rok vs lat

So I've always wondered what the difference was between these two.

"I am 32 years old." > "Mam 32 lata."

"I lived in Poland for one year." "Mieszkałem w Polsce przez okres jednego roku."

It seems like "rok" is used to denote 1 year, while lata/lat is used to denote multiple years.

Would someone please explain this to me, when is each used, and what other terms are there?

January 6, 2017


You are correct, 'lata' is a plural form of 'rok'. It's just irregular like 'goose-geese' in english.

January 6, 2017

Also, as numerals are kinda complicated, you have: 1 rok and then either "lat" or "lata".

Numbers ending with -2, -3, -4 (apart from -12, -13, -14) have "lata".

Other numbers have "lat".

So: 1 rok, 2 lata, 4 lata, 5 lat, 11 lat, 13 lat, 17 lat, 21 lat, 22 lata, 25 lat, 33 lata, 37 lat, 2000 lat, 2004 lata, 2014 lat, 2024 lata, etc.

January 6, 2017

So: 1 is "rok;" Anything ending in 2,3,4 (unless it's a 12,13,14) is "lata;" Everything else is "lat."

Say a number like 2001, that's still "lat," right?

January 6, 2017

Yes, that's correct.

Apart from "unless it's a 12, 13, 14" - unless it ends with those. So 12 lat, 113 lat, 21512513 lat; but 32 lata, 143 lata, 125215634 lata.

January 6, 2017


And "rok" is used specifically for just 1, not extending to numbers ending in 1, like 2001, right?

And, just to be exhaustive, that goes for negative one too, I assume? eg: 4 lata - 5 lat = -1 rok

January 6, 2017

Yes, just literally 1 year.

Eee... I don't know in what situations you'd talk about negative years, but I guess that applies as well.

Oh, and don't forget that all of these applies to the amount of years, but obviously we have "2017 rok" (dwa tysiące siedemnasty, with ordinal number) right now.

January 6, 2017

Is "rok" how we are referring to 2017 "right now" specifically, or is the date always referred to by "rok?"

January 6, 2017

Any particular year is "rok" and we use an ordinal number. 1612 rok (tysiąc sześćset dwunasty rok), 1864 rok (tysiąc osiemset sześćdziesiąty czwarty rok), 2002 rok (dwa tysiące drugi rok), etc.

As we're discussing it, it is worth to mention, that only the last two digits of the year undergo declension, unless the year ends with -00: then the digit of hundreds undergoes declension. So: 1800 rok (tysiąc osiemsetny rok), but 1801 rok (tysiąc osiemset pierwszy rok) or 1857 rok (tysiąc osiemset pięćdziesiąty siódmy rok).

"rok" can also go before the number, but it usually goes after.

January 7, 2017

Also you don't need to use „rok” when referring to any particular year like in Jellei's examples. In fact, some consider it a pleonasm.

January 15, 2017

"Mieszkałem w Polsce przez okres jednego roku."

This can be shortened to "Mieszkałem w Polsce przez rok."

I'll base on this article: link

  • It is easy to make plural of rok, which should be roki, this was commonly done in 16th century. Nowadays it is considered archaic. I personally think it shouldn't be.
  • Originally both rok and lato have nothing to do with time measure. The first was etymologically linked with rzec (to speak). In old-Polish rok was understood as a lawsuit. In the most cases it was done to postpone payment for 12 months. Hence we get rok as time measure.
  • Lato was understood more broadly than today as a period other than winter, when agricultural works can be done. (Now it is one of the 4 seasons of a year.) This form later was extended to cover all the year. With time the regular plural form lata spread.

From me I want to add that, you can also use wiosny (from wiosna the spring) as a measure of time. It is by all means not official but rather funny. After all lata comes from lato which means the summer.

January 6, 2017

Thank you, that was really interesting!

So, if "rok" comes from a legalistic origin, "lat" from the word for summer, and "wiosny" can be used what I assume to be somewhat ironically...

Was there a word that meant originally and referred specifically to a 12-month/365-day/1 orbit?

January 6, 2017

Yes, wiosny is a bit ironical or maybe poetical.

Your question is a bit hard to answer. I assume that my forefathers weren't the best in astronomy so there can be no other names for a year. For everything older I suppose one must search in Church Slavonic and I don't know that language. Wikidictionary says that the word „rok” is known in Church Slavonic and it means a defined period of time. The idea of 12 months year might be only introduced with Christianity because there are 13 lunar months in a year and that was, I believe, a calendar - if we can call it that way - used by Slavs.

Maybe different but also interesting question is what does the "miesiąc" (month) mean. Well, basically it means moon. Even in 19th century people still used miesiąc to denote moon instead of księżyc which appeared somewhere in 15th century. Księżyc by itself means son of a prince. The Sun of course was the prince which in old-Polish was ksiądz. But currently ksiądz means a catholic priest.

There are two different ways how to define day in Polish.

  • doba, this is always 24 hours
  • dzień, this is a day as it can be find in calendar and a sunny part of a day
January 6, 2017

On the subject of Church Slavonic:

I found a translator. It had no word for "year," but it did have an entry "triennium," which it said refers to a three-year period. Etymologically this seems to share the same root as "millennium" and "annual:" the Latin cognate for year, "anno." It could be that when referring to astronomical (or scientific in general) terms the Slavs simply used Latin as their lingua franca.

Interestingly though, when I looked into Proto-Indo-European roots for "year," I found the word "lehto." "Lehto" obviously turned into "leto" and, further, "lata." So, everyone used some for of "lehto" for year until something else evolved or was borrowed, but the Slavs seem to have held on to this ancient word.

Update Edit:

I found an old Church Slavonic word with the same root for the English "year." "Jaru" seems to come from the Proto-Indo-European word meaning to complete a cycle, as in a complete cycle of the Earth around the Sun, or perhaps a complete cycle of the seasons as heliocentrism was still a ways off. It must have fallen out of use for the Slavs in deference to "lat."

January 6, 2017

There is a word „jary” in Polish, it denotes or denoted the spring or things done in the spring. There is "zboże jare" - a grain/corn that is sewn in the spring.

There are some names like Jarek or Jaromir. Mir means peace.

Also there is jar - which can be translated into English as ravine.

PS: I believe that "triennium" is not a Slavic word.

January 7, 2017

No, I don't think "triennium" is Slavic either, which is really what I was saying; it was borrowed from the Latin in the formation of Church Slavonic for some specific use.

January 7, 2017
  • 1090

Old (Church) Slavonic would rather borrow from Greek, not from Latin. And I wouldn't trust a translator which doesn't know 'year', but has 'three-years period' ;)

Wracając do sedna. Similarly in Czech: rok - léta or roky, and in Russian 1 год /god/ - 2,3,4 года - 5, 6 ... лет /let/, the plural годы is used in some cases

January 10, 2017
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