83 Depth and Distance: Abstract Nouns


In Croatian, as in English, many adjectives (e.g. deep) have associated abstract nouns (e.g. depth).

As in English, various adjectives use various suffixes to create abstract nouns in Croatian. For some adjectives, -ina gets added to create an abstract noun:

brz fastbrzina speed, velocity
topao (topl-) warmtoplina warmth, heat ®
vješt skilledvještina skill
vruć hotvrućina heat (extreme)

Of the two nouns standing for heat, only the noun toplina is used in the generic sense, e.g. in science. As you can see, the resulting noun has always stress on the i from the suffix.

Some the derived nouns have a non-abstract meaning:

divlji wilddivljina wilderness
šupalj (šuplj-) hollowšupljina cavity

Adjectives that discard a part of them when making a comparative (e.g. -ok or -ak), discard it as well when making abstract nouns:

dubok deepdubina depth
širok wideširina width
težak (tešk-) heavytežina weight
visok highvisina height, altitude

For some adjectives, there’s a shift in consonants, the same as in comparatives:

debeo (debel) thick, fatdebljina thickness
jak strongjačina strength
tih quiet, silenttišina silence

(Abstract nouns don’t always have a shift when comparatives have one: for instance, from visok, the comparative is viši, but the abstract noun is visina, without the shift sš.)

Abstract nouns can even be derived from some question-words that behave like adjectives, and even from few comparatives; results are often very generic nouns:

kolik how bigkoličina quantity
manji smallermanjina minority
velik bigveličina size
veći biggervećina majority

Certain once abstract nouns evolved specific meanings, e.g. nizina means lowlands.

Abstract nouns in -ina have relational adjectives in -ski:

dubina depthdubinski
toplina heattoplinski
većina majorityvećinski
visina heightvisinski

Few adjectives make abstract nouns by adding -oća:

čist cleančistoća cleanliness
gluh deafgluhoća deafness
hladan (hladn-) coldhladnoća cold

Very few adjectives add -ota. If adjectives contain a sequence ije, it’s shortened to je in abstract nouns:

lijep nice, prettyljepota beauty
slijep blindsljepoća blindness

Next, there are few adjectives that add -stvo, creating neuter nouns (after discarding the final -n in adjectives, if present). The stress is on the syllable right before the suffix:

bogat richbogatstvo richness
iskusan (iskusn-) experiencediskustvo experience
siromašan (siromašn-) poorsiromaštvo poverty
zadovoljan (zadovoljn-) satisfiedzadovoljstvo satisfaction

This suffix is use to create abstract nouns out of a couple of other nouns as well (the process is not always regular):

car emperorcarstvo empire
član memberčlanstvo membership
kralj kingkraljevstvo kingdom
prijatelj friendprijateljstvo friendship

The vast majority of adjectives use another suffix to make abstract nouns: -ost (or a variation, -nost). It can be, in fact, regarded as the default suffix for abstract nouns. The result is always a feminine noun ending in a consonant:

glup stupidglupost f stupidity
mlad youngmladost f youth, young age
slab weakslabost f weakness
star oldstarost f age

This suffix creates three quite important nouns, from present adjectives and a past adjective:

budući futurebudućnost f future
moguć possiblemogućnost f possibility
prošao (prošl-) pastprošlost f past

The stress is mostly moved to the syllable that precedes the suffix. More important nouns created by this suffix:

opasan (opasn-) dangerousopasnost f danger
sličan (sličn-) similar, alikesličnost f similarity
slučajan (slučajn-) accidentalslučajnost f coincidence
stvaran (stvarn-) realstvarnost f reality
udaljen distantudaljenost f distance
važan (važn-) importantvažnost f importance

Passive adjectives always use this suffix to create abstract nouns, usually corresponding to English -ness:

gledan watched (also popular)→ gledanost f viewer ratings
otvoren openotvorenost f openness

The noun gledanost f means literally watchedness (however, this is an extremely rare English word).

Potential adjectives always use this suffix to create abstract nouns as well:

vidljiv visiblevidljivost f visibility
osjetljiv sensitiveosjetljivost f sensitivity

This is maybe the place to show the full range of derived words from a single (perfective) verb (of course, not all verbs have all the possible forms):

verb adjectives (verbal) nouns
isključiti («)
perf. exclude
(also turn off)
(turned off)
isključenost f
isključivost f

In addition, there are (for most potential and passive adjectives), negated adjectives, and derived negated abstract words; for example:

vidljiv visible
vidljivost f visibility
nevidljiv invisible
nevidljivost f invisibility

Such negated adjectives and abstract nouns are always derived by appending ne-.

Some nouns created by -ost have meaning that’s not obvious from the adjective they are derived from:

umjetan (umjetn-) artificialumjetnost f art

While English art has a wide meaning, Croatian umjetnost f means only painting, making sculptures and other high arts.

Some nouns changed meaning over time, or the adjectives they were created from fell out of use:

prednost f priority, advantage
radost f joy
znanost f science ®
žalost f sadness

Abstract nouns that don’t end in -ina usually don’t have relational adjectives – the adjectives they are derived from are used in relational meaning too – or form relational adjectives irregularly:

starost f old agestarački
umjetnost f artumjetnički
znanost f scienceznanstven scientific ®

The relational adjectives starački and umjetnički are actually derived from nouns starac (starc-) old man and umjetnik artist.

Finally, it’s interesting that there are more abstract feminine nouns that don’t end in -a, which seem to be (at least historically) derived with -t. Common ones are:

bit f essence, gist
čast f honor
moć f might, power
pomoć f help
povijest f history ®
propast f downfall
smrt f death
strast f passion
vijest f news
vlast f authority, government


® The word znanost f science is specific to Croatia. In Bosnia and Serbia, the word nauka is more common; instead of toplina heat, toplota is used in Bosnia and Serbia. For nauka, the relational adjective is simply naučni.

Instead of povijest, the word for history is historija in parts of Bosnia, and istorija in Serbia and parts of Bosnia with Serbian majority.

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5 Easy Croatian: 83 Depth and Distance: Abstract Nouns N A  DL  G 24 I V In Croatian, as in English, many adjectives (e.g. deep ) have associated abstract nouns (e.g. depth ). As i...

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