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Idiomatic Polish

strzyga 2 | 994    
5 May 2008  #1

I think this forum calls for a thread with Polish idioms, as a lot of what passes as slang here is simply everyday colloquial way of speaking.

So, for a good start, just off the top of my head:

stawiać się komuś - to oppose somebody; act arrogantly

rozgrzebać robotę - (exactly what I'm at right now) - to start doing something and not be able to finish; robota jest rozgrzebana

zabierać się do czegoś jak pies do jeża - as above... try to get around to something, with lots of reluctance :)

Easy_Terran 3 | 314    
5 May 2008  #2

iść pić na sępa - to get drunk on somebody else's expense (literal expense, money) :D

patrzyć się jak wół na malowane wrota - to stare at something/someone with dumb expression and without any comprehension :)
rafik 18 | 591    
5 May 2008  #3

iść pić na sępa

also:puścić pawia-to puke
walnać orła-to trip on something,fall
Easy_Terran 3 | 314    
5 May 2008  #4

walnąć orła

or Wyciąć orła

I think we both are familiar with the same joke :D
Marek 4 | 867    
12 May 2008  #5

Spity jak bela = drunk as a skunk

Taki kram, taki sam! = As the master, so his servant.
Krzysztof 2 | 973    
12 May 2008  #6

Taki kram, taki sam! = As the master, so his servant.

I think you meant "jaki pan, taki kram" :)
but that's not colloquial speach, it's rather one of those sayings that are sometimes used (it's not a proverb, I think, but close to one).

some euphemisms for the verb "umrzeć" ("to die")
przekręcić się (to turn around, roll over)
kopnąć w kalendarz (to kick [in] the calendar)
wyjechać nogami do przodu (to leave with the legs forwards - in a hospital the nurses are usually superstitious, so when they transport you to the operation room, they almost always position the bed on wheels with your head in the direction of the movement, while transporting a body of a deceased the legs are in the direction of the movement)
Marek 4 | 867    
13 May 2008  #7


You're right, of course! I thought I'd misquoted, but I wasn't sure. I meant more idiomatic expressions such as the type you've described.
gosiaczek 1 | 85    
21 May 2008  #8

some euphemisms for the verb "umrzeć" ("to die")

pójść do piachu (go into the sand?) = to die
wąchać kwiatki od spodu (to sniff at the flowers from below) = be dead
dębowa jesionka (oak overcoat) = coffin
cjjc 29 | 408    
14 Dec 2008  #9

Thread attached on merging:
Polish Idioms :)

I would like to ask for Polish idioms as well as translations (literal too) and there meanings :) the only Polish idiom I know is:

(Not sure if its correct but I'll give it a go)
Don't tear a cat! - Meaning: Don't start a problem - or something along those lines! No doubt someone will correct me!

So please share and enjoy!

14 Dec 2008  #10

you can get a few in the back of a book called 301 polish verbs (its a book that fully conjugated which is a big help)

heres a couple:

z byka spadłes, czy co?
literally: did you fall off a bull or what?
meaning: are you crazy or something?

Jest to cnota nad cnotami trzymać język za zębami
lit: it is a virtue of all virtues to hold ones tongue behind ones teeth
meaning: silence is golden

Jak sobie pościelisz, tak się wyśpisz
lit: the way you make your bed, the way you will sleep
meaning: you made your bed now lie in it

just a small selection there i have more back home in england :))
cjjc 29 | 408    
14 Dec 2008  #11

book called 301 polish verbs

I've seen it on amazon I'll pick it up if you say it's a big help :P

just a small selection

Cheers T

Krzysztof 2 | 973    
14 Dec 2008  #12

Just one, I don't want to make a long list,
Pluć sobie w brodę (to spit in one's/own beard) = to regret
bogotas - | 1    
14 Dec 2008  #13

patrzyć się jak wół na malowane wrota -like a deer caught in the headlights OR like a dog that has just been shown a card trick (which I personally get a kick out of)
Krzysztof 2 | 973    
15 Dec 2008  #14

An idiomatic expression for today:
"wyskoczyć jak filip/Filip z konopii" (to jump out like a hare/Phillip from hemps - the spelling with maiuscule "f", Filip, has been common, but according to the linguists, filip here is an old Polish word for "zając" = a hare, not a male first name) - it means to come with something out of the blue, to say/propose something surprisingly enough, and usually this "something" isn't connected with the previous discussion.
17 Dec 2008  #15

Raz na ruski rok.
Once in a Russian year. (Once in a blue moon.)

Bułka z masłem.
A roll with butter. (A piece of cake.)

Nudne jak flaki z olejem.
Dull as tripe (or chitterlings) in oil. (Dull as dishwater.)

Co ma piernik do wiatraka?
What has gingerbread to do with a windmill? (What has that to do with anything?)

Jasne jak słońce.
Clear as the sun. (Clear as day.)

Nie ucz ojca dzieci robić.
Don’t teach a father how to „make” children. (Don’t teach your grandmother how to suck eggs.)

Siedzieć jak na tureckim kazaniu.
To sit like in a Turkish sermon. (To not make head or tail of things, to not understand a thing.)

Znaleźć się między młotem a kowadłem.
To be caught between a hammer and an anvil. (To be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.)

Kłamstwo ma krótkie nogi.
A lie has short legs. (Truth will out.)

Wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu.
To drill somebody a hole in a stomach. (To keep on at somebody, to nag somebody.)

Porywać się z motyką na słońce.
To lunge at the sun with a hoe. (To bite off more than one can chew, to try to do something difficult or impossible.)

Ryba psuje się od głowy.
The fish goes bad beginning with the head. (Corruption starts at the top.)

Tonący brzytwy się chwyta.
A drowning man catches a cut-throat razor. (A drowning man clutches at straws.)

Człowiek strzela, Pan Bóg kule nosi.
Man shoots, God carries the bullets. (Man proposes, God disposes.)
Dziady - | 50    
17 Dec 2008  #16

Nevermind -- that was no good.
cjjc 29 | 408    
18 Dec 2008  #17


Awesome! Thanks! :)

robić burze w szklance wody - storm in a glass of water (tempest in a teacup)
musicwriter 5 | 87    
12 Jan 2010  #18

There's a book that shows English idioms translated into Polish. The title is IDIOMY ANGIELSKI w PRAKTYCNYCH ZASTOSOWANIACH. The author is Jan J. Kałuża. It's printed by Iris Publishing Services. 267 pages.

np: If you go to college, you must work, not fool around.
Jeśli pódziesz do kolegium, musisz pracować, a nie wygłupiać się.
28 Jan 2010  #19

Prawidłowo po polsku to jest: "Jaki Pan, taki kram" :)
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,455    
5 Apr 2010  #20

1.darowanemu koniowi w zęby się nie zagląda- don't check the teeth of the horse you got as a gift.
2. nie ruszaj gówna, bo śmierdzi- don't touch the poop because it will smell, or it smells

the above is for SeanB

3. przygadał kocioł garnkowi: the kettle and the teapot Polish version
4. Czeski humor, nikt nic nie wie: Czech humor, nobody understands anything
5. Jaki koń jest, każdy widzi- everybody sees who the person really is
6. Czego Jaś się nie nauczył, tego Jan nie umie: whatever little Johny did not learn, he will know as much, or as little when he grows up

7. Jabłko niedleko pada od jabłoni: the apple does not fall far from the tree

8. W kulki sobie lecisz? Are you making a fool of me?
cannot think of more at the moment
SeanBM 35 | 5,819    
5 Apr 2010  #21

1.darowanemu koniowi w zęby się nie zagląda- don't check the teeth of the horse you got as a gift.

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" is the English language version.

2. nie ruszaj gówna, bo śmierdzi- don't touch the poop because it will smell, or it smells

the above is for SeanB

Thanks.... I think....

13 Jun 2010  #22

zabierać się do czegoś jak pies do jeża - as above... try to get around to something, with lots of reluctance :)

never heard that one but i like it ;)

Pasować jak pięść do oka/nosa - to match like a fist into eye/nose - something dont match to something

Obudzić się z ręką w nocniku - wake up with the hand in a potty - to get one's bearing in situation when its too late

Zostać na lodzie - to stay (alone) on the ice - sometimes have a lil bit the same meaning as the latter idiom but more often it means to stay with with no friends/work/money etc; to stay alone with some problem.

O w mordę jeża! - Unbelieveble!/Damn!;)

Raz kozie śmierć! - once a death to a goat - I will risk!

3. przygadał kocioł garnkowi: the kettle and the teapot Polish version

full version is: Przyganiał kocioł garnkowi a sam smolił

Czeski błąd - a mistake make by shifting the numbers/letters/words etc. E.g.: "nei" instead of "nie", "borń" instead of "broń", "gospodraka" instead of "gospodarka"

And an idiom which was borrowed from a tv comercial of Milka chocolade few years ago:
A świstak siedzi... (i zawija je w te sreberka) - someone is a wacko
Ironside 46 | 8,483    
13 Jun 2010  #23

Is anyone interested in above?
MareGaea 29 | 2,770    
13 Jun 2010  #24

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" is the English language version.

The Dutch version of that is: "Men moet een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken". It means exactly the same as the Polish and the English version. Just goes to show how languages influence eachother or that ppl are basically the same everywhere. Try the difference between "in de bek kijken" en "in de bek bekijken". They sound the same, but mean sth different.


M-G (nuff said)
shush 1 | 212    
13 Jun 2010  #25

"in de bek kijken" en "in de bek bekijken

A swistak siedzi i zawija w te sreberka... lol
Bartolome 2 | 1,086    
13 Jun 2010  #26

I like the one: '...a u was Murzynów biją!' (...and they beat Blacks in your country!). It derives from the time of the dark communist times in Poland, when the propaganda painted dark and gloomy (somehow right) picture of America where black people (Murzyni) were discriminated against. It's just basically points at someone's hypocrisy.

One of anti-USA posters (rather funny to see an Afroamerican screaming in Polish, hehe)

Edit: I'm not sure however if it's an idiom, though :) But it's a fairly often used saying.
Polonius3 1,019 | 12,579    
13 Jun 2010  #27

In a similar vein, this joke goes back to the days when in the South Negroes had to pass a literacy test to be able to vote. One came to a polling station where the official showed him a copy of Życie Warszawy and ordered him to read it. The voter stared in disbelief, turned the paper upside down and right side up, scratched his head and said (preferably in a Deep South Negro accent): “Ah cain’t read det smoll print, but de headline say ‘Niggas ain’t votin’ in Alabama dis yeah!’”
1jola 14 | 1,884    
13 Jun 2010  #28

Thanks.... I think....

The French would say " Not sure if that was swine or pork."
musicwriter 5 | 87    
29 Aug 2010  #29

Ah cain’t read det smoll print,

That reminds me of the enunciation of young African-American people who wait on patrons of fast-food eateries. They'll say "fo dolla and twenna-nan cent" for $4.29.

When they serve you you food they are supposed to say "have a nice day" but it comes out like "have a nahs deh".
Liberazoo 1 | 3    
26 Dec 2017  #30

Thanks, everyone for the great idioms and colloquialisms! I'm going to use "A lie has short legs," the next time my roommate's daughter is telling me something that never really happened at school Na zdrowie!

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