Common Serbian Phrases for Beginners
Born in the heart of the Balkans, the Serbian language weaves a rich tapestry of history, culture, and tradition. Spoken by over 12 million people worldwide, Serbian is not only the official language of Serbia but also holds significant importance in neighbouring countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and more.
Why Learn Serbian Phrases?
When travelling to Serbia and its neighbouring countries, making an effort to learn a few Serbian greetings and other common Serbian phrases can go a long way. It’s not just about being polite; it’s also a means of connecting with locals on a deeper level.
The people of Serbia are known for their warmth and hospitality, and making an effort to speak their language, even if only in small doses, is often greatly appreciated. It can open doors to meaningful interactions, offer insights into the local culture, and show your respect for the country you’re visiting.
So, whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter or a first-time traveller, let’s dive into some essential Serbian phrases to make your experience in Serbia more meaningful and rewarding.
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Basic Serbian Greetings: Making a Big Impact with a Few Words
Imagine this: You’re strolling through the bustling streets of Belgrade, the vibrant capital of Serbia, or perhaps you’re exploring the picturesque towns of Novi Sad or Niš. You come across a friendly street vendor selling handmade crafts or meet a local artist in a museum who shares their passion for Serbian culture.
In such moments, a simple “hello” or “thank you” spoken in the local language can bridge the gap between you and the people you encounter. While you might not become fluent overnight, memorising just two or three basic Serbian greetings can make a world of difference in your interactions and leave a positive impression on the locals.
Here are a few basic expressions to greet Serbian people in their own terms:
- Zdravo (Здраво) – Hello
- Ćao (Чао) – Hi (informal)
- Dobro jutro (Добро јутро) – Good morning
- Dobar dan (Добар дан) – Good day / Good afternoon
- Dobro veče (Добро вече) – Good evening
- Laku noć (Лаку ноћ) – Goodnight
- Srećan dan (Срећан дан) – Have a nice day
Special Serbian Greetings
In addition to everyday greetings, Serbian culture also features special greetings for important occasions and holidays. These greetings carry deep cultural significance and are a wonderful way to connect with locals during festive times. Let’s explore some of these special Serbian greetings.
Serbian Christmas Greetings
In Serbia, Christmas is referred to as Božić. This name is a diminutive form derived from the word “bog,” meaning “god,” and can be translated as “young god.”
The Serbian Christmas celebration spans three consecutive days, commencing with what they call the first day of Christmas, which corresponds to Christmas Day.
The Serbian greetings shared during the Christmas season area meant to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ:
- Hristos se rodi! (Христос се роди!) – Christ is born!Response: Vaistinu se rodi! (Ваистину се роди!) – Truly, He is born!)
Serbian Easter Greetings
In Serbia, Easter is marked by a plethora of traditions, including the decoration and play of eggs, quality time spent with family and friends, and a generous feast following a significant period of fasting.
From a religious perspective, Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and this is reflected in the most popular Serbian Easter greetings:
- Hristos voskrese! (Христос воскресе!) – Christ is risen!Response: Vaistinu voskrese! (Ваистину воскресе!) – Truly, He is risen!
Serbian “Happy Birthday”
Celebrating a birthday in Serbia is a joyful occasion filled with good wishes and heartfelt greetings. To wish someone a happy birthday in Serbian, you can say:
- Srećan rođendan! (Срећан рођендан!) – Serbian “Happy Birthday!”
This simple yet warm greeting is sure to bring a smile to the birthday person’s face, just like anywhere else in the world.
Serbian Phrases to Get By
In this section, we’ll explore essential Serbian phrases categorised into three main scenarios: shopping, eating out, and asking for help.
Whether you’re bargaining at a local market, savouring a traditional Serbian dish, or seeking assistance, they will prove invaluable during your journey.
- Koliko košta? (Колико кошта?) – How much does it cost?
- Mogu li dobiti popust? (Могу ли добити попуст?) – Can I get a discount?
- Ovo je preskupo. (Ово је прескупо.) – This is too expensive.
- Da li imate veći broj? (Да ли имате већи број?) – Do you have a larger size?
- Gde je WC? (Где је ВЦ?) – Where is the restroom?
- Meni, molim (Мени, молим) – Menu, please.
- Jedan (Један), dva (Два), tri (Три) – One, two, three (useful for ordering quantities).
- Hljeb (Хљеб) – Bread.
- Voda (Вода) – Water.
- Račun, molim (Рачун, молим) – The check, please.
Asking for Help
- Molim vas, možete li mi pomoći? (Молим вас, можете ли ми помоћи?) – Excuse me, can you help me?
- Gde se nalazi autobusna stanica? (Где се налази аутобусна станица?) – Where is the bus station?
- Hitna pomoć (Хитна помоћ) – Emergency (useful in case of urgent situations).
- Govorite li engleski? (Говорите ли енглески?) – Do you speak English?
Serbian Bad Words: A Different Kind of Language Lesson
In any language, there are not only polite and essential phrases but also a collection of not-so-polite words and expressions. Well, Serbian is no exception!
While we typically focus on teaching useful and respectful phrases, it’s worth acknowledging that sometimes learning a few “bad words” can lead to humorous and bonding experiences, especially when you and your foreign new friends start comparing them to their English equivalents and find similarities and differences between both languages.
So, without further ado, let’s take a lighthearted look at a few Serbian swear words and their English equivalents:
- Svrbi me uvo! (Сврђи ме уво!) – Fuck my ear!
- Jebi se (Јеби се) – F*ck you
- Jebiga (Јебига) – F*ck it
- Jebes (Јебес) – F*ck off
- Kuguar (Кугуар) – Bastard
- Majmun (Мајмун) – Asshole
- Idi u pičku materinu (Иди у пичку материну) – Literally: ‘Go in mothers’ p*ssy’
- Idi u kurac (ди у курац) – Literally: Go in a d*ck.
In this article, we explored basic Serbian phrases, greetings, and even a few Serbian bad words to help you understand the culture and connect with locals more easily.
By learning a few essential phrases in Serbian, you’ll have no problem getting around and making connections with people – just remember to use your newfound language knowledge responsibly!
Would you like to take a few personalised Serbian lessons? At Listen & Learn, we offer online one-on-one classes with experienced Serbian-speaking teachers. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, our teachers are here to help you learn Serbian in the most engaging and effective way possible. Contact Listen & Learn today to book your first class!