What happens when a foreigner who starts to learn Polish will come across the
Polish names of the months of the year? Without exaggeration, most foreigners
want to give up learning Polish! It is understandable because at first, the names
look impossible to pronounce.
The Polish language, similar to the Chech, Croatian or Lithuanian languages, did
not adopt Roman names of the months. The names of the Polish months are
related to the nature and the rhythm of rural life. Is there a solution for
foreigners studying Polish? Yes!
(First I suggest to do a little researche and to became acquainted with etymology
of those words and second advice – to learn one name of the month per month –
for sure it gives us a chance to remember it to the end of life! Everything is
There is always a lot of information about the history and culture inside the
language. Names of the months (except March and May) comes from the
phenomenons associated with the nature and also from natural rhythm of farm
life.) – to mi wyrzucili!
Let us look at the etymology more closely. The most mysterious is the name
“styczeń” (January) because we have a minimum of tree theories for this name.
The most probable is that name of January comes from the word “ siec” – (to
hack, to slash), which was later transformed to “sieczeń” and after even more
time was transformed again to “styczeń” . This is because in the past, January
was a month for cutting wood in the forests. Some sources say that name of
January comes from the verb “stykać” – (to meet, to join), the old year with the
New Year. This third theory suggests that name of January may originate from
the word “tyka” – (pole, perch), because at that time of the year, farmers used to
cut poles on which were leaned flax and hop-plant. Also the roads were marked
by high perches which helped to find the way home in the snow. We must
remember that in the past polish winters were much stronger and the land was
completely covered by snowdrifts.
Luty – (February) in old Polish meant “cruel”, “frosty”, “fierce”. In the the past
it was normally the frostiest month of the year.
There are two theories about the month of “marzec” (March). One of them says
that the name may derive from the verb “marznąć” – (to freeze) but the most
probable is that it comes from the Roman name of God –Martius, (in Polish
“Mars”) like in other languages.
The name “kwiecień” (April) comes from the word “kwiat” (flower) because
during this month, a lot of trees and flowers bloom. If it is sunny in April,
Poland looks like paradise. This information is for those who are fed up with
Polish winter and cold weather. Trust me when I tell you it is worth waiting for
spring and everyone should experience spring in Poland before leaving the
The name “maj” (May) is just adopted from the Roman calendar.
Czerwiec (June) has a very interesting etymology. The name comes from the
word “grab”, “worm” – the larve of a bee. Another source says that it derives
from the name of a red insect called “czerwiec polski” from which people used
to made red dye pigment in the past.
The name “lipiec”(July) originates form the word “lipa”(linden tree) which
blooms during the month. You should know that in Wrocław, this tree starts
flowering in June!!
There are no doubts about etymology of “sierpień” (August) which comes from
the word “sierp”(sickle). This tool was used to cut the hay, grass or wheat during
the harvest in August in Poland.
The most difficult month to pronounce is “wrzesień”(September). It originates
from the name of a very beautiful purple flower called “wrzos” (heather) which
flowers in September.
The name “październik”(October) derives from the word “paździerz” (tille,
wooden dry part remains from hemp, flax). In the past, in October, farmers
threshed hemp and flax and during the winter, ladies spun it on spinning wheels
and after that they were woven into clothes on looms.
The etymology of the name “listopad” (November) is obvious. It comes from
the expression “ falling leaves” which illustrates what actually happens in
The origin of “grudzień” (December) is not very magical like a lot of people
would expect from this magic time related to Christmas. The name comes from
the word “gruda” (clod, lump, frozen piece of ground). Apart from Christmas
December associated with the frozen lumps of snow lingered on the roads and
making walking and driving very difficult.
(By the way Polish names of the months are written not with capital letters like
Now it is my hope that remembering those difficult names of the months will be
much easier for you. So what is the plan for March? Well,…while waiting for
spring we can practise how to pronounce the word “marzec” (March). There is a
very famous proverb in Poland about March that states: “ W marcu jak w
garncu” (In March weather is mixed like dishes cooked in a pot). It means that
one day is cold, another day can be sunny, rain in the morning, snow in the
evening and again sun in the morning… Be strong! April will come soon…
So what is the plan for October? Well,…while waiting for winter we can
practice how to pronounce the word “październik” (October). There is one
proverb in Poland about October that states: “” (“Gdy październik ciepło trzyma,
zwykle mroźna bywa zima.” (It means that if October is warm, the winter is
usually very cold. Let’s hope it won’t happen this year.
This article was published in “The Wrocław International”-THE FIRST LOCAL
NEWSPAPER IN ENGLISH, WRITTEN BY INTERNATIONAL
RESIDENTS OF WROCŁAW, March 2011, Issue 5, ISSN 2082-730X