This is a bit subjective problem. As a Hungarian who knows English, I have the high ground when it comes to making up words, as I can mush the English and Hungarian words together with some outliers (usually Japanese-sounding words) and things I make up. However, first, let's take a look at a composite I created with my WIP Swadesh list:

rén+kile = red feather = rékile/régile

Red Feather is a rare genetic mutation among tengu (based-off of Japanese mythology; anthro birds, six-limbed variant). Those who are born with this mutation have striking red plumage, yellow/golden beak and eyes, along with an unusual pointy crest, similar to that of a cockatiel. Rékile is often translated to phoenix in Common (British English). While the resemblance is hard to deny, rékile tengu don't set themselves on fire, nor revert into younger forms.

Now, régi means old in Hungarian. And Ré is Hungarian for Ra, who just happened to be a god with a bird's head and is associated with the Sun (which is a deadly laser). Rékile is still passable, but some words are so reified in my mind that even lookalikes carry unwanted connotations.

who? (“?” not) = námó (I keep hearing nani)
what? (“?” not) = názá (Názáreti Jézus)

dog = gadór (csador Oh no! or csahol I'd prefer to go with that one)

I know it sounds and is dumb, but I can't concentrate when I look at my language and I can still see the anime references and Hungarian words in my mind. I don't want to throw out Hungarian entirely, but I'm still afraid people will pick up these accidental collisions of my languages. How can I minimize the number of those collisions?

  • 3
    There are infinite coincidences between languages. You should see all the nonsense people post at Linguistics trying to posit links between random languages because of a single similar word. I think this is a problem you just have to get over yourself, because there will always be coincidences for someone.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 9, 2020 at 0:48
  • @curiousdannii I think some concrete examples would calm my soul (a bit) Jun 9, 2020 at 0:50
  • @KeithMorrison As a native speaker of Russian language I know that there is no word "talik" in Russian language. Jun 11, 2020 at 17:12
  • @KeithMorrison Maybe it is very rare but I really didn't hear it... Jun 11, 2020 at 17:13
  • @VictorVosMottorthanksMonica, "talik" is a technical term coined by Russian researchers in the 1940s to describe unfrozen ground in a permafrost region, that they derived from tayat' Jun 11, 2020 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


These sorts of coincidences are somewhat inevitable. Just try to accept that there's a limited number of ways to arrange sounds in your language, and some will sound similar to words in other languages.

When I was trying to learn Hungarian, I came across a number of words that reminded me of words I knew in English and other languages. Some examples:

  • 🇭🇺 repülőter "airport" / 🇬🇧 re-polluter
  • 🇭🇺 csillag"star" / 🇬🇧 ceiling
  • 🇭🇺 és "and" / 🇪🇸 es "it is"
  • 🇭🇺 a nap "the sun" / 🇬🇧 a nap
  • 🇭🇺 a bolt "the store" / 🇬🇧 a bolt
  • 🇭🇺 öt "five" / 🇮🇹 otto "eight"

I also had a recent case on the CBB where I posted my conlang Atili's word for "citrus" zilu, and immediately got asked if I borrowed that word from Kankonian (another conlang) tzelua "citrus." I hadn't. CBB thread

Then there is the fairly well-known case of the Mandarin filler phrase 那個 / 那个 nèige, which sounds to many English speakers like a racial slur. See this posting on the Chinese language stack for more details: Very frequently used word in Mandarin that sounds like "nica" or "nigah"

  • 2
    French "seal" (the animal) is phoque, and it sounds exactly what you'd think it does to English speakers. When I took French and we learned the word, the teacher started rolling his eyes even before stating the word because he knew what was coming from a classroom of kids. Jun 10, 2020 at 17:06
  • Toki Pona borrows "bibitte" from Canadian French, a colloquial term for bug or critter. But in Toki Pona's very strict phonology, the word becomes "pipi", which sounds like French's childish word for pee. Such is life :)
    – Domino
    Sep 20, 2022 at 4:03

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