[pohl-kuh, poh-kuh]

noun, plural pol·kas.

a lively couple dance of Bohemian origin, with music in duple meter.
a piece of music for such a dance or in its rhythm.

verb (used without object), pol·kaed, pol·ka·ing.

to dance the polka.

Origin of polka

1835–45; < Czech: literally, Polish woman or girl; compare Polish polka Polish woman, polak Pole
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for polka

Contemporary Examples of polka

Historical Examples of polka

  • She knew how to waltz and she could dance the polka and the schottishe.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • Why, she's drummed away at that polka for six months and she can't get her grip on it yet.

  • If I go to the party I'll just drop in for a few minutes as I am, in my polka dot.

    The Tale of Mrs. Ladybug

    Arthur Scott Bailey

  • If you could see the little girl dance the Polka with her sisters!

  • He wants to dance the polka as Petrarch, and find a Laura in every partner.'


    Benjamin Disraeli

British Dictionary definitions for polka


noun plural -kas

a 19th-century Bohemian dance with three steps and a hop, in fast duple time
a piece of music composed for or in the rhythm of this dance

verb -kas, -kaing or -kaed

(intr) to dance a polka

Word Origin for polka

C19: via French from Czech pulka half-step, from pul half
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for polka

1844, from French polka, German Polka, probably from Czech polka, the dance, literally "Polish woman" (Polish Polka), fem. of Polak "a Pole." The word might also be an alteration of Czech pulka "half," for the half-steps of Bohemian peasant dances. Or it could be a merger of the two. The dance was in vogue first in Prague, 1835; it reached London by the spring of 1842.

Vous n'en êtes encore qu'au galop, vieil arriéré, et nous en sommes à la polka! Oui, c'est la polka que nous avons dansée à ce fameux bal Valenlino. Vous demandez ce que c'est que la polka, homme de l année dernière! La contredanse a vécu; le galop, rococo; la valse à deux temps, dans le troisième dessous; il n'y a plus que la polka, la sublime, l'enivrante polka, dont les salons raffolent, que les femmes de la haute, les banquiéres les plus cossues et les comtesses les plus choenosophoses étudient jour et nuit. ["La France Dramatique," Paris, 1841]

As a verb by 1846 (polk also was tried).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

polka in Culture


A lively dance for couples, originating in eastern Europe.


Johann Strauss, the Younger wrote many polkas.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.