Beyond any doubt, each language is utterly unique and one of the biggest joys of learning a language is exploring its rich and distinctive vocabulary. A language learner may end up discovering words that exist in a foreign language but do not have any equivalent in their own. 

In Ukrainian, there are also words that cannot be translated into English. Not only will they help you enrich your vocabulary, but they will also provide some insight into Ukrainian culture and mentality. 

So let us discover 12 Ukrainian words that cannot be translated into English and, as always, practice pronouncing them.

1.
Кум or 
Кума (male/female) 

For many Ukrainians, the concept of family is sacred; that is why they happen to have a lot of words describing family relationships. 

One of them is кум or кума ― a godfather or a godmother in relation to a parent of a godchild, and vice versa, a mother or a father of a godchild in relation to a godparent. 

  • Запросімо сьогодні кумів до нас в гості. — Let’s invite godparents of our child over

2.
Сват or 
Сваха (male/female)

Another family-related word is сват or сваха ― a father or a mother of one spouse in relation to the parents of the other.  

  • Наші свати – дуже приємні люди. — Parents of our child’s spouse are very pleasant people

In the same way, Ukrainians care deeply about their close ones, they observe the natural world around them. 

3.
 Вирій

It is a place (mostly warm, southern regions) where migratory birds fly away for the winter. This word comes from Slavic mythology and is also used to indicate a place where people’s souls go after death. 

  • На весну журавлі завжди поверталися до України з вирію. — In the spring, cranes always returned to Ukraine from the vyrii (warm, southern regions, countries).

Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

4.
Вечоріти

This verb is used when the evening is approaching and showing its first signs. 

  • Вечоріє вже, і сонце повільно прощається з землею. — The evening is approaching, and the sun is slowly saying goodbye to the earth.

Would you like to expand your knowledge of the Ukrainian vocabulary?

Then our 1000 Most Useful Ukrainian Words (ebook and digital flashcards) will be a perfect choice for you!

5.
Черешня

While in English the word “cherry” can denote both sour and sweet kinds of cherries, Ukrainians distinguish between these two species in their language. Вишня іs a cherry itself, whereas черешня is a sweet cherry. 

Черешня is a beloved fruit all over Ukraine, and it has even become a brand of Melitopol, a city in southeastern Ukraine. 

  • Цьогоріч черешня дуже солодка. — This year, sweet cherries are very sweet.

6.
Заробітчанин or
Заробітчанка (male/female)

Заробітчани are citizens of a certain country (used to refer to Ukraine) who go to work abroad. Such migrant workers do not have the intention to stay permanently in the country where they work. Usually, after some time, they return home only to go back на заробіткиto work abroad — later on again. 

  • Мої батькизаробітчани. Минулого літа вони їхали на заробітки у Польщу, а цього поїдуть у Німеччину. — My parents are migrant workers. Last summer they went to Poland to earn money, and this time they will go to Germany.

7.
Могорич

It means treating (mostly with alcoholic drinks) on the successful completion of a certain type of work or the conclusion of the agreement. 

It can also be used to refer to the drinks (usually горілка) offered as the treat. It is worth mentioning that the word is a loanword and originally came to Ukrainian from Arabic.

  • Випили могорич і почали співати українські пісні. — They drank horilka and began to sing Ukrainian songs

nocnalunatyczka, CC BY-SA 3.0

If you want to show compassion to Ukrainians, check out our list of Ukrainian phrases to express support (with audio recordings!)

8.
Панібратство

This noun denotes excessive ease, rudeness, or familiarity when communicating with someone. 

  • Сашко не був схильним до панібратства, а людям запам’ятався своєю веселою щирістю. — Sashko was not inclined to excessive familiarity, and people remembered him for his cheerful sincerity.

9.
Гарячкувати

This verb is used when a person acts in a state of excitement, or delight. Being very impatient, such a person can frequently make decisions with negative consequences.

  • Не гарячкуй, Марино! Цю пропозицію треба ретельно обдумати. — Don’t get overexcited, Maryna! This offer must be carefully considered.

10.
Схаменутися

It means to suddenly realize that your behavior or intentions were wrong and, as a result, change or abandon them. 

  • Погарячкував ти з переїздом до Києва, але добре, що вчасно схаменувся. — You got excited with moving to Kyiv, but it is good that you came to your senses in time.

11.
Відбріхуватися

This verb means to justify yourself with lies.

  • Я не буду відбріхуватися, а скажу правду. — I won’t be justifying my actions with lies; instead I will tell the truth

12.
 
Доба

This noun means a period of time equal to 24 hours (day and night). 

  • Мій тато працює лікарем. Часто буває, що він не спить цілу добу. — My dad works as a doctor. It often happens that he is awake for 24 hours.

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We sincerely hope that these words helped you expand your knowledge about both Ukrainian culture and language. Keep exploring the beauty of Ukrainian with us


Learning Ukrainian and looking for great resources?

Check out our list of the 1000 most common words in Ukrainian with interactive flashcards.

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