The Czech language: is it similar to Russian or German?

Czech and Russian are both Slavic languages, but they belong to different subgroups of the family of Slavic languages:

The most obvious difference between Czech and Russian is that Czech uses a Latin alphabet whereas Russian uses a Cyrillic alphabet.

Russian is the most spoken Slavic language with 150 million native speakers and Czech is the 5th most spoken Slavic language with 11 million native speakers.

In American universities, more students study Russian than Czech [1]. But more people visit Prague (the capital of the Czech Republic), than Moscow (the capital of Russia) [2]

In terms of difficulty, Czech and Russian are both classified as category 3 languages (“Hard languages”) by the US state department. This means that both Czech and Russian have significant linguistic differences relative to English.

Similarities in vocabulary between Czech and Russian

Czech and Russian are both Slavic languages which means that they both originated from a common ancestor language, which linguists have named the “Proto-Slavic language”.

As a result, there are many similar vocabulary words between Czech and Russian.

Some Czech and Russian vocabulary words which are similar :
Czech Russian English
svoboda свобода (svoboda) freedom
jazyk язык (yazyk) language
mír мир (mir) peace
pravda правда (pravda) truth
večer вечер (vecher) evening
učitel учитель (uchitel) teacher
voda воды (voda) water
včera вчера (vchera) yesterday
les лес (les) forest
otec отец (otets) father
ruka рука (ruka) hand
sýr сыр (syr) cheese
řeka река (reka) river
moře море (more) sea
víra вера (vera) belief
oběd обед (obed) lunch
ryba рыбы (ryba) fish
teplý теплый (teplyy) warm
temný темный (temnyy) dark
zelená зеленый (zelenyy) green
smích смех (smekh) laugh
svatba свадьба (svadba) wedding
vysoký высокий (vysokiy) tall
chléb хлеб (khleb) bread
zlato золото (zoloto) gold
vina вина (vina) guilt
vítr ветер (veter) wind

Czech - Russian vocabulary false friends

There are a few vocabulary words that appear to be similar between Czech and Russian, and yet have completely different meanings.

In the context of language learning, these pairs of vocabulary words are called “false friends”

Some Czech - Russian vocabulary false friends:
Russian Czech
meaning: red
meaning: beautiful
meaning: remember
meaning: forget
meaning: terrible
meaning: amazing
meaning: chair
meaning: table
meaning: power
meaning: country, homeland

The influence of German on the Czech language

Due to the Habsburg Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, German was for several centuries one of the main languages spoken in Prague (which is now the capital of the Czech Republic).

The German language has left its mark on the Czech language which today contains hundreds of German loanwords.

As a result, there are some similarities in vocabulary between Czech and German, despite Czech being a Slavic language, and German being a Germanic Language.

Some German loanwords in Czech:
Czech German
(glasses - for eyesight)
(glasses - for eyesight)
(joke, fun)
(fun, joke)
(bad luck)
(bad luck)
(con man, crook)
(crook, impostor)

More Similarities & Differences between Czech and Russian

Consonant clusters

Czech and Russian vocabulary words can contain consonant clusters. This is not uncommon for Slavic languages, but it can surprise English speakers when they encounter them.

Here are some examples of Czech words containing consonant clusters:

The absence of articles

In English, articles ("the", "a", "an") are among the most frequently used words. This is not the case in Czech or Russian because articles don’t exist in these languages.

Grammatical cases

Czech and Russian both have extensive grammatical case systems. This means that word endings change to indicate the grammatical role that those words play in a sentence.


Czech and Russian are both Slavic languages, and as such they have a lot of common vocabulary words which they inherited from their common ancestor language, the proto-Slavic language.

The Czech language has been influenced by the German language, and there are many German loanwords in Czech.

The Czech language has similarities with both German and Russian. Czech is also similar to Polish.

To learn more about Russian, see these articles:

To learn more about German, see these articles:

  1. [1] Source
  2. [2] Source