The Ukrainian Language: Notes

Once you have learned the alphabet, you will find that you can immediately recognise many Ukrainian words. Every language has words in common with other languages, and it helps to remember that:

Ukrainian Polish Russian Slovak English
він on он on he
вікно okno окно okno window
від od от od from
від- (1500+ words!) od- от- od- prefix de- / re-
відповідати odpowiadać отвечать odpovedat′ reply
вогонь ogień огонь oheň fire
вісім osiem восемь osem eight

Many words have been borrowed from other languages (usually, when a material object or concept is borrowed, the word from the original language goes with it!). These types of borrowings can be centuries old, or very recent indeed! Given below are some words Ukrainian has borrowed from other languages – it immediately becomes obvious that the language of a nation reflects its culture, history and relations with other countries, nations and ethnic groups!

Language from which words have been borrowed Examples of words borrowed by Ukrainian
Arabic гашиш – hashish
майдан – large square
Chinese чай – tea
English (naval terms) шквал – squall
мічман – midshipman
дрейф – drift
шторм – storm
English (sport & games) футбол – football
регбі – rugby
теніс – tennis
старт – start
пенальті – penalty
бридж – bridge
(пів)тайм – (half)time
English (industry, production, trade) плед – plaid
твід – tweed
грейпфрут – grapefruit
бренді – brandy
брокер – broker
Finnish пельмені – pelmeni (dumplings)
French (refinement, fashion and innovation) абажур – lampshade
пальто – overcoat
платформа – platform
сувенір – souvenir
дирижабль – hot-air balloon
шампунь – shampoo
German (administration, army, realia, owing to Western Ukraine being in the Austro-Hungarian Empire) бухгалтер – book-keeper
бюстгальтер – bra
кегельбан – bowling alley
шпацер – walk, stroll
шинка – ham
Greek (origins of Ukrainian Christianity, scholarship) динозавр – dinosaur
демократія – democracy
гемісфера – hemisphere
Italian мараскін – maraschino
граніт – granite
граціозний – graceful
цитаделя – citadel
Japanese харакірі – harakiri
Latin юстиція – justice
Persian хата – (village) house
шакал – jackal
чемодан – suitcase
шахи – chess
Spanish херес – sherry
Turkiс (Turkish/Tatar contacts with Ukraine in the late Middle Ages and Cossack era) шаровари – wide cossack trousers (shalwar)
шашлик – kebab (shashlik)
шаман – shaman
шербет – sherbet
яничар – janissary
ярлик – lassoo
Yiddish (significant Jewish population) шмата – rag, piece of cloth (colloquial)
хам – cad

A final point: just in case you get the wrong impression about Ukrainian vocabulary, there are lots of beautiful Ukrainian words of Slavonic origin that any student of the language needs to learn. If, though, you look at words carefully right from the start, you can make life so much easier for yourself!

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Part of the collection of resources at UkrainianLanguage.org.uk

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