Variations: Regional

Some colloquial words in Croatian – which often means very frequent in speech and writing – vary by region, they are known only in one region, e.g. šlapa house slipper, to the point that frequently people from other regions will not be able to understand it.

Most variations in vocabulary are inland vs. coastal regions. The following colloquial nouns are commonly used in the coastal region (this is just a short list, there are many more):

  Std./inland coast
bed sheet plahta lancun
fork vilica pirun
pillow jastuk kušin
towel ručnik šugaman
tracksuit, sweatsuit trenirka trenerka

As you’ll see later, many such terms are related to home, especially food an cooking.

Often, there are triplets – one colloquial word dominates inland, another dominates coastal areas, and there’s a standard word which is used rarely:

  Standard inland coast
clothing iron glačalo pegla šumpreš
screwdriver odvijač šrafciger kacavida
shoelaces vezice f pl. žniranci m pl. špigete f pl.
small meal
lunch during work
ručak (ručk-)
gablec marenda
(see below)
tomato rajčica paradajz pom
bathroom sink umivaonik lavabo m lavandin

So, here’s is the third term used for the clothing iron in Croatia. Some coastal-specific terms, such as šumpreš, are getting rare, at least in public, while inland (or standard) terms dominate. (Try Googling™ for šumpreš). However, marenda or pomidor are very common.

Meanings of these words can vary: in Split, marenda is a small meal, snack, while in Rijeka, marenda also means lunch (i.e. a cooked meal, eaten at the lunch break at work).

The noun lavabo changes like any masculine noun, e.g. u lavabou in bathroom sink – the final vowel is never dropped, unlike in auto (aut-) m car.

There are also triplets where all three terms are common in real life:

  Standard inland coast
screw (noun) vijak (vijk-) šaraf vida
slice (of cake, bread) kriška šnita feta
faucet / tap slavina pipa špina

You can find more about features of language colloquially used in most coastal regions in Variations: Ikavian (dite vs dijete). (Note that colloquial use in Croatia includes also many novels, poetry and popular songs.)

Yet other colloquial words are restricted to just one age group, usually teenagers and young adults, e.g. frend friend (feminine version: frendica). It’s used at many places, but not by many grandmothers.

English has many word pairs, where one word is an inherited Germanic word, and another came from French or Latin (e.g. freedom/liberty, stay/remain, etc.). Croatian has similar pairs, where one word is inherited from Slavic, while another is Turkic or Greek:

  Slavic Turkic/Greek
bed postelja krevet
well zdenac (zdenc-) bunar
kerchief rubac (rupc-) marama

Both words are used, and interestingly, often Turkic or Greek words prevail in standard use, even in actual speech, while Slavic prevail in some (western and coastal) regions, which were less influenced by Turks, and are found in poetry.

Besides colloquial words, there are colloquial ways of expressing various things. One such thing is telling time in 12-hour manner, and in quarters and halves. It has two variants, inland and coastal:

time inland coast
14:00 dva dva
14:15 frtalj tri dva i kvarat
14:30 pol(a) tri ® dva i po(l)
14:45 tri frtalj tri
tri frtalja tri
tri manje kvarat
dva i trikvarat
15:00 tri tri

Observe that inland, number of quarters is relative the last full hour, but expressions use the next hour! This is a quite non-obvious way to express time. This is similar to ways in Southern Germany and Austria (and frtalj (frtalj-) comes from German ‘viertel’, meaning quarter). The same non-obvious scheme is common in Hungarian.

This is only a very shallow outline of the real language diversity in Croatia. If we would add neighboring countries (i.e. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) we would have more variation, especially in terms related to home and cooking, names of various tools, etc. Terms in Serbia sometimes are more common with colloquial terms in inland Croatia, due to the common German influence, so paradajz is spoken in both Zagreb and Belgrade; however, there are also many terms used in Serbia which are almost unknown in Croatia. A very brief overview of such terms is given in A9 Bosnian, Serbian and Montenegrin.


® Expressing 14:30 as pola tri is also very common in Serbia and Bosnia, but tri frtalja tri = 14:45 is unknown in these countries.

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5 Easy Croatian: Variations: Regional Some colloquial words in Croatian – which often means very frequent in speech and writing – vary by region, they are known only in one regi...

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