50+ Best Loan Words In Serbian To Boost Your Vocab

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When learning a new language like Serbian, it is always a treat to find you already know some vocabulary because there are so many loan words in Serbian borrowed from abroad.

Because it is situated at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe, Serbia boasts a language that has inevitably borrowed from not just its closest neighbors but countries much farther afield. Trade, migration, and invasion have seen loanwords enter the language from German, English, Russian, Hungarian, Turkish, Persian, Italian, Latin, and Greek. Serbia’s tumultuous past has also played its part in molding the language, with waves of different cultural interactions flooding Serbia with vocabulary that can now be recognized not just as loan words, but as modern Serbian words in their own right.

The Serbian Language And Its Origins

Serbian, one of the South Slavic languages, is the official language of Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It belongs to the Indo-European language family and is written in the Cyrillic script. The Serbian language evolved over centuries, drawing influence from various linguistic sources:

Ottoman Empire

One of the most significant influences on Serbian vocabulary came from the centuries-long Ottoman rule in the Balkans. Many Turkish loanwords found their way into Serbian through daily interactions, trade, and cultural exchange. These words enriched the Serbian lexicon with terms related to administration, food, clothing, and various aspects of daily life. For instance, words like “čarapa” (socks), “čaj” (tea), and “duvan” (tobacco) have their origins in Turkish (which often pinched its words from Persian).

Some Turkish Words That Serbian Borrowed

EnglishTurkish/SerbianSound
Bad luckBaksuz
TipBakšiš
GunpowderBarut
FoolBudala
Wedding ringBurma
ButtonDugme
MattressDušek
TowelPeškir
BasementPodrum
CannonTop

Ancient Greek

It has been estimated that Serbian contains as many as 1,500 loanwords from Greek, as do the other South Slavic languages. A large portion of the words taken from Greek have something to do with religion and the church.

Some Loan Words In Serbian Borrowed From Greek

EnglishSerbianSoundGreekSound
ChurchCrkvaKyriakón
RoadDrumDrómos
Student, pupilđakDiákos
DeaconđakonDiákonos
BishopEpiskopépískopos
RubberGumaKómmi
PaperHartijaChartí
Smell, aroma, odorMirisMýron
PetroleumNaftaNáphtha
PriestPopPapás
ChalicePutirPotḗr
Wind or sea waveTalasThálassa

Austro-Hungarian Empire

During the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s presence in the region, German and Hungarian influences permeated the Serbian language and culture. Many words related to industry, technology, and administration were borrowed from German, while Hungarian contributed words related to agriculture and gastronomy.

Some Serbian Words Borrowed From Hungarian

EnglishSerbianSoundHungarianSound
River fishermanAlasHalász
Shovel, spadeAšovásó
Fur coatBundaBunda
ShoesCipeleCipellő
Carriage, chariotKočijaKocsi
ThiefLopovLopó
RoomSobaSzoba
Town, boroughVarošVáros

Some Serbian Words Borrowed From German

EnglishGerman/SerbianSound
Master, repairmanMajstor
ZipperRajsferšlus
Tailoršnajder
Steakšnicla
Screwdriveršrafciger
Strudelštrudla
Loan Words In Serbian

Slavic Neighbors

Serbian shares linguistic roots with other Slavic languages, such as Russian, Bulgarian, and Croatian. As a result, it borrowed words from these neighboring languages, further enhancing its vocabulary.

A striking difference between Serbian and Croatian actually comes down to loanwords. Serbia has been very welcoming to loanwords entering the language. On the other hand, Croatia adopted a policy of linguistic purism when part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where the German language was rejected, and as part of Yugoslavia, where Serbian words were seen as the enemy. The term “Serbisms” is actually used in Croatia to describe unwanted Serbian vocab.

Some Serbian Words Borrowed From Russian

EnglishRussian/SerbianSound
MarriageBreak
Monsterčudovište
Individual, personalityLičnost
Reward, prizeNagrada
Due toUsled

Loan Words From English

The impact of English loan words is particularly striking when it comes to the language of sport, technology, and business. English is also the language of music, with the Serbian word for blues being bluz, jazz is džez, punk is pank and rock is, you’ve guessed it – rok. English is also responsible for giving Serbian the common suffixes -er and -ing. For example: trendseter – trendsetter, gejmer – gamer, frilenser – freelancer, as well as: kasting – casting, ketering – catering, konsalting – consulting.

English Loanwords Used In Sport

EnglishSerbianSound
UppercutAperkat
OutAut
BackhandBekhend
BaseballBejzbol
BoxingBoks
DoubleDubl
DerbyDerbi
JoggingDžoging
ForehandForhend
FootballFudbal
GoalGol
HooliganHuligan
MatchMeč
OffsideOfsajd
SingleSingl
SmashSmeč
SportSport
SprintSprint
TennisTenis
TimeoutTajmaut
Water poloVaterpolo

Some English Words For Serbian Tech

EnglishSerbianSound
ByteBajt
FileFajl
FolderFolder
HackerHaker
HardwareHardver
LaptopLaptop
WebsiteSajt, vebsajt
ScannerSkener
SoftwareSoftver

… And Some English Words For Business

EnglishSerbianSound
AdvertisingAdvertajzing
BusinessmanBiznismen
BudgetBudžet
RatingRejting
SloganSlogan
Loan Words In Serbian

The influences of different languages like Ottoman Turkish, Germanic, and other Slavic languages have shaped Serbian vocabulary, adding depth and diversity to the language. English, French, Spanish, and other Western European languages have piled their fair share of words into the language as well.

Furthermore, Serbian loan words have traveled far beyond their origin, influencing and enriching global languages such as English (Serbian gave English the word vampire!) By exploring these loan words, we gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of languages and the enduring impact of cultural exchange. Serbian loan words help us appreciate the beauty of language as a tool for communication, understanding, and unity across borders.

Learn Serbian And Other Loanwords With Ling App

With more than 60 languages to choose from, Ling app has all you will ever need to learn a new language like Serbian. Ling app is designed to let you learn when and where you want to at a pace that suits you. With plenty of games and quizzes, Ling app also wants you to have fun as you learn. Give us a try today by visiting Google Play or the App Store.

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