Speaking Ragusan – The Dubrovnik Dialect Explored

Lauren Simmonds

dubrovnik dialect

March the 14th, 2024 – How much do you know about the Dubrovnik dialect? It’s the least widely spoken of all of the many subdialects of the Croatian language and was once deemed to be independent…

Standard Croatian is complicated enough for the vast majority of people, but what about all of the different dialects? Put someone from Zagorje and someone from the island of Brac (or should I say Broc, as the natives call it) in a room together and watch one try to understand what the other is saying. They’ll have quite the job on their hands if they’re both speaking in their natural ways. There are many places across Croatia where similar phenomena occur, and some words will sadly die with the last generation using them, including many old Dalmatian words which are rarely, if ever, spoken anymore.

Let’s explore the Dubrovnik subdialect, which draws its origins and influences from both Venetian and Florentine dialects of the Italian language and from the Ragusan dialect of Dalmatian. It is spoken down in the extreme south of Dalmatia and is a subdialect of the Shtokavian dialect.

Known simply as ‘Dubrovacki jezik (Dubrovnik language) or Dubrovacki govor (the Dubrovnik way of speaking)’, it is spoken around the border area of Croatia and Montenegro, across the Dubrovnik area, up to parts of the Peljesac Peninsula. In short, it is spoken or used in some way (most commonly in literary texts of a certain age) in the areas which once belonged to the former Dubrovnik Republic (Ragusa), which was independent from 1368 all the way until 1808, when it ceased to exist at the end of the January of that same year.

Let’s have a look at some words used in the Dubrovnik subdialect, with three Dubrovnik words and their English and standard Croatian translations per letter of the alphabet (with the exception of the letters which don’t exist in Croatian at all, that is). Many of them will be more familiar than you’d expect, especially if you speak Italian or other Dalmatian dialects.

Akomodat – to adapt/prilagoditi se

Avizat – to let someone know something or to give them some news/obavijestiti

Arivat – to arrive/doci or stici

Balat – to dance/plesati 

Bagaji – luggage or bags/prtljaga

Balun – ball/lopta

Crevje – shoes/cipele

Cukarina – diabetes/secerna bolest (Cukar is also sugar/secer)

Catara – a floating platform such as a ferry/plutajuca platforma/trajekt

Dentijera – false teeth/umjetni zubi

Dinja – water melon/lubenica

Dotur – doctor/lijecnik (doktor)

Ebeta – idiot/budala

Entrata – entrance/ulaz

Eletrika – electricity/struja

Falso – fake or false/neistinito or umjetno

Febra – fever or temperature/temperatura

Favor – a service/usluga

Golokud – corn/kukuruz

Grub – ugly or no good/ruzan

Grop – a knot/cvor

Halav – dirty or unclean/prljav

Hitati – to catch something/hvatati or loviti

Homo – let’s go/idemo

Impicavat – to make someone angry/ljutiti nekoga

Iskat – to look or search for something/traziti

Isat – to lift something up/podici

Jaketa – jacket/jakna

Jedit – to get angry/ljutiti se

Janka – a net intended for small fish/mreza za male ribe

Kapelin – a woman’s hat/zenski sesir

Kapac – someone who is responsible or accountable/sposoban

Ke’ nova – what’s new? how’s it going? how’re you doing?/sta ima novoga? sta ima? kako ste/si?

Lapis – pencil/olovka

Legat – to read/citati

Lentrat – to take a photo of someone/fotografirati kamerom

Manina – bracelet/narukvica

Mirakul – miracle/cudo

Mrkatunja – quince/dunja

Nepuca – niece/necakinja

Neput – nephew/necak

Nevera – bad weather/nevrijeme

Olignji – squid/lignje

Ombrela – umbrella/kisobran

Orcat – to work hard or a lot/puno raditi

Para se – it seems/cini se

Pengat – to draw or colour in/crtati or bojati

Porat – port/luka

Riceta – recipe/recept

Roncat – to make a noise/praviti buku

Redjipet – bra/grudnjak

Saket – bag/vrecica

Sikur – to be sure/siguran

Skaline – steps or stairs/stepenice

Tinel – living room/dnevni boravak

Takujin – wallet/novcanik

Tapit – carpet/tepih

Ufat se – to hope/nadati se

Ukopeciti se – to freeze/smrznuti se

Uzanca – a custom or habit/obicaj or navika

Ventat – to let some fresh air in or ventilate a room/prozraciti

Vizita – to pay a visit/posjet

Vonj – a smell or scent/miris

Zambon – cooked ham/kuhana sunka

Zivina – animal/zivotinja

Zmuo – glass/casa


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment