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Polish Language/Kusibaba - Polish "curse"? No, surname


I have a friend who used to use the polish phrase "Kushibaba" ... I have no idea if I spelled that correctly.  Do you have any idea what that means, and, is it a curse as some have said?

Dear Ronald

I would spell this word as "kusibaba". As far as I know it is not a curse, it is simple one of the surnames present in Poland, it is not a very common one, but cam be met with in Southern Poland. Look into Google for "Kusibaba".
The surname is of Persian-Turkish origin, it's original meaining is "the senior of the drummers" (kusi = drummer < kus = drum; baba = father, senior, chief).

But it might be used as a curse by someone with some wits, because of the fancy sound, and because the word sound as if a Polish compound noun meaning "woman-tempter" (the one who is tempting women) (kusić = to tempt; the shortened form used in compounds before the verb's object = kusi; baba = woman (in nowadays Polish the word "baba" has a slightly pejorative meaning: a hag, and old or ugly woman; in older times and still in regional Polish it's just a simple "woman" or "wife").

So "kusibaba" would be a compound created like: liczykrupa (griat-counter or crumb-counter = a miser), moczymorda (snout-soaker = a drunkard), obszczymurek (wall-pisser = a vagabond), paliwoda (water-burner = a liar).

Kusibaba sounds like woman-tempter, compare "woman-hunter", or another Polish compund noun: "bawidamek" = woman-teaser (playboy, gigolo).

But woman-tempter can also mean = a devil. NB. One of the nicknames of the devil in popular Polish mythology and folkore is "Kusy" wich cam mean "a short one" or "a lame one", but in fact it has come into being as an abbreviation of "Kusiciel" - "the Tempter". In old times people were afraid of using the whole word, for the fear of calling the Evil one to the spot. So they have used nicknames instead (same as the were not using the old-Slavic "orsza" (a bear, sompare Latin "ursus") but have used the nickname "miedjed" = honey-eater, instead, and when the word has changed (phonetically) into "niedźwiedź", having lost its relation to the original meaning, this word has beome taboo again among the huters, who use the word "miś" = furry, or teddy - in order not to call the dangerous bear by his name.

So back to "Kusibaba" - someone might have used it as a (very light) curse, like "O, devil", or "O, hell", or else just like a filler between the words, because it sounds funny. Only the friend of yours could answer why he is using it. No dictionary of Polish language, or dialects, or slang has recorded this word as a curse. But language is a vivid thing, you know!

All the best


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Maciej St. Zięba


I am native Polish and from time to time I teach Polish to foreigners. I know (passively of actively) more than 15 other languages - so I can answer many questions concerning Polish grammar, pronounciation, spelling, etymology and usage - as compared to English, French, German, Russian, Dutch, Esperanto or Norwegian. Also questions concerning other Slavic languages, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, or general linguistics, especially scripts (writing systems and transcriptions) - are welcome.


Teaching English, French, and Esperanto to Poles, Polish to foreigners, teaching Sanskrit, Mandarin Chinese, Classical Chinese and Tibetan. Tour Guide in English, French, Russian and German. Former President of the Regional Examination Committee for Tourist Guides (English and French)(1999-2005).

Polish Oriental Society (since 1979); International Association of Buddhist Studies (since 1986); Klingon Language Institute (since 1986); Learned Society of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (since 1989); Polish Philosophical Association (since 1997); Universala Esperanto-Asocio (since 1978).

Books: "Origin of the World According to Rigveda" (Montreal 1996); "Our River Bug. Creating Conditions for Development of the Border Areas of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus through Enhancement and Preservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage" (Lublin 2008); "Migration - a Challenge to the 21st century" (Lublin 2008); "Migracja zarobkowa do Woch" (Job migration to Italy) (Lublin 2008); more than 100 articles in "Powszechna Encyklopedia Filozofii" (Universal Encyclopedia od Philosophy) vol. 1-10 (Lublin 2000-2009); many more in Polish, some of them available online, see: here and here (a list up to 2012.

Studying philosophy at Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) 1976-81; PhD in Philosophy (1989). Having learned languages in Gdansk and Gdynia (Russian, Esperanto, Latin, English - International Bacalaureate), Lublin (KUL - French, German, Dutch, Sanskrit, Latin, Ancient Greek; UMCS - Chinese, Japanese; elsewhere - Esperanto, Spanish, Italian), Paris (IIAP - French; INALCO - Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese; Sorbonne - Sanskrit), Asker (Norwegian, while working in a kindergarten!), Montreal (McGill - Chinese); Rome and Venice (Italian); Taichung, Taiwan (Chinese), Shimla, India (sanskrit). Self-taught: Slavic languages (other than Polish and Russian), Hungarian, Korean, Vietnamese, Klingon and several other.

Awards and Honors
2012 Golden Medal of Civil Service of Poland; 2012-13 Taiwan Fellowship - Tunghai University (Taichung)

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AllExperts users (since 12/03/2003); Wikipedia readers in many languages (since 2004); students learning languages (since 1979).

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