The Polish word for Yes is No

One of the most confusing words for me in Polish is the shortest.  The Polish word for ‘Yes’ is ‘tak’.  The Polish word for ‘No’ is ‘nie’.  Ok, that is easy.  However, more common than ‘yes’ or ‘tak’, I hear, the word ‘Yeah’, which in Polish is pronounced or said ‘no’.   If I would ask a girl to the movies and she says ‘no’ in Polish this means ‘yes’, or ‘yeah sure’.

American guy asking a Polish girl out on a date, yet there is a bit of confusion.

To add to the confusion I speak Polish, at a reasonable level.  Most of my conversations are a mix of Polish and English.  So I get confused often when I hear ‘no’ because there is a little context for a one-word answer.

The girl is confused because the Polish word for yes is no. And she was expecting a date.

Lucky the accent for ‘no’ which really means ‘yeah’ or ‘yes’ is different from the ‘no’ meaning ‘no’. Usually, I ask for clarification so I do not get myself in trouble.

Sometimes while driving I ask my wife for directions. She says go right, I say right, she says ‘no’  (which means ‘yeah’ in the Polish language). Then between the English word ‘right’ and the Polish word ‘no’ we miss the turn and I always say next time just say ‘tak’ or ‘nie”.

Other terms for negation in the Polish language might be:

  • wcale  ‘at all’

Example: – Jak czesto ćwiczysz jogę?  – Wcale.

How often do you do yoga? Not at all.

  • wogóle ‘at all, not even a bit’

Example: – Piszesz dużo sms-ów? – Wogóle nie używam komórki.

Do you text a lot? I don’t even use a cell phone.

  • niekoniecznie ‘not necessary’

Example: – Chcesz iść na randkę? – Niekoniecznie…

Do you want to go on a date? Not necessary…

  • raczej nie  ‘rather not’ – when a girl says it means ‘there is no way’

Example: – Chcesz zobaczyć magiczną sztuczkę? – Raczej nie.

Do you want to see a magic trick? Rather not.

  • nikt ‘nobody’

Example: Nikt mnie nie kocha.

Nobody loves me.

  • nigdy ‘never’

Example: Nigdy nie mów nigdy.

Never say never.

  • nigdzie ‘nowhere, anywhere’

Example: Nigdzie nie mogę znaleźć moich okularów.

I can’t find my glasses anywhere.

  • ani ‘nor, or’

Example: Nie widziałem ani Star Trek ani Star Wars.

I haven’t seen Star Trek nor Star Wars.

  • skądże or ‘a skąd’ means ‘not at all, are you kidding me?’

Example: – Oglądałeś się za tą dziewczyną? – Skądże!

Did you just checked out this girl? Not at all! (What an idea!)

  • żaden ‘no one, none’

Example: Żaden super-bohater nie umywa się do ciebie.

No superhero has anything on you.

  • a gdzie tam ‘whatever, not really, no way’

Example:  – Oglądałeś wczoraj “Teorię wielkiego podrywu”? – A gdzie tam, musiałem się uczyć do examinu.

Did you see ‘The Big Bang theory’ last night? No way, I had to study or an exam.

  • szkoda mówić ‘there is no need to even talk about it’

Example: – Jak poszła randka? – Szkoda mówić…

How was your date? There is nothing to talk about…

Author: Mark Biernat

I live in with family between two worlds, US and Europe where I create tools for language learning. If you found my site you probability share my passion to be a life long learner. Please explore my site and comment.

12 thoughts on “The Polish word for Yes is No”

  1. I feel you! The Japanese word for the possesive ‘s (i.e. Ana’s ball) is “no” (i.e. Ana no booru) and in both Spanish and English, the two languages I speak, “no” is the opposite of “yes.” Luckily, it’s never confusing if it’s in writing. A very different alphabet is used when writing foreign words if they mean to say it in English.

  2. Sorry, but you’re confused. The polish word for ‘NO’ is ‘nie’. ‘Yeah’ is not a Polish word for ‘NO’. It’s the same exact as American English ‘yeah’ meaning ‘yeah’ or ‘ya’. There are many American words adapted or absorbed by the Polish language. My guess is that you’re not noticing the probably subtle difference in the ‘n’ sound vs. the ‘y’ sound in ‘nie’. The pronounciation of ‘nie’ is almost perfectly ‘neah’ if we substitute the ‘y’ with a ‘n’ in ‘yeah’.

    In India they shake their heads up and down for ‘no’ and side ways for ‘yes’. Now that’s confusing!

    1. ‘Nie’ is the Polish word for no. ‘Tak’ is the Polish word for yes. ‘No’ is the Polish word for ‘yes’ or ‘well yeah’. I speak Polish. My name is ‘Biernat’ that is a Polish name. I live in Krakow, Poland. ‘No’ in Polish means ‘yes’ or ‘yeah’ or ‘well yeah’. So I am not confused. But thanks for the comment.

  3. Polish “no” is present in other Slavic languages, too. In Slovak, “áno” means “yes”; in Czech, it’s “ano” or “no”. In certain areas of Serbia and Croatia, besides the canonical “da”, you can hear a prolonged “noooo” for “yeah”, “of course”, “what else?”.

    As for shaking vs. nodding, that’s a Greek thing: they shake for “yes” and nod for “no”. The same in Bulgaria and Macedonia.

    Hope this confuses. 🙂

  4. Sorry markbiernat! I was simply following the thread of the article and not intending to insult anyone. The author (you?) said he was confused which prompted my comment. So now you’re not confused? Well, I am! 🙂

    Well, I also speak Polish. It’s my first language and I’m fluent in it. I think our mis-understanding is in the way I read “NO”. I assumed you were pronouncing it the way an American would……with is more like “no-w” (where does that “W” come from anyway?). My bad. Pronouncing it phonetically (maybe a dipthong?) would yes, indeed, mean “of course” , “sure”, etc.. But that would sound to an English spearker more like “no-h” not “no-w”.

    Again, sorry. Did not mean to demean anyone. Fun to delve into languages!

  5. I am a born and bred Australian with a lot of Polish friends made here in recent years. I have a very strong interest in languages. It certainly puzzled me when I first came across it. To me, as with other languages the differences mainly are in the vowel sounds. English, being a ‘cordialch-potch’ language, has such a large variety of vowel sounds whereas, with Polish, usually what you see is what you get. I think I’m right in saying that in reciting the Polish alphabet it is the sound itself not a ‘name’ as in English.
    Again, to me, that Polish ‘no'(English ‘noh’, ‘hard’ ‘o’) is more like an agreeing ‘uh-huh’, along the way. As has been said, a ‘yeah’. Maybe even ‘you don’t say!’?
    I live in Melbourne which is now one of the most ethnically mixed cities in the world. I have tour-driven right around Europe including Poland.

  6. Means no.

    Like, don’t do that. It doesn’t matter what its pronounced like.

    1. In Polish no means yeah or yes. But further, with girls often no means you have to charm them a bit more. You know very little about how the world of love and romance works.

  7. It’s more of a no with a question mark, I mean you say it like a question, not a statement. And usually people nod their heads when they say it, too, so that makes it easier. It might be harder in a wriiten conversation. It can also have oher meanings like “well..”, “sure”, “go” or “wow”.

  8. By the way, I have a personal obeservation on one of the most common usages of word “no” in Polish – it’s most often used in conjuction with “cześć” or “hej” when asnwering a phone! Yes, even if asked, most people would say they answer their phones with “halo” or “słucham” – which as it appears is not true at all. I’ve been observing this for years, out of my own curiosity. Listen to the people answering their phones – 8 out of 10 would say “no cześć” or “no hej” :).

  9. My native-born and an educated Polish Wife says that this is no true and is the way very low class Polish people talk. She speaks Polish, Russian, French and English and is intelligent.

    1. My family is Polish, I am technically Polish and intelligent and I use ‘no’ sometimes, it’s like yeah, I use the word yeah in English sometimes, it’s just an informal expression.

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