Nie cwaniakuj — don’t… what?

Today you’ll learn some colloquial phrases connected with the word „cwaniak”. What does this word mean? There’s an American book called „Dziennik cwaniaczka” — in the original language: „Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. However, no, no, no, „cwaniaczek” doesn’t mean „a wimpy kid”.


Maybe let’s give a chance to a dictionary. I’m typing „cwaniak” and receiving… „sharpy”, „smarty”. It’s better. But it doesn’t show us whole nature of „cwaniak”. I’ll try to explain it on my own.

There are two basic meanings of „cwaniak” (and, diminutively, „cwaniaczek”) — one is more positive and the other is more negative. Alright, the negative one: „cwaniak” is a person who always tries to use their chance in not so fair way. Sometimes in an illegal way, sometimes in a way which uses other people. How to tell if someone is calling you „cwaniak” in the positive or the negative way? Usually the negative „cwaniak” is preceded by the word „taki” — „taki cwaniak”.

Who can we call a cwaniak in a pejorative way? For example a footballer who pretends to be injured in order to receive a free kick. Or a seller whose products have unfairly high prices. Some examples of sentences with the word „cwaniak”:

  • Z ciebie to jest taki cwaniak! You’re such a „cwaniak”. „Z ciebie to jest” means „You’re such a”.
  • Ona to taka cwaniara — mówi, że nie ugotuje mi obiadu, jeśli nie dam jej pieniędzy na fryzjera. She’s such a „cwaniara” — she’s saying that she won’t cook me dinner unless I give her money for the hairdresser. „Cwaniara” is a feminine form of „cwaniak”.
  • Cyganie to cwaniacy — żebrzą i mówią, że nie mają pieniędzy, a potem kupują sobie mercedesy. The Gypsies are „cwaniaks” — they panhandle and say they don’t have money and then they buy themselves Mercedeses. „Cwaniak” has two plural forms: „cwaniacy” and „cwaniaki”.

I hope you’re not this kind of cwaniak. But maybe some Polish will call you „cwaniak” in a positive way? Let’s find out what it means.

For me it means the same as „spryciarz”. It’s a person who manages to „survive” in every situation, usually thanks to their brilliant ideas which result from out-of-the-box thinking. In English I’d call such a person „smart”. Examples:

  • Ale z niego cwaniak! Zamiast płacić za taksówkę, złapał stopa! He’s such a cwaniak! Instead of paying for the taxi, he used hitch-hiking!
  • Haha, schował się za szafą i nikt nie mógł go znaleźć! Co za cwaniak. Haha, he hid behind the wardrobe and nobody could find him. What a cwaniak.

There’s also an adjective „cwany” (lub „sprytny”) which just means „smart”.

  • Ale cwane! Nigdy bym o tym nie pomyślał! So cwane! I’d never think about it!
  • Udało mu się, bo to cwany gość. He has managed to do it because he’s a cwany man.

There’s also a verb „cwaniakować” which means „to behave like a negative cwaniak”. „Nie cwaniakuj” is an often reply when someone is trying to be a negative cwaniak. An example:
— Tato, nogi mnie bolą, może zamówimy taksówkę? Dad, my legs hurt, maybe let’s call a cab?
Nie cwaniakuj, już blisko. Nie cwaniakuj, it’s not far already.

Don’t get offended when someone tells you „(jaki) cwaniak” or „spryciarz”. It just means „(You’re) a smart guy”. Be prepared that if you tell someone this phrase, you can hear „A ty jesteś nawet większy cwaniak, bo znasz słowo „cwaniak„!” — „And you’re even bigger cwaniak because you know the word „cwaniak”!”.

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