How to Speak Like a Local: Polish Slang
In most languages, slang terms arise organically. Unique social and political situations lead locals to reassign new meanings to existing words. Slang in Poland is no exception. The nation’s past led to the adoption of terms from Russian, English, and German, with Polish spellings.
Individual subcultures and career sectors in Poland have their own slang terms—think California skateboard culture or the jargon used by legal professionals in the United States. Teenagers also reclaim words from older generations. It may be considered the opposite of cool for a teen’s parents to say “klawy,” a term to deem something cool, but younger generations frequently use the dated phrase.
Each Polish region’s unique history influences the slang terms used in that part of the country. That means a person living in the northern city of Gdansk may not understand the colloquialisms in the southern city of Krakow. In Poznań, it’s common to find phrases with German roots stemming from when the city was under the Prussian Partition. In the Silesia region, you’ll find some complicated phrases that draw on the Moravian dialect and Slovak language. But in Warsaw, phrases are unique from neighborhood to neighborhood.
There are some colloquialisms, however, that are used all over the country. “Spoko” is a popular slang term that has a variety of meanings, including okay, alright, fine, sure, no problem, cool, chill, yeah, nice, or don’t worry, depending on its use in conversation.
“Nara”—a casual way to say “see ya”—comes from the more formal word “narazie,” which means “bye for now.”
There is some confusion surrounding the slang use of the word “no” in Polish. Although the standard way to say “yes” in Polish is “tak,” “no” also means “yes.” If you want to say “no” in Polish, the correct term is “nie.” When trying to describe a wealthy person, you can use the term “nadziany,” which means “stuffed” and can also describe filled donuts. You might say they have a lot of “kapusta,” which means “cabbage” in Polish but is also slang for money.