Boost Your Vocab with Serbian Synonyms: 15 Word Pairs to Spice up Your Conversations

Two women holding pink flowers in a field.

Saying that you’re cold when you’re actually freezing is a clear sign that your English word bank could use some boosting. But we aren’t here to discuss English. Instead, we’ll help you enrich your vocab with Serbian synonyms.

Since most of these don’t have exactly the same meaning, learning them will also help you talk with more precision and use words that are perfect for the context.

If all this sounds good, let’s cut to the chase and dive headfirst into Serbian synonyms!

1. država | zemlja

(Country)

 

Država and zemlja mean pretty much the same — country. So, you could use them like this:

A: Srbija je mala zemlja na Balkanu.

B: Srbija je mala država na Balkanu.

(Serbia is a small country in the Balkans.)

As you can see, these two are interchangeable. However, unlike država, the word zemlja can also mean soil or the planet Earth.

Soil: Srbija je bogata plodnom zemljom.

(Serbia is rich in fertile soil.)

Earth: Zemlja je jedina poznata planeta na kojoj postoji život.

(Earth is the only known planet where life exists.)

2. sjajno | odlično

(Great, amazing)

 

If asked how your vacation was, you can say:

A: Bilo je sjajno.

B: Bilo je odlično.

Both replies mean the same — it was amazing. So, as an adverb, there isn’t much difference between the two.

We can also use them as adjectives:

A: Gledala sam odličan film.

B: Gledala sam sjajan film.

Again, these mean the same — I watched a great movie.

However, as an adjective, sjajno has another meaning — shiny. Here’s an example:

Nebo je puno sjajnih zvezda.

(The sky is full of shiny stars.)

Bear in mind that odlično doesn’t fit into this context.

3. kupovina | šoping

(Shopping)

Are you a shopping buff? If you are, the Serbian language has two words to describe your favorite activity. To be more precise, shopping is both kupovina and šoping.

A: Svakog vikenda idem u kupovinu.

B: Svakog vikenda idem u šoping.

(I go shopping every weekend.)

The main difference is that šoping is a loanword from the English language. In addition to that, it’s usually not used to describe going to a supermarket and buying food. Instead, it’s a more fun kind of shopping, like going to a mall and buying clothes, shoes, or accessories. At the same time, kupovina is just shopping in general.

4. torba | tašna

(Bag)

 

Perhaps the previous synonym pair made you want to go on a shopping spree. Maybe you did and bought yourself a new bag. But now, you’re wondering What is it that I just bought, torba or tašna?

Well, it’s both. So, you can say:

A: Kupila sam prelepu tašnu sa animal printom.

B: Kupila sam prelepu torbu sa animal printom.

(I bought a gorgeous bag with animal print.)

5. pas | ker

(Dog)

 

Both pas and ker are the same animal — a dog. But the ways people use these two words are completely different. While pas is a neutral term, if someone uses the word ker, they probably don’t like dogs that much.

To illustrate, here are two examples:

(Pas)

Volela bih da imam psa, ali nemam vremena da brinem o njemu.

(I’d like to have a dog, but I don’t have time to take care of it.)

 

(Ker)

Gledaj ga, gura kera u kolicima. Bolje bi mu bilo da gura bebu.

(Look at him pushing a dog in a stroller. He’d better push a baby instead.)

And if you’re wondering, yes, this is exactly what Serbian dog-haters often say, but that’s a topic for another time. 😊

6. lekar | doktor

(Doctor)

How would you say I need to see a doctor?

A: Moram da idem kod lekara.

B: Moram da idem kod doktora.

Technically, these two aren’t identical. Namely, lekar is a physician — a person who practices medicine. On the other hand, doktor is short for doctor of Medicine, i.e. someone who has a PhD in medicine. However, most people couldn’t care less about this distinction and just use whichever comes to mind first.

7. porodica | familija

(Family)

 

You can probably guess that both porodica and familija mean family. So, you can use them interchangeably:

A: Provešću praznike sa porodicom.

B: Provešću praznike sa familijom.

(I’ll spend the holidays with my family.)

However, many people use familija when talking about extended family. And since most Serbs have enormous extended families, if they’re spending holidays with familija, that can be upwords of 40 people when you count in all grandparents, aunts, uncles, their kids, and all those in-laws. Needless to say, family reunions in this country are huge!

Many people at a concert.
Just my Serbian familija 😅

8. kompjuter | računar

(Computer)

 

Are you reading this article on your računar or kompjuter? Well, it’s probably your smartphone, but you get the point. So, both words mean computer.

A: Uključi kompjuter i pusti film.

B: Uključi računar i pusti film.

(Turn on the computer and play the movie.)

Obviously, the former is easier to remember, especially for English speakers. Still, Serbs use them pretty much interchangeably, so it’s best to remember both terms.

A desktop computer with purple background light.
Kompjuter ili računar? Both!

9. kuća | dom

(House, home)

 

Since both words refer to a place where one lives, these qualify as synonyms. But, the distinction between the two words is similar to house and home in English. Specifically, kuća is a building where people live (house), and dom is a feeling of belonging at a place (home).

A: Vikendom obično raspremamo kuću.

(At weekends, we usually tidy up the house.)

B: Ovo je moj dom. Tu pripadam.

(This is my home. I belong there.)

While this pair of Serbian synonyms correspond to their English counterparts in these examples, that’s not always the case. So, although you’d say I’m going home in English, in Serbian, it’s Idem kući.

10. hodati | šetati se

(To walk, to take a walk)

 

Now, these verbs are examples of near-synonyms. In other words, their meanings are related but not identical.

A: Lakše je hodati nizbrdo nego uzbrdo.

(It’s easier to walk downhill than uphill.)

B: Svaki dan se šetam pored reke.

(Every day, I take a walk along the river.)

As these examples show, šetati se means to take a walk, usually for fun or to relax. On the other hand, hodati is just the act of walking.

11. igrati | plesati

(To dance)

 

If you want to ask someone to a dance, you can go with either of the following:

A: Hajde da igramo.

B: Hajde da plešemo.

Both mean Let’s dance. However, while plesati only has this meaning, igrati can also mean to play. So, you could say:

Moj brat igra video igrice po ceo dan.

(My brother plays video games all day long.)

12. ljut | besan

(Angry, furious)

 

While both adjectives describe an angry person, besan sometimes could be a bit more intense.

A: Učiteljica je bila ljuta na mene.

(The teacher was angry with me.)

B: Učiteljica je bila besna na mene.

(The teacher was furious with me.)

So, the person in the first example might have forgotten to do their homework. In contrast, the student from the second example has done something so bad that we don’t even want to know what that is.

Please keep in mind that in many other situations, these two words are absolute synonyms.

An angry-looking woman holding her fists up in the air.
Učiteljica nije ljuta, ona je besna 😡

13. par | nekoliko

(Several)

 

Strictly speaking, par (a couple of) should be two things. In most cases, though, it’s not an exact number. So, it can be two but also four or five things. In other words, you can use it instead of nekoliko. For example:

A: Vidimo se za par dana.

(See you in a couple of days.)

B: Vidimo se za nekoliko dana.

(See you in a few days.)

Neither of these sentences tells you exactly how many days it will be.

14. hladno | ledeno

(Cold, freezing)

 

Going back to the example from our introduction, if you go to the beach on a chili summer day, you can say:

Baš je hladna voda.

(The water is so cold.)

But, in another season (especially winter), the water is probably going to be much colder. Then, saying the following makes more sense:

Voda je ledena.

(The water is freezing.)

A man swimming in frozen water.
Voda nije hladna. Ledena je 🥶

15. najzad | konačno

(Finally)

 

Finally, here are two adverbs that mean, well, exactly that — finally. So, when watching a movie that happens to be a real yawn-fest, you can say:

A: Najzad se završio.

B: Konačno se završio.

(It finally ended.)

They mean the same when we use them this way. But the distinction is that konačno can also be an adjective, unlike its counterpart. Here’s how to use it in that case:

Ovo je moja konačna odluka.

(This is my final decision.)

Keep Learning Serbian Synonyms

No doubt, learning Serbian synonyms will amp up your ability to express yourself and allow you to communicate more complex ideas and thoughts. So, going forward, try to remember words in pairs, keeping in mind all their nuances and differences.

 

Admittedly, these are sometimes quite subtle, so don’t worry if you can’t figure them out right off the bat. With time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it. That said, practicing Serbian synonyms in a supportive environment will speed things up, so, join our group classes and practice them with fellow learners and our experienced teachers!

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