Trips Off the Tongue: Friendship

Q: What are the differences in levels of friendship in Polish (i.e. znajomy vs. przyjaciel vs. kolega, etc.) and how do you use them?

A: Contrary to the English language, Polish has many translations of the word friend, and as such different connotations that go with it. The least fraternizing of them is znajomy, which means a person you see occasionally, and have spoken to only a few times. Kolega is a person you often talk to, work or share goals with, yet you would not share your deepest thoughts with. Try to imagine the difference between kolega z pracy and znajomy z pracy as associating kolega with somebody from your department and znajomy from another, even if you know both their names and go out for a cigarette with them. Przyjaciel is a word of highest regard, not used lightly, as it describes a person who is very close to you, almost like a sibling. In English, you would probably refer to your przyjaciel as your best friend.

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