Świst and gwizd - what are the differences?

Hello, I need some help of Polish speakers with tricky words "świst" and "gwizd"

According to the PWN dictionary "gwizd" is:

  1. «ostry, wysoki dźwięk powstający przy szybkim ruchu powietrza przepuszczanego przez wąski otwór»
  2. «śpiew niektórych ptaków»

and "świst" is:

  1. «dźwięk podobny do gwizdu»
  2. «śpiew niektórych ptaków lub głos niektórych zwierząt przypominający gwizd» They give examples: świst wiatru, kul; gwizd wiatru, czajnika.

According to my friend, "świst" has a higher tone, and is made by animals (i would rather use "pisk" for animals, but I'm not that sure; "świstak" may "świszczeć", I think) and birds. But neither wind nor human "świszczą" - they "gwiżdżą".

And in the Polish-Russian dictionary I have, there are the following examples: świst kul, wiatru; gwizd syreny, gwizd pocisku.

I find all this quite confusing and want to ask you to give me either an explanation (if there's any) how different are "gwizd" and "świst", or just adduce some examples to show who or what can make these sounds.

Dziękuję z góry!

May 25, 2016


It's not so easy to explain and the difference between "świst" and "gwizd" is not always clear. I can give some examples associated with them:

"gwizd": sound of water boiling in the kettle, sound produced by people with use of mouth or a whistle

"świst": sound of fast-moving object in the air like an arrow or a snowball

May 25, 2016

thank you. that's making things better :) But still can't understand "gwizd pocisku", would you rather say "świst pocisku"?

May 25, 2016

Yes, I would say "świst pocisku".

May 25, 2016

Gwizd is usually man-made (evtl. animal made – like the sound made by marmots, but their Polish name comes from Świst: świstak), while Świst is not. Świst may be for example the sound of a flying arrow or other projectile, sound of water boiler, or blowing wind. Eventually świst may be animal-made (or even human made) but when we don’t see who makes it and is hard to recognise.

Birds usually "sing".

Hope it helps

May 25, 2016

Thank you for the answer! It's interesting that marmot gwiżdże, I would never expect that.

May 25, 2016
  • 1353

I would say, that "gwizd" does not need to have higher pitch than "gwizd", there is another difference.

  • "Gwizd" is a clean whistle sound of defined pitch, with few aliquots - so a relatively "nice" sound (if a high sound may be nice). Its pitch should be however within female singing voice scale, something around alto. Whistling at higher registers of soprano would be rather "pisk", and lower whistle at pitch of masculine sing voice would be rather "buczenie".

  • "Świst" is a whistling with more hissing sound, like made by someone who is learning to whistle but he does not yet know how to form the mouth to get a clean sound. In musical terms, this sound includes not only aliquots, but also unwanted components, making something similar to "white noise" background for the main pitch.

July 11, 2016

Thank you. That's an interesting explanation :)

July 12, 2016

To me "gwizd" is higher and sharper than "świst". A person or a kettle "gwiżdżą" but you'd never say they "świszczą". With the wind I believe they're pretty much interchangeable.
I'd also say "świst" is not a 'full' sound, it's like... if you want to whistle but it doesn't work. :D But well, it's only my opinion, let's wait for more people to speak.
Anyway, in dictionaries "świst" and "gwizd" are synonyms.

Thank you for this interesting question! This was one of those things I've never thought about. :)

May 25, 2016

Świst is like very high pichted wisthle.

May 25, 2016
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