Czech by Numbers - Nine


Hello and welcome to Czech by Numbers, Radio Prague's weekly Czech language series which looks at Czech numbers and their use in idioms and in everyday speech. Today we'll be talking about the number nine in Czech.

The Czech word for nine is devět, which sounds completely different from the English but is almost identical in all Slavonic languages.

Nine is considered to be a lucky or magic number in many cultures and appears in various fairy tales and popular sayings. For example cats are supposed to have nine lives, kočky mají devět životů, in both the English-speaking world and the Czech Republic.

In English, some children's stories begin with the phrase "over the hills and far away" and Czech ones start with za devatero horami a devatero řekami - "over nine mountains and across nine rivers". (The word devatero is just another way of saying devět - nine.) Another idiom using the word is devatero řemesel - nine trades, typically used in the saying devatero řemesel a desátá bída, literally "nine trades and the tenth being poverty". The expression is used roughly in the same sense as the English "jack of all trades, master of none". That is, it's better to do one thing well than many things sloppily.

Another example of the importance of nine in folklore is the Czech name of the flower butterbur - devětsil which translates as "nine strengths".

The ordinal number is devátý for the masculine and devátá for the feminine. Standing on its own, the latter is almost always used to mean Symphony No 9 by Beethoven.

That's it for today, next time we'll be back with number ten. Till then na shledanou, bye-bye.