What things you need to be careful about in English speaking countries or, Czechs, watch your mouth!

July 3, 2014  |  News

Abroad you really should be careful about words that include for example “prezervativ”, “gymnázium”, “bič” or “toust”. These words said in a different country mean a completely different thing…

Surely it sometimes happens to you as well. When you are on vacation or a business trip abroad, from time to time you just put a Czech word somewhere in the conversation. However, some Czech words mean a completely different thing in English!

In the text that follows we will go over some troublesome words that sound the same in both languages, but their meanings are very far away from each other. We call these words False Friends, which is absolutely appropriate.

Gymnázium v. [Gymnasium]

Some of you go abroad to study for example. If your classes take place in a local “gymnázium”, but you cannot find it, you probably shouldn’t ask locals for a “gymnasium”. If you do so, you’d better have your towel, shorts and trainers ready, because you will be sent to a local gym. If you want to end up in the right place, look for a local grammar school.


Bilión v. [Billion]

Dear businessmen, please avoid the biggest mistake you can do in your deals. In English, a billion is a different number than in our country. Over the English Channel, but also everywhere else, where English is spoken, a billion means “miliarda”.


Prezervativ v. [Preservative]

If you go shopping for “prezervativy” for example during your travels abroad, be really careful not to end up with some sort of a preservative, which means “konzervant”. I’m not sure that your partner would be entirely happy with such a purchase. Anyway, if you want a successful night, ask for a condom.


In restaurants – that is where it gets really tricky!

Šéf v. [Chef]

If you are in the mood for something good to eat, for example after a successful business meeting, be careful not to look for your “šéf” around the restaurant too loudly, because chef in English means “kuchař”, so instead of your missing superior, you might find a local cook next to your table in no time.

boss a cheff

Bič v. [Bitch]

Some like it hot. If you are one of those people and you prefer hot and spicy meals, you probably should not inform your colleagues around the table that “pálí to jako bič (it is hot as hell)”. The word that surrounding English people will understand is not one that we, as decent people, would like to translate for you.

Would you like a “toust” or a [toast]?

When talking about gastronomy, it would be useful to make clear that toast in English is something else than “toust” in Czech. If you order a “toust” in England, you will get what we call “topinka” (a piece of bread slightly baked, so it is warm and crispy). So be careful what you order. And to make things even worse, it is also worth mentioning that a toast in English also means “přípitek”. To sum up, if you want two pieces of toast with something in the middle, ask for a sandwich =).

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Can you come up with other interesting False Friends? If you can, share them with us on our Facebook. We will appreciate any interesting stories you might have in connection with them. And if you are afraid of false friends, there is a number of applications for mobile devices that can help you perfect your English.