yellow tassel

Five Words That Sound Similar In Almost Every Language

“Any time you think some other language is strange, remember that yours is just as strange, you’re just used to it.”

yellow tassel
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Have you ever been watching a movie in another language and realizing that some of the words you’re familiar with are pretty much the same? Or what about when you hear a conversation verbally and recognize a word that’s similar to one you use?

How the heck are these words so alike when cultures have been speaking and spelling them for years — way before people started traveling to other countries and sharing their knowledge amongst each other?

“Different people agree to give different combinations of sounds different meanings. Considering that people are scattered around the globe and speak different mutually unintelligible languages, it is unlikely that they would all have the same words for the same thing. However, there are some select words that sound pretty much the same across so many languages.”

– The Language Nerds

Here are some interesting findings from the website The Language Nerds that you may find intriguing.


person performing coffee art
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Afrikaans: koffie | Albanian: kafe | Arabic: قهوة (qahua) | French: Café | Azerbaijani: qəhvə | Basque: kafea | Belarussian: кава (kava) | Bengali: কফি (kaphi) | Bosnian: kafa | Bulgarian: кафе (kafe) | Catalan: cafè | Cebuano: kape | Chichewa: khofi | Chinese: 咖啡 (Kāfēi) | Corsican: caffè | Croatian: kava | Czech: káva | Danish: kaffe | Dutch: koffie | Italian: caffè | German: Kaffee | Thai: กาแฟ (Kāfæ) | Sawahili: kahawa | Spanish: café | Portuguese: café | Turkish: kahveh | Croatian: kava  | Lithuanian: kava | Polish: kawa (kava) | Slovakian: kava | Ukrainian: kavy or kava | Georgian: qava | Hungarian: kavé | Serbian: kafa | Slovenian: kave | Yiddish: kave | Filipino/Tagalog: kape | Hawaiian: kope | Indonesian: kopi | Korean: keopi | Malay: kawah or koppi | Sinhalese (Sri Lanka): kopi | Tamil (Sri Lanka): kapi-kottai or kopi.


peppermint tea on teacup
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French: le thé | Swedish: te | Finnish: tee | Italian: tè | Danish: Te or The | Greek: τσάι (tsai) | Malay: teh | Portuguese: cha (pronounced ‘shah’) | Chinese: t’e, or ch’a | Persian: chaai | Urdu: Chai | Korean: cha | Russian: chay | Arabic: chai or shai | Bulgarian: chai | Croatian: caj (pronounced chai) | Dutch: thee | Afrikaans: tee | German: der Tee | Hebrew: teh | Hungarian: tea | Irish: tae | Indonesian: teh | Japanese: o-cha | Korean: cha | Latvian: teja (pronounced tay-ya) | Malay: teh | Maltese: te | Norwegian: te | Romanian: ceai | Sinhalese (Sri Lanka): thé | Spanish: el té | Swahili: chai (pronounced cha-i) | Taiwanese: de | Thai: chah (chah yen refers to iced tea) | Tibetan: cha or ja| Turkish: cay (pronounced chai) | Urdu: chai | (NorthVietnamese: che | (SouthVietnamese: tra (sometimes pronounced cha or ja) | Yiddish: tey Zulu: itiye. | Polish: herbata. 


panning photography of yellow taxi
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Brazilian Portuguese: táxi  | Croatian: taksi | Czech: taxík | Danish: taxi | Dutch: taxi | European Spanish: taxi | Finnish: taksi | French: taxi | German: Taxi | Greek: ταξί (taxí) | Italian: taxi | Japanese: タクシー (Takushī) | Korean: 택 (taegsi) | Norwegian: drosje | Polish: taksówka |  European Portuguese: táxi |  Romanian: taxi | Russian: такси (taksi) | Spanish: taxi | Swedish: taxi | Thai: รถรับจ้าง (thæ̆ksī̀) | Turkish: taksi  | Ukrainian: таксі | Vietnamese: taxi | American English: cab.


green pineapple fruit with brown framed sunglasses beside yellow surface
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Arabic: أَنَانَاس  (ananas) |  Croatian: ananas  | Czech: ananas  | Danish: ananas  | Dutch: ananas |   Finnish: ananas  | French: ananas  | German: Ananas | Greek: ανανάς (ananas) | Italian: ananas |  Norwegian: ananas | Polish: ananas | European Portuguese: ananás |  Romanian: ananas | Russian: ананас (ananas) |  Swedish: ananas | Turkish: ananas | Ukrainian: ананас  (ananas) 


crop person with bunch of tasty fresh bananas
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English: banana  | Brazilian Portuguese: banana  | Croatian: banana  | Czech: banán  | Danish: banan |  Dutch: banaan  | European Spanish: plátano  | Finnish: banaani | French: banane | German: Banane |  Greek: μπανάνα (banan) | Italian: banana  | Japanese: バナナ (banana) | Korean: 바나나 (banana) | Norwegian: banan | Polish: banan | European Portuguese: banana | Romanian: banană | Russian: банан (banan) | Spanish: plátano | Swedish: banan frukt | Ukrainian: банан (banan). 

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Matt Sterner

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