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Words from Slavic Languages

Many people in Eastern Europe and Asia speak a Slavic language such as Czech, Ukrainian, Croatian, or Bulgarian. And that's completely apart from Russian, a Slavic language spoken by more than 200 million people! Some words of Slavic origin that have made their way into English traveled through another language first, reflecting the fact that contacts between English-speaking and Slavic-speaking cultures have not always been direct.

Tip from the Top

The "sound it out" strategy works well with most words of Slavic origin. Although some Slavic languages use the Roman alphabet and some, like Russian and Bulgarian, use the Cyrillic alphabet, our spellings of most of these words are fairly English-friendly. Take note: The frequent schwa \ə\ at the end of words is spelled with a, and the \k\ sound is nearly always spelled with k.

Now You Try

  1. 1. The suffix -nik as in sputnik comes originally from Slavic languages to denote a person of a certain type. Can you think of any other words in English (most of them informal) that use this suffix?

    The -nik suffix occurs in beatnik, peacenik, refusenik, and in other words that people coin from time to time, such as folknik and neatnik.

  2. 2. Look up these four study-list words in a dictionary and study the etymologies. Which is the odd one out, and why?

    Hide Answer

    That's Correct Cravat is the odd one of the group that did not enter English via Yiddish.