The Lexicon of the 3rd Wave Ukrainian Diaspora

I've already published two posts about the vocabulary of the third-wave Ukrainian diaspora (found here and here), but now I've combined both lists, added new words, fixed some mistakes, and as a result I have a comprehensive list with over 500 words: CLICK HERE FOR FULL LIST, which I made on Google Spreadsheets. For many words, I've also included the Polish and Russian translations, as well as a comment on the meaning or usage. Before I get into the specifics of the list, I wanted to write a few words about the goal of this list and my usage of the words "archaic" and "diaspora."

Above all, this list is a way for me to document the way my family in the United States spoke and speaks. Living in Ukraine, I've picked up the local language and am beginning to forget some of the words that I heard and used growing up. Thus I've made this as a resource for myself. However, as the language my family speaks is similar to the way many other families in the diaspora speak, the broader goal is also to preserve the western Ukrainian dialect, which is still spoken in North America (but which is slowly being lost). Therefore, I am making the list public because I think other people may find it of some interest.

This of course is not the first project to make a list or dictionary of words from various Ukrainian dialects. There have been many lists of Lviv or Galician words published online, such as this one, as well as books, such as Gvara, which I wrote about before, and a recently published comprehensive 800+-page dictionary called Лексикон Львівський. The latter (pictured) has many of the words in my list, but not all. Thus I feel there is still a lack of a similar project for the diaspora language.


I named my previous posts "The Archaic Language of the Ukrainian Diaspora." I'd like to reiterate why I chose the word "archaic" and show that I don't mean it in a negative way. I call it "archaic" because in Ukraine only the older (and often rural) generation speaks this way, so it sounds "old-fashioned" to the average Ukrainian in western Ukraine. To hear a young person speaking that way sounds a bit strange to locals. The diaspora has preserved a dialect that was spoken in Galicia before WWII while in Ukraine the Ukrainian language has evolved and undergone Russification. While some of the words in the list are in fact archaisms, most I'd say are just dialectisms. But nevertheless, from the perspective of Ukraine, i.e., where this language/dialect originated, I think it's not entirely incorrect to call it "archaic."


Regarding my prior posts, I received some comments about my usage of "Ukrainian diaspora." When I use the word "diaspora" I mean specifically the community that descended from the third wave of immigration (1940s-1950s), many of which came from western Ukraine, in particular Galicia. Galicia was never part of the Russian Empire, Ukrainians had fewer restrictions on their language, and Galicians lived in close proximity to Polish (many intermarriages, the dominant language was Polish, etc.), thus it is not strange that the Galician dialect has many similarities to the Polish language.

Nonetheless, I think it's pretty safe to say that this is the largest/most dominant Ukrainian diaspora in North America. But by no means am I saying this the only dialect spoken in the diaspora nor that it is the authentic Ukrainian language.

I grew up in the Ukrainian community in Chicago, where many of the Ukrainian organizations such as Ridna Shkola, Plast and SUM, used a language/dialect similar to the way my family spoke. Thus even if someone had ancestors from central or eastern Ukraine, they were likely exposed to the Galician language if they were involved in the community. In fact, my paternal grandmother was from central Ukrainian, and came from a Russian-speaking family, but her husband was from the Boyko region of the Carpathians and so for the most part she picked up the western Ukrainian dialect.

Some of the "diaspora" words can be heard today in western Ukraine, but generally only in rural areas and from the older generations. There are, however, a handful of these words that used widely among all generations in Lviv (for example, "ровер"). Other words are finding their way back to the current Lviv language as there is a heightened interest in the old Lviv, the old language, and for example many new restaurants and cafes have chosen to use exactly these old Lviv/Galician words in their menus.

Comparison to Polish and Russian

For many of the words I've added the Polish and Russian translations. Using this comparison, one can notice that a majority of the "diaspora" words are similar to Polish, and many of the "standard Ukrainian" words similar to Russian. That said, by no means are all such cases Polonisms or Russisms, but one must keep in mind that Polish had a large influence on the language spoken in western Ukraine, and that the Ukrainian language did undergo heavy Russification, which after WWII affected the language spoken in western Ukraine (and so there are a lot Russisms.)

In fact, it's interesting to see cases where the opposite is true - where the "diaspora" word is closer to both Polish and Russian than it is to standard Ukrainian (for example, важне), or closer to Russian than to Polish or standard Ukrainian. This may be explained by the fact that it is just an older Slavic word, as Andrew Sorokowski wrote in a comment under one of my previous posts: "some Old Galician words strike modern Ukrainians as russified, such as 'vozdukh' for 'air'; there, however, are Old Church Slavonicisms, disseminated by the Greek-Catholic clergy in the 19th century."

It's also interesting to see when a word in one language has a completely different meaning in another (for example, "склеп").

Thus, except for a few obvious cases, I cannot say when a word is a Russism, Polonism, or just an older 
Slavic word. In any case, I don't want to prove any dialect or word is better or more authentic, but rather want to have a visual comparison of the languages.

The book Contested Tongues: Langauge Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine by Laada Bilaniuk covers some specifics about the Russification of Ukrainian. A few examples can be found in this table:

Common Types of Changes

Some trends that I found between the "diaspora" language and "standard Ukrainian":

- Masculinization of feminine words
- є to e
- я to a
- ґ to г
- ф to п, хв, х

The table to the right (from Iryna Farion's Мовна Норма) outlines precisely some of these changes and when they were introduced to the official Ukrainain orthography, bringing it closer to Russian. The 1929 orthography, also known as Skrypnykivka, was continued to be used by Ukrainians in Galicia and the diaspora after the 1933 orthographic reforms, but since Galicia fell under the Soviet Union after WWII, it too had to conform to the official orthographies.

I already wrote a post on the accent and pronunciation, but I want to expand more on the letter "ф" (f):

The history of the usage of the letter "ф" in Ukrainian is quite interesting and quite complicated as well. According to Wikipedia, in Slavic languages the letter is used primarily in words of foreign origin (Greek, Latin, Germanic).

"The linguistic interventions included grammatical, morphological, and orthographic rules that were to make Ukrainian more similar to Russian and thus more "politically correct."... The transliteration of words with Greek roots was changed to match the transliteration applied in Russian: for example, the transliteration of Greek theta was changed from "т" /t/ to "ф" /f/, as in the words анатема (anatema) which became анафема (anafema) 'anathema', and мит (myt) which was changed to міф (mif) 'myth,'" (from Contested Tongues).

This made me wonder why if changing certain sounds to "f" was a way to Russify the langauge, then why was the "f" so widely used in Galicia before WWII, before Russification. I think this is explained by Polish and German influence on the language, as "f" is widely used in both these langauges. (In Polish, it is probably due to German influence.)

Thus I am assuming originally in Ukrainian you have:
"квасоля" not "фасоля" (from Greek via Latin "φάσηλος"/"phaseolus")
"пляшка" not "фляшка" (from German "Flasche")
"шухляда" not "шуфляда" (from Austrian German "Schubfach")
Though who knows, maybe when these things were introduced to western Ukraine, they immediately took the "f" variation.

I also once heard that the word "Хортиця" (the name of the island of the Zaporizhian Cossacks) roots from the Latin word fortis (strong) or rather maybe a variation of "fortress" or "fortification," but the sound "kh" was used instead of "f" as it was more natural for Ukrainian.

I also want to add a few other observations on the differences between "diaspora" language and "standard Ukrainian," which not noted in the list: 
- in diaspora, more usage of -ові rather than -у in masculine dative declension
- in diaspora, more often decline foreign words, like names of cities "Чикаго," "Торонто"
- in diaspora, less often use the instrumental case in certain contexts

The Full List

The FULL LIST is in a Google Spreadsheet - it can be sorted by category, part of speech, type of change, etc., which can used to find trends.

The "Diaspora" column is for the most part the way my family speaks. In most cases the words are common among the "diaspora," but there may be some cases where specific words that are only used by/known to my family.

In the "Standard Ukrainian" column I tried to add the most accepted/standard word currently used in Ukraine, but sometimes I added a word that I hear the most, even if it may not technically be the most correct.

In addition to different words, I've also included words or phrases that are declined differently as well as differences in some common phrases and sayings.

There are of course cases where the "standard Ukrainain" word is known and used in the diaspora as well.

There may be some mistakes in the Polish and Russian columns, as I am not fluent in either. I had some help from friends, but also some help from Google translate. 

In general, I welcome any corrections or comments on anything, as all of the above are just my observations. I will continue to add to the list and make corrections.

Screenshot of part of the list


  1. Fantastic summary, and monumental work on the spreadsheet! Bravo! Particularly love your discussion on Ф. Of course to me the "diaspora" words are "correct", but that's an emotional reaction, not a thoughtful one.

    Tiny tiny point. You twice refer to "conjugation" when referencing the declension of a noun. I'm pretty sure that conjugation only refers to verbs. But i'm no grammar expert

    1. Thank you!
      And yes, you are right. I fixed it in the text. Thank you for pointing it out.

  2. A very nice compilation -- thanks! When I read the list, 99% of the words belonged to the lexicon of my parents (now to mine), who spent all their lives in the area between Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions, western Ukraine. It's safe to assume that most of these words are still part of the living language in that area, especially among the older generation and especially in the rural areas. As I went through the list, I've noticed a couple of entries to which I have some remarks/additions. For instance, there's confusion regarding the word "втичка", because its Ukrainian equivalent is NOT "розетка" and Polish equivalent is NOT "gniazdo." Both "розетка" and "gniazdo" correspond to "socket" whereas "втичка" stands for "plug" - the other component of an electrical connection. To make sure this is clear: The "old" Ukrainian pair is "втичка" and "гніздо" ("вилка" and "розетка" in modern Ukrainian, "wtyczka" and "gniazdo" in Polish). The Polish name for the cucumber salad is "mizeria." Another western Ukrainian name for volleyball is "сітківка," similar to Polish "siatkowka." In western Ukraine "пляцок" also stands for "cake" and "пляцок з тертої бульби" or "тертюх" is the equivalent of "дерун." "Многая Літа" (which is actually the name of a corresponding chant) is not necessarily a birthday greeting. "Многая Літа" is sung for anybody as sign of respect and gratitude. For instance, when guests leave a host's house, they usually sing "Многая Літа" to the hosts. "Славімо Його" is a response to one specific greeting - "Христос ся рождає" which people use from Christmas till the beginning of Lent instead of the usual pair "Слава Йсусу Христу" (reply "Слава на віки (Богу)" or just "добрИйдень". Similarly, during the Easter period people greet each other "Христос воскрес" "Воістину воскрес!" Another popular greeting is "Дай Боже щастя!" "Дякую, дай Боже й Вам", but from my observations, people always use it outdoors. I'm going to add my comment with two old proverbs using words from your list. One is "пушка духу, бочка смороду" said about a person who looks small and frail (has only a "can" of spirit inside his or her body) but at the same time is mean and nasty to other people (is a "barrel of stench"). The other one is "печEного лEду" used in response to someone's endless demands that can't be met, along the lines "what else do you want? печEного лEду (fried ice)?"

    1. Thank you for your remarks! I fixed the втичка and гніздо entries. And will also add some of your comments into the notes. And interesting proverbs, thank you for sharing :)

  3. Super! Finally, the diaspora can bring back to Ukraine what it conserved all these years, and de-rusify the language.

    1. Pls rest assured most of these words are alive and kicking in western Ukraine, which, of course, in no way diminishes the diaspora's successful effort of preserving the "old" vocabulary.

  4. Thanks Areta, wonderful job. Now I better understand why when in Ukraine, when speaking to local Ukrainians, I sometimes get a blank look. One of my first encounters was in a Lviv restaurant looking for a "laznychka". Took a while until the waitress understood I needed a toilet.
    On the other hand, newly arrived young Ukrainians working as home painters in Chicago's Ukrainian neighborhood, now call the toilet, the laznycka!

  5. Thanks Areta, wonderful job. Now I better understand why when in Ukraine, when speaking to local Ukrainians, I sometimes get a blank look. One of my first encounters was in a Lviv restaurant looking for a "laznychka". Took a while until the waitress understood I needed a toilet.
    On the other hand, newly arrived young Ukrainians working as home painters in Chicago's Ukrainian neighborhood, now call the toilet, the laznycka!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Mailbox with Speaking Tubes

Abandoned Kościółs in the Galician Countryside