8 English Words With Weird Meanings In Other Languages


When you’re learning a new language, sometimes you can take comfort in finding little words that bridge the gap between languages. After all, English borrows from so many other languages that some words will transfer pretty easily between tongues.

However, you shouldn’t rely on these similar-sounding words too much or else you might meet the dreaded “false friend.” This is a word that seems about the same between two languages but has a totally different meaning. For instance, if you say the word “smoking” to a French person, they’ll think you’re talking about a tuxedo.

That one’s not so bad, but there are some others that you really don’t want to get confused. Here are eight little words that can cause you a lot of grief when you’re overseas.

Be sure to COMMENT and tell us what misadventures language barriers have got you into.

1. Vader

When Darth Vader revealed his true identity to Luke Skywalker, the world was shocked by the sudden plot twist. Well, except for maybe the Dutch.


This is because Vader means “father” in Dutch.

Technically the pronunciation is different, but seeing the name written out would probably dampen the surprise.


2. No

Let’s say you go to Poland and someone offers you a gift. For whatever reason, you can’t accept it. Yet every time you refuse to take it, they keep pushing it towards you.

What gives?


It turns out “no” actually means yes in Polish.

It’s actually more like a “yeah” since the word for yes is technically “tak.” If you really don’t want something, say “nie” instead.


3. Kiss

Let’s say you and someone from Sweden are really hitting it off. So much in fact, that you tell them you want to give them a kiss.

Suddenly, things get really awkward. What went wrong?


Kiss is actually the Swedish word for pee.

Oddly, the Swedish word for kiss is “puss,” which can put you on some thin ice when you use it in the wrong setting over here.


4. Gift

If you’re giving someone from Germany a gift and they start looking nervous, there’s a good reason for it.


In Germany, “gift” means poison.

At best, they’d be wondering why you’re so happy about giving them poison. At worst, they’d think you were trying to kill them.


5. Gary

It’s a perfectly normal name here, but it might inspire some mocking laughter in Japan.


That’s because Gary sounds similar to “geri.”

This is the Japanese word for diarrhea.


6. Hammer

This one kind of goes the other way. With the enthusiasm that Germans usually use when saying this word, you might think they were very excited about hammering stuff.


As you might have guessed, it’s not really about hammers.

If something’s really cool or awesome it’s “der hammer.” Technically this is slang term that literally means “hits like a hammer,” but that’s what they’re really saying.


7. Mist

Unless you’ve stepped into a bog, this one probably isn’t going to come up. Still, be careful saying it in Germany.


Literally, it means “manure.”

However, it’s used as a minor swear word in Germany, on par with “damn.” So most people won’t mind but there’s always someone, isn’t there?


8. Preservative

Among the health-conscious, preservative is already kind of a dirty word stateside. But in Russia, it takes on a whole new meaning.


There, “preservativ” means condom.

So if you tell someone you don’t like food with preservatives in it, they’ll be really confused.




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