Common words between Finnish and English

It is a common belief, especially among us Finns, that the Finnish and English languages have virtually nothing in common. But the fact is that they have a substantial amount of shared vocabulary. Some time ago, as a fun exercise, I started collecting such words. Here is my list so far.

FinnishEnglish FinnishEnglish FinnishEnglish
aariacre lammaslamb Raamattuframed
aasiass lankkuplank raamiframe
airooar lasiglass rakuunadragon
akseliaxle latteaflat rankirank
almanakkaalmanac lauseclause reittiroute
arkki~arch~ lehtileaf rengasring
asettaasetup lestilast riittirite
eestieast limaslime ritaririder
enkeliangel linjaline/alignment rivirow
hakatahack linssilens rullaroll
harmiharm listalist rumpudrum
harppuharp lukkolock runorune
hattuhat löysäloose ruotoroot
heinähay mahtimight ruumaroom
helppohelp maissimaize ruuviscrew
helvettihell mallimodel rytmirhythm
herttaheart mammonamammon samasame
huorawhore markkinamarket sielusoul
huppuhood massamass siemensemen
hyppyhop merkkimark siilosilo
jouluyule mestarimaster siiviläsieve
jumijam metallimetal siskosister
kakkucake minäme sointisound
kalentericalendar murhamurder solucell
kannucan mutamud soppishop
kanootticanoe muusamuse sotilassoldier
kanuunacannon naapurineighbour sukkasock
kappelichapel napatasnap suolasalt
kapteenicaptain niminame suorasword
karaistacourage numeronumber syntisin
karttachart nuottinote säkkisack
kaskiash orpoorphan taaleridollar
kassacash paalupole ~taiday
katugate pakanapagan tammistem
kellaricellar pakettipackage tanssidance
kelloclock+bell palloball tavaraware
kippariskipper paperipaper temppelitemple
kirkkochurch paratiisiparadise tervatar
koleacool paripair tiilitile
kortticard paronibaron tikkustick
koticottage partabeard tuolistool
kouluschool pataspade tuomiodomain/dome
kristallicrystal peliplay tusinadozen
kukkocock penkkibench/bank tuuriturn
kultagold petibed tuutatatoot
kuningasking piippupipe tyylistyle
kuntacounty pissapiss ulviwolf
kuorochoir pistinsting utareudder
kupolicupola poikaboy uuniowen
kuppicup porttiport uurnaurn
kurssicourse pottapot vaimowife
kuunarischooner pukkibuck valliwall
kveeniqueen pumppupump vaunuvan
kynttiläcandle punkkabunk viikkoweek
kölikeel puolaspool viiniwine
ladataload puri/poriburgh viisaswise
laimealame puskabush vilttiquilt
lakilaw raakaraw värssyverse

This list currently has 174 word pairs. I will add more as I find good examples.

Some points to note:

  • If you are a non-Finnish speaker and have difficulties seeing the relation, keep in mind that the relationship between the written form and pronunciation differs greatly between these languages, and it is the pronunciation that matters.
  • A couple of the listed Finnish words are old and rarely used today. For example ulvi and puri. But you can still see these in, for example, the names of places.
  • In some of the Finnish words the contemporary meaning is different. An example of this is tuomio, which today would more readily translate to ‘sentence’. It is still used in its old meaning when talking about churches with domes, though. Also, for example helppo means ‘easy’ rather than ‘help’. Nevertheless, the connection is quite obvious. There are several others, and discovering these is an interesting aspect of this exercise.

Patterns

What is interesting is to look for patterns. For example, we can note that there are no words for parts of the human body. This is in contrast to, for example, the common words between Finnish and Hungarian which include, among others, the words for 'hand' and 'blood'.

Also, while this list has some words about the nature, there are not that many of those. Rather, most of the words seem to be related to culture: household items, food, seafaring, war, etc. What does this tell us?

Feedback received

2006-07-11 – An anonymous writer informed me about “rakuuna” and “ritari”.

2006-01-15 – David Marriott points out the connection between Finnish “katu” and English “gate” as follows:

In the South of England, e.g. in London, you get “Aldgate”, “Ludgate”, etc. which are all named after “gates” in the wall of the old Roman and medieval city.

In Nottingham we have “Bridlesmithgate”, “Pilchergate”, “Fletchergate”, etc. But Nottingham never had a wall or “gates”. It was founded by the Viking invaders, and the “gate” is the anglicised form of the Viking word for “street”. The Swedish “gatan” and the Finnish “katu” presumably derive from the same root.

Interestingly, York was both a Viking and a Roman city and streets named “gate” can be “streets” or “gates”.

2005-10-29 – An anonymous writer informed me of the word “leik” (play) in Huddersfieldian dialect. The Finnish equivalent is, of course, leikki.

2005-02-25 – Christer Nyberg informed me about “asettaa”, “enkeli”, “helvetti”, “hertta”, “kannu”, “karaista”, “kello”, “kortti”, “kuppi”, “kurssi”, “kynttilä”, “ladata”, “lause”, “lista”, “malli”, “metalli”, “nuotti”, “pata”, “pistin”, “portti”, “potta”, “sointi” and “tavara”.

2004-03-09 – Diesel Taylor writes:

In Scotland their word for church is Kirk, and English people would understand that.