to use Ręka / Dłoń

do only I have a naughty mind after reading that title? lol....
plk123 8 | 4,148  
23 Nov 2008 /  #14
yes, :P

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