BRE in Serbian

what does bre mean in serbian

BRE! I can’t think of a more powerful tiny word in an entire Serbian language. There’s just so much in this word, that goes beyond language itself.

There are certain words that are difficult to be translated into other languages. BRE is one of them. This interjection doesn’t really have an exact meaning, but we love to squeeze it in wherever we can, to intensify what we’re talking about, and to add some passion to our conversation.

BRE is used in almost any possible context – if you’re surprised, annoyed, nervous, you name it! Be careful, though! Do not overuse it, and especially avoid it in formal situations. This word is for friends, family, and people who you know well, not for your boss or a business partner. You will also never hear it in the standard Serbian language used in media. It is highly colloquial, yet so handy that you won’t meet a person who doesn’t use it regularly.

When do we use BRE

Let me illustrate some examples of its ubiquity in Serbian. BRE can be used:

  • to draw someone’s attention:

Ćao bre! (= Hi, man!)

Gde si bre!? (=What’s up, bro!?)

Alo bre! (=Hey man!)

  • to emphasize a statement:

Kako si, bre, dosadan! (=Dude, you are so boring!)

Što si lepa, bre! (=You are so pretty!)

  • to express:
  • wonder: Šta je, bre, ovo!? (=What the hell is this?)
  • dissaproval, anger: Ma beži, bre! (=Get out of here!) Ne laži, bre! (=Do not lie to me!)
  • approval, admiration: Tako je, bre! (=Great job, man!)
  • surprise: Otkud, bre, vi ovde!? (=What the hell are you doing here?)
  • order, command: Ćuti bre! (=Shut up!) Slušaj, bre! (=Listen up!) Čekaj, bre! (=Wait!)
  • warning, threat: Ubiću te, bre! (=I’m going to kill you, man!)
  • encouragement: ’Ajmo bre! (=Let’s do this, bro!)
  • reproach: Da li si, bre, normalan!? (=Are you nuts!?)
people talking in Serbian
Šta ti je, bre!? Opusti se!

Origin of the word BRE

Nobody knows for sure where did we get this word from. There are some, completely different theories, and each of them is so interesting, that we just can’t decide which one to believe in.

  • According to the first theory, BRE comes from the ancient Greek language, and it is closely related to the word MORE (not with a long ’o’, like in the Serbian word for the sea, but with a short vowel) – none of them can be easily translated, but their meaning is very close to ’hey you, hey man’. The story starts with the Greek word μωρός, more precisely its form μορέ (moré). Initially, it was used with the meaning ’stupid, foolish, feeble-minded person’, but later it lost this negative connotation. Most likely BRE came to Serbian language through Turkish, as Turkish language treats it as a loan word from Greek. This would explain the presence of BRE (or even BE) in Macedonian, Bulgarian, Modern Greek, Albanian, Romanian, and some Turkish dialects.
  • Another interpretation is that BRE is just a shorter version of ’brate’ (Serbian word for ’brother’ in Vocative case). Apparently, this is the same way as ’brother’ became ’bro’ in English slang.
  • The most recent theory says that BRE originates from the Ladino language (spoken by Sephardi Jews in Spain). In the 16th century, they ran away from Spain and many of them settled in Belgrade. They built a large Jewish community in the Serbian capital over the years. The word ’hombre’ (Spanish for ’man’) was heard very often among them, that might have led local people to shorten it to ’bre’.
people talking in Serbian
'Ajmo bre, Jokiću!

Either way, if you’re a foreigner learning Serbian, don’t be shy with adding BRE to your vocabulary – you’ll sound way more natural and relaxed, and Serbs will love it! Veruj mi, bre!

How do you learn other natural words and phrases, that you won’t find in coursebooks for learning Serbian? The best way to do it is to listen to native speakers and practice conversation with your Serbian teacher. Apply for our individual or group lessons and start speaking Serbian with confidence.

2 Responses

    1. Good question! 🙂 How yes now is the literal translation of that phrase. It actually means “of course/naturally”.

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