Written by: Milica Bokšan

untranslatable serbian words boy thinking
How to translate all of this?

Untranslatable Serbian words are probably one of the more interesting aspects of the Serbian language.

These words and phrases introduce you to the culture of the Serbian people and help you understand it even better.

Here are the words and expressions that are almost untranslatable into other languages, including English.

#1 Untranslatable Serbian words: Bre meaning

The word bre belongs to Serbian slang words and probably no Serb or Serbian woman does not use the word bre in their speech.

While some words from this list can still be translated to some extent, there is no translation in English.

It is often used to emphasize something, such as:

  • Kako je lepa bre! (= How beautiful she is!)

Or to warn someone while he is doing something:

  • Ej bre ti! (= Hey you!)

You should know that even if it sounds harsh, it doesn’t always have to be associated with something negative.

2# Untranslatable Serbian words: Inat meaning

Inat is something Serbs are sometimes proud of because it can also be seen as disobeying meaningless rules.

Synonyms could be defiance and stubbornness, but it is still not a literal translation of the Serbian word inat.

Inat means that we deliberately do not want to do something that maybe we should or that someone advises us to do. Sometimes the reasons for it are justified, and sometimes not, so it can also have a negative connotation. It’s often used in the phrase terati inat, which can sometimes be translated as to do something out of spite.

For example:

  • Rekla sam mu da ne razgovara sa mnom tako, ali on tera inat. (= I told him not to talk to me like that, but he keeps pushing.)

#3 Untranslatable Serbian words: Ćef meaning

Ćef is a word of Arabic origin, but it took root in the Serbian language many centuries ago.

The most similar translation would be good mood, the will to do something, but it actually denotes some higher degree of good mood.

untranslatable serbian words girl enjoyment
It’s so good to be in a good mood!

Serbs use it when they want to say that something very special gives them pleasure, that something gives them exceptional enjoyment.

For example:

  • Baš mi je ćef da probam neku novu hranu. Hoćeš sa mnom u onaj novi indijski? (= I really feel like trying some new food. Do you want to go with me to that new Indian place?)

#4 Untranslatable Serbian words: Merak meaning

Merak is a word of Turkish origin, and its meaning is somewhat similar to the word ćef. It means feeling great pleasure in doing something or longing for something.

For example:

  • Merak mi je kad posle napornog dana popijem čašu vina. (= It feels so good to drink a glass of wine after a long day)

Perhaps you will get the best insight into what kind of emotion it implies if you listen to Zdravko Čolić’s song of the same name.

#5 Untranslatable Serbian words: Skarabudžiti meaning

Skarabudžiti is one of the completely untranslatable Serbian words. It means that someone did or made something without any meaning, purely to be able to say that he did it, without will and effort. For example:

  • Baš si skarabudžio taj domaći zadatak. ( indirect translation = You did that homework really badly, and with no effort.)

You can also use it to say you did something fast, without a lot of planning or thinking. For example:

  • Šta ćemo za ručak? (=What shall we do for lunch?)
  • Ne znam, sad ćemo da skarabudžimo nešto. (=I don’t know, we will cook something up now)

#6 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Malo sutra meaning

Malo sutra can literally be translated into English as A little bit tomorrow, but in that case, it loses its meaning entirely.

Zapavo Malo sutra is used by Serbs to indicate something that will definitely not happen.

  • Rekla mi je da će sigurno doći na koncert. (= She told me that she will definitely come to the concert.)
  • Malo sutra. (= Yeah, right.)

#7 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Kako da ne meaning

Serbian untranslatable phrase Kako da ne meaning How yes no has almost the same meaning as the previous phrase.

  • Mislim da će sutra biti sjajno na poslu. (= I think tomorrow will be great at work.)
  • Kako da ne. (No way.)
untranslatable serbian words sceptical dog
I have some doubts about that.

#8 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Kakvi bakrači meaning

Bakrač is a type of cauldron, a vessel that was once used to prepare food.

But the proverb Kakvi bakrači refers to something irrelevant, unimportant, or unnecessary. It’s often used as a part of the Serbian phrase: ma kakav/kakva …, kakvi bakrači!

  • Hoćeš da kupiš najnoviji miš za kompjuter? (= Want to buy the latest computer mouse?)
  • Ma kakav miš, kakvi bakrači! (indirect translation = What mouse, of course not, what a silly suggestion!)

#9 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Pundravci meaning

Pundravci (meaning pinworms) are parasites that cause itching.

We must say that in Serbian, this word is very ingeniously used when someone is fidgeting, can’t sit still, and similar.

  • Šta je s njim, stalno se nešto vrpolji? (= What’s wrong with him, why is he constantly fidgeting?)
  • Stvarno ne znam, ko da ima pundravce. (= I don’t know, he’s acting like he has pinworms.)

#10 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Medveđa usluga meaning

Medveđa usluga is actually a service or help that does no good. In other words, it does more harm than good. It’s usually used when we want to help someone out, but in the long run, we harm them.

It could be translated as a disservice.

  • Moram da pomognem Petru oko domaćeg posle škole! (= I need to help Petar with his homework after school!)
  • Ivana, činiš mu medveđu uslugu. Pomoći ćeš mu sad, ali dete neće steći radne navike. Pusti ga da nauči da se brine sam o svojim obavezama. (= Ivana, you’re doing him a disservice. You will help him now, but the child won’t develop work habits. Let him learn to take care of his own duties.)
untranslatable serbian words bear nature
I have nothing to do with this.

#11 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Kobajagi meaning

Kobajagi is used when something is being done only apparently.

For example, when someone pretends to care about something they really don’t.

  • Pitala me je kako sam. Kobajagi je zanima, a nije me zvala danima. (= She asked me how I was. Kobajagi (meaning she pretends like) she wants to know, but she didn’t call me for days.)

#12 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Izvoditi besne gliste meaning

When someone does something stupid or does something that is not like that person, we can say Izvodi besne gliste meaning He acts silly. Also, it’s often used for children when they don’t want to do something on purpose.

  • Ali, mama, neću da jedem povrće! (= But mom, I don’t want to eat vegetables!)
  • Prekini da izvodiš besne gliste i jedi! (= Stop fooling around and eat!)

You can check out an illustration of this Serbian phrase made by an artist called Zmajast. She has illustrated many Serbian phrases with explanations in English!

#13 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Vukojebina meaning

Vukojebina is an untranslatable Serbian word that actually belongs to swear words.

In the literal sense, it could be used as a wolf’s den where no one enters.

It means a place far from everything, where you can find nothing and no one lives.

  • Je l’ ti znaš gde smo ovo stigli? (= Do you know where we got to?)
  • Nemam pojma, izgleda kao vukojebina. (= I have no idea, it looks like vukojebina.)

#14 Untranslatable Serbian phrases: Da izvineš meaning

In literal translation, Da izvineš would be “I apologize” but its use is completely different than actually saying you’re sorry! It is used in English “Pardon my French”, when you’re about to say a bad word or you have just said it. Or if you’re sensing that a person might think something has a sexual connotation.

Actually, da izvineš is grammatically incorrect, and it should be da izviniš, but most Serbian natives don’t use the correct version!

Let’s see some examples of the meaning of Da izvineš:

  • I onda, da izvineš, gurneš jako da se lepo namesti. (= And then, pardon my French, you push it hard so it fits well)

  • Da izvineš, nek jede on govna! (= Pardon my French, but f*ck him!)
serbian untranslatable words and phrases da izvineš meaning
I shouldn’t have said that!

This expression could be somewhat related to the English idiom It is apples and oranges, but they clearly have something in common.

To Sum Up the Untranslateable Serbian Phrases

Although there are more untranslatable Serbian words and phrases, we don’t want to do you a medveđu uslugu and overload you with too many new Serbian expressions.

But if you are interested in more interesting things about the Serbian language, then it is the right time to schedule your online Serbian lessons and learn a lot more.