Learn Czech with Charles: Words and phrases that celebrate motherhood

This weekend is Mother's Day; show the Czech mom in your life you care by brushing up on your language skills!


Written by ÚJOP UK Staff Published on 14.05.2023 09:32:00 (updated on 27.07.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

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Mother’s Day in the Czech Republic this year is celebrated on May 14. The holiday here has its roots in the First Republic. It all but vanished during the communist era.

The first celebration of “Den matek” in then-Czechoslovakia was in 1926. Alice Masaryková, the daughter of first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and his American wife Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk, was instrumental in the introduction of the holiday.

In honor of Mother's Day, we asked the staff at ÚJOP UK, a division of Charles University that specializes in teaching Czech to foreigners, to share words, expressions, and proverbs related to motherhood (mateřství). Practice them on your mother (matka) or mother-in-law (tchyně) this weekend.

Alice Garrigue Masaryková sometime in the 1920s. (Chamber of Deputies archive)
Alice Garrigue Masaryková sometime in the 1920s. (Chamber of Deputies archive)

Mother knows best and is always right

Similar to English, there are a number of Czech sayings praising the strength and wisdom of mothers. Mothers know best or are "always right" (Mama má vždycky pravdu). Of course, it goes without saying that "Where there is a mother, there is a home" (Kde matka, tam domov). And, as in English "Like mother like daughter" is "Jako matka, tak dcera" in Czech.

On the more poetic side of the spectrum, Czechs say "A mother's love is like the sun, it disperses all shadows (Matčina láska je jako slunce – všechny stíny rozehání). And never forget: A mother knows everything and forgives everything (Matka všechno ví a všechno odpustí)

Maternal proverbs

Motherhood has made its way into several general nuggets of wisdom that are used in the Czech language, such as "Repetition is the mother of wisdom" (Opakování matka moudrosti.) But perhaps the most Czech saying related to motherhood, comes from the archaic proverb: Blessed is the mother who gives birth to a brewer (Požehnaná matka, která porodí sládka)!

How many words are there for 'mother' in Czech?

In Czech, there are a number of words and diminutive forms for mother, depending on the context and the speaker's relationship with their mother. The formal word for mother is "matka". This is the term used on official documents. Other words for mother include "mamka" or "maminka," affectionate and informal words used by small children.

  • Matka - The Czech word for mother
  • Mamka - A colloquial variation
  • Matička - A diminutive form of matka, often used in a familiar or affectionate way
  • Máma or Mami - A more informal and affectionate way of saying mother, commonly used by children
  • Matinka - A variation similar to matička, also used in a familiar or affectionate way
  • Máti - An archaic and formal word for mother
  • Matulka - A dialect used in some regions, especially in Moravia

Sadly, Charlotte Garrigue Masaryk died on May 13, 1923, on what would have been Mother’s Day that year. Many sources list 1923 as the start of the event in the Czech lands. Today it is celebrated, like many other countries, by gifting mothers white carnations (bílé karafiáty), roses (růže), and (tulips) tulipány, and of course kisses (pusinky).

Do you want to speak Czech like a native? Study at ÚJOP UK!

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