Easter in Serbia: Revealing the Diglossic Holiday

Easter in Serbia: the Diglossic Holiday

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić

Easter in Serbia: Revealing the Diglossic Holiday 1

Easter in Serbia is a very fun experience. We boil and color eggs, usually on Good Friday. There are traditional methods, involving plants, wax and onion peels, and then there are the modern dyes and stickers. We use different methods because the Easter eggs in Serbia must be multicolored.

Watch this video about how we color eggs for Easter in Serbia. It’s in Serbian, so don’t forget to turn on the English captions, if you need.

The first red egg is the “čuvarkuća” (house guard). We put it on a shelve to guards our home until the next Easter, when it’s replaced. Then on Easter, we use the colored eggs in a jolly competition: We crack them, and the strongest egg wins!  

There is also a special greeting we use on Easter only, and it’s similar to the Christmas greeting. But the Easter greeting is a bit controversial. And I bet you’ve been unsure how to say it correctly.

I wrote about why we have this linguistic vacillation in my article that was first published in the “American Srbobran” on April 3, 2019. Here I’m sharing it with you entirely:    


The Diglossic Easter in Serbia

[I recommend reading on a big screen for comparing the two languages in two columns. On mobile, scroll down for Serbian.]

There are two words that people in Serbia use to refer to Easter: Uskrs and Vaskrs. There are two forms of the verb to resurrect as well: uskrsnuti and vaskrsnuti. To make it more complex, the official terms of our church are Voskresenije and voskresnuti.

All these forms reflect the diglossia that Serbs have had for centuries. On one side we have the vernacular Serbian, with oral tradition and folk literature. On the other side we have Old Church Slavonic, as the first literary and liturgical Slavic language, with written tradition. It had different recensions, created as the writers incorporated elements of their vernacular into it. The Serbian Church had used Serbian recension of Church Slavonic (Serbo-Slavonic) ever since the Serbs took Slavic literacy in the 10th century.

In the second half of the 18th century, when the Serbs fled from the Ottomans and settled in Vojvodina, the Russian influence became strong. As Russian books were used by the Serbs in Austro-Hungarian Empire, Serbo-Slavonic was replaced by the Russian recension of Church Slavonic (Russo-Slavonic).

That’s how a new language came into use: Slavonic-Serbian. It was a mixture of Russo-Slavonic with Serbian vernacular. This sublime language came out of use in the Romantic era, as the vernacular language became official and the writing system was reformed. However, Russo-Slavonic remains to this day the official language of our church.

For this reason we have the vernacular expressions Uskrs and uskrsnuti that belong to the modern standard, as well as Serbo-Slavonic Vaksrs and vaskrsnuti, that is used among the people, and Russo-Slavonic Voskresenije and voskresnuti, that is used by our church.

The Serbian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on April 28th this year. On this day we crack eggs we colored on Good Friday and greet each other with a special greeting that celebrates the dogma of resurrection: „Christ is risen!” And answer: „Truly he is risen!“

There is the Serbo-Slavonic variant of this greeting: „Hristos vaskrse“ – „Vaistinu vaskrse“.

And there is the Russo-Slavonic variant of it: „Hristos voskrese“ – „Vaistinu voskrese“.

The modern Serbian form of this greeting would be: „Hrist uskrsnu“ – „Zaista uskrsnu“; but it’s never used.

Since the common people are not familiar with the church language, you’ll hear other irregular variants of the greeting: „Hristos vaskrs“; „Hristos vaskrese“, „Hristos voskrse“.

So, how to greet your family on Easter in Serbia? Here’s my advice: if you are the first to greet, choose one of the correct forms „Hristos vaskrse“ or „Hristos voskrese“ and add: „Happy Easter!“ But if you are answering, choose the same form the other person used and be polite, even if that means using the wrong form: „Vaistinu vaskrs“, „Vaistinu vaksrese“, „Vaistinu voskrese“.

Let’s spread love and respect, rather than the linguistic correctness, on this great day that is in some places in Serbia still called Veligdan (The Great Day).

Dve su reči koje ljudi u Srbiji koriste za ovaj praznik: Uskrs i Vaskrs. Takođe imamo i dva glagola: uskrsnuti i vaskrsnuti. Da stvar bude još složenija, zvanični termini naše crkve su Voskresenije i voskresnuti.

Svi ovi oblici odražavaju diglosiju koju Srbi vekovima imaju. S jedne strane imamo narodni srpski jezik, sa usmenom tradicijom i narodnom književnošću. S druge strane imamo staroslovenski, kao prvi književni i liturgijski jezik, sa pisanom tradicijom. Taj jezik je imao različite recenzije, nastale tako što su pisci u njega ugrađivali elemente svog narodnog jezika. Srpska crkva je koristila srpsku recenziju staroslovenskog (srpskoslovenski) otkako su Srbi primili slovensku pismenost u 10. veku.


U drugoj polovini 18. veka, kada su Srbi pobegli od Osmanlija i naselili se u Vojvodini, Ruski uticaj je ojačao. Kako su Srbi u Austrougarskom carstvu koristili ruske knjige, srpskoslovenski je zamenila ruska recenzija staroslovenskog (ruskoslovenski).

Tako je jedan novi jezik došao u upotrebu: slavjanoserpski. To je bila mešavina ruskoslovenskog sa srpskim narodnim jezikom. Ovaj uzvišeni jezik je izašao iz upotrebe u eposi romantizma, kada je narodni jezik postao zvanični, a pravopis reformisan. Međutim, ruskoslovenski je do danas ostao zvanični jezik naše crkve.

Zbog toga imamo narodne izraze Uskrs i uskrsnuti, koji pripadaju modernom standardu, kao i srpskoslovensko Vaksrs i vaskrsnuti, koje se koristi u narodu, i ruskoslovensko Voskresenije i voskresnuti, koje koristi naša crkva.


Srpska pravoslavna crkva ove godine slavi Uskrs 28. aprila. Na taj dan lupamo jaja koja smo obojili na Veliki petak i pozdravljamo se naročitim pozdravom koji proslavlja dogmu uskrsnuća.

Postoji srpskoslovenska varijanta ovog pozdrava: „Hristos vaskrse“ – „Vaistinu vaskrse“.

A postoji i njegova ruskoslovenska varijanta „Hristos voskrese“ – „Vaistinu voskrese“.

Na savremenom srpskom jeziku, ovaj pozdrav bi glasio: „Hrist uskrsnu“ – „Zaista uskrsnu“; ali to se nikad ne koristi.

Pošto narod ne poznaje crkveni jezik, čućete i druge nepravilne varijante ovog pozdrava: „Hristos vaskrs“; „Hristos vaskrese“, „Hristos voskrse“.

Dakle, kako ćete pozdraviti svoju porodicu na Uskrs u Srbiji? Evo mog saveta: ako pozdravljate prvi, izaberite jednu od dve ispravne forme „Hristos vaskrse“ or „Hristos voskrese“ i dodajte: „Srećan Uskrs!“ Ali ako odgovarate, izaberite istu formu koju je druga osoba upotrebila i budite ljubazni, i ako to znači da ćete upotrebiti nepravilan oblik: „Vaistinu vaskrs“, „Vaistinu vaksrese“, „Vaistinu voskrese“.

Hajde da širimo ljubav i poštovanje, pre nego jezičku ispravnost, na ovaj veliki dan, koji se ponegde u Srbiji još naziva i Veligdan.

What Greeks and Serbs have in common

What Greeks and Serbs have in common

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić

How do you answer to “Dobro došli” (welcome)? If you say only “hvala” (thank you), you were taught WRONG!

In this video I reveal several traditional figures of speech, or magic formulas that will make you sound like a native, and that we have in common with the Greeks.

If you, as a foreigner, use these three formulaic expressions, that will definitely make you sound naturally Serbian, and you will make the Serbs smile and like you even more.

Also, I’m talking Greek to give you the atmosphere (with subtitles in English). 

Watch the video and scroll down to read the English translation and explanations.


Hello and welcome to the Natural Serbian Channel!

Ja sam Magdalena and today I want to talk to you in Greek because I want to tell you about several things that people in Greece and Serbia have in common.

We’re talking about vocabulary, tradition and things like that.


If you’ve seen my previous video, you’ve learned that we in Serbia also use the „βρε“, we say bre,

and we believe that it is very much Serbian.


We also use the more and mori and correctly, we use it very correctly.

/Mori (μορή) only for women, in complience with the Greek grammar./


Also, the ajde or hajde like in Greece, it’s the same.

It’s only that we in Serbia we use hajde like Greek άντε and έλα, both are hajde


The other things, what are they? Do you know? Or you don’t? Write me about that.

I will tell you what I’ve noticed.


I won’t tell you about many terms in the medicine that we use, like:

pedijatar, psihijatar, ginekolog, stomatolog and so on.

(pediatrician, psychiatrist, gynecologist, dentist)

There are plenty of them and all the world uses them, not only in Serbia.


Neither will I talk about many Turkish words that we have in common, for example:

το δέρτι dert

το μεράκι merak.

(These are words for special feelings only the Balkans and Middle East will understand completely, try and google them 🙂 )


What I find interesting is something from the tradition.

It’s what I told you in the beginning, I told you:

«Καλώς ορίσατε» (Welcome)


And what will you answer to that? You will say:

«Καλώς σε βρίκαμε» (May we find you well)


The same formula exists in Serbia as well.

And from all the languages that I’ve learned, I haven’t seen that anywhere,

only in the Greek and the Serbian language.


In Serbian we say: „Dobro došao“ – „Βolje vas našao“, for masculine.

/Welcome! – May I find you even better, in even better situation than I’m in. Basically, you wish me well, and I wish you even better./

For the femenine gender, it’s different: „Dobro došla“ – „Bolje vas našla“.

All right? That’s in the singular. And in the plural, we have:

„Dobro došli“ – „Bolje vas našli“.

(Welcome! May we find you even better.)


It’s very nice, very traditional to say this.

Dobro došao – Bolje vas našao (masculine gender)

Dobro došli – Bolje vas našli (plural) 

Dobro došla – Bolje vas našla (femenine gender)


And today I’ll tell you about one more formula.

It’s the… what do we say for Easter in Greece?

We say:

«Χριστός ανέστη!» (Christ resurrected)

And what do we answer?

«Αληθώς ανέστη.» (He truly did resurrected)

Isn’t it so?

What do we say in Serbia? We say: „Hristos voskrese“ and we answer „Vaistinu voskrese“.

In the Greek language we use katharevousa (καθαρεύουσα)

to say this, and in the Serbian language we use something

that is like katharevousa in the Serbian language.

And these are the words that we don’t use generally, only in this formula do we use them:

Hristos voskrese! – Vaistinu voskrese!


We go even further, and for Christmas we say something  similar:

Hristos se rodi! – Vaistinu se rodi! (Chirst is born – He truly is born)


All right? These are the things that I wanted to tell you today and I hope that you liked it.

Maybe you knew it, did you know that? Or didn’t you? I’m interested to learn that.

Leave comments so that we see how many of you are watching us from Greece.

OK? Share as well, it goes without saying, and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian.

How could we put it? Fisika? Servikos? Serviki? Natural Serbian language. Isn’t it so? Naturally Serbian!

5 NON-Serbian words that will make you sound Serbian

5 Non-Serbian Words That Will Make You Sound Serbian

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


I know, it sounds CRAZY, right? How can you possibly use NON-Serbian words to sound more SERBIAN?

Well, some words have SUPERPOWERS. 🙂

Watch the video to find out!



Scroll down to read the transcript.

Learn how to sound Serbian by using NON-Serbian words!




Hello and welcome to the Natural Serbian Course.

Ja sam Magdalena, and today I want to teach you very important and widespread interesting little words. Now, why are they important and widespread, and why are they interesting?

Because, first, they are emotional words, and second, they are NOT Serbian even though I bet 80 or 90 percent of the Serbs would swear that these words are Serbian. But they’re not!

I’m going to teach you how to use these words the Serbian way, and I’ll explain where they came form.



1st Non-Serbian word that makes you sound Serbian: BRE!


Bre is really an important word you must know and probably you should even learn how to use it.

We can’t translate it to many other languages, probably only in Greek. So, what is it? It’s an emphatic word, an intensifier. It’s used also for to addressing to people in an intense way, like we’re calling for attention.

We can add it to virtually any word or phrase and in that way we’re adding an emotional component to any statement, like:


„De si bre ti?“ „Slušaj bre!“ „Čekaj bre!“ „Šta to bre radiš?“

(Where are you?)  (Listen!) (Wait!) (What are you doing?)


So you can add it anywhere, to any statement or word.

The thing with this little word is that many Serbs identify their national feelings with it. And that’s why you’ll see different Serbian brands containing this word, like the website “Srpski bre” with useful information on Serbian language and grammar.

Well, guess what, the word “bre” is not even Serbian. The Greeks can understand it perfectly because they also use it (they say βρε or ρε). Etymologysts say that „bre“ originates from the ancient Greek adjective μωρός (moros, meaning: foolish, stupid). We’re talking about the same word from which the term moron originated.

Nowadays, it doesn’t have such a negative meaning. In modern Greek it simply means “a baby”.

So, it’s not a bad word, it’s just a way of saying, to express yourself.



2nd Non-Serbian word that makes you sound Serbian: MORE!


Here we come to the next word, more, which is actually the same. You know, more is the vocative form of this same adjective moros and that vocative form “more” gave us “bre”.

What’s interesting is that in Serbia we combine these two words, even though they’re the same. We don’t feel tha they’re the same, so we can say: More bre!

And these words are very emotional. We can use them to jokingly show anger or express a threat, or a mocked threat. We can use it with irony or seriously.

And I must say that bre is really widespread in Serbia, while more is felt I think nowadays even a little bit obsolate, a bit old. You would associate it more to an older person from a village using it.

And villages (in central and south Serbia) are also the place where you can hear the Greek femenine form of this word: mori (used only when addressing to a female). Yes, you can also use this word in Serbia. But it’s not very widespread nowadays, it’s somewhat old, as I said.



3rd Non-Serbian word that makes you sound Serbian: HAJDE!


The next word is also something that we have in common with the Greeks, but both nations got it from the Turks. It’s a Turkish loan word. And we use this word in Serbia as a verb. In Serbian it’s a defective verb that only has the imperative forms.

As with all other verbs, we have three imperative forms: for you singular, for we, and for you plural. So, that’s why we have these three forms:


Hajde (ti), for you singular,

hajdemo (mi), for the first person plural (we) and

hajdete (vi), for you plural or you formal.


These are, let’s say, the formal forms of this word. We use it to say „Come on“, „Let’s go“ or „Let’s do something“, let’s do anything that the verb that follows proposes. Usually it’s combined with the conjunction “da” and another verb in the present tense, like:

“Hajde da gledamo film” (Let’s watch a movie)

“Hajde da se šetamo” (Let’s go for a walk)


We also have colloquial forms, without the inicial h sound, and we say

ajde, ajdemo, ajdete.

Or we can shorten them even further, and get ajmo, ajte, or hajmo, hajte, or simply ajd or aj.

So, when you hear “aj” or “ajd”, it comes form “hajde”.

And in this short form this word is combined with many other words, like:


“aj zdravo”, “aj dođi”, “aj daj mi to”.

(bye) (come here) (give me that)


It’s an inviting word. And obviously, it is widespread here on the Balkans and you should definitely start using it, if you’re not already.



4th Non-Serbian word that makes you sound Serbian: ALO!


And here we will jump to the English language. We also have a word that originates from the English language that we use like this: Alo! Halo!  Obviously, it comes from the English Hallo and Hello.  We do use it to answer the phone, but we also use for calling someone to their senses

Alo, čoveče, šta to radiš?

(Hey, man, what are you doing?)


Usually without the h sound, only „alo“.



5th Non-Serbian word that makes you sound Serbian: MARŠ!


And the final word that I’m going to teach you today is obviously borrowed from French: Marš!

It comes from „marcher“, French word for “to march, to walk”, in imperative mood.

How it came to us? Well, it came through the army. First it was used in the Youslavian army as a command: napred marš! (march forward)

Nowasays it’s used as a non-vulgar curseword. It’s a bad word. And we use it to say „go away“, „leave me alone“, or „stop kidding me“. It can be pretty harsh and rough, but we also can use it jokingly and not offensively. Even though it’s never polite, it can be used among friends as a joke.

However, it can also be combined with some serious cursewords, that I’m not going to mention here today, but also with other cute little words on our today’s list, like:

„Marš bre“ or „More marš“ or even „More marš bre“.

And what’s very, very interesting with this word is that we often make it even shorter, depriving it of vowels, and we say: mrš!



Combining the words to sound more Serbian


Now, as I said, many of these little words can be combined together, and especially bre, which is a joker word: you can put it enywhere. So we can have:


More bre! Alo bre! Marš bre!


* * *

Good, you’re all set now. You know all the really, really important little emotional words that actually don’t have a specific meaning, but are very very effective in conveying how we feel.


And of course, again If you liked this, please share it with your friends on the social networks that you use.


If you haven’t done so already, enroll in the Natural Serbian Course!

10 Ways to Say Goodbye in Serbia

How to Say Goodbye in Serbian

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


How can you say goodbye in Serbian Language? What should you say to your Serbian friends when leaving? Will you say “Zdravo” both to greet them and as a goodbye? What is the informal variant of “prijatno”?


In this video I will teach you how to say goodbye in Serbian, in more than 10 ways.



What do you say to your Serbian friends when leaving?

Šta kažeš svojim prijateljima kada odlaziš?

Do you say zdravo both to greet them and as a goodbye?


Welcome to the Natural Serbian Course, the best place to learn real Serbian.

Zdravo svima! Ja sam Magdalena i danas ću vas naučiti 10 načina da se oprostite na srpskom.

I’m Magdalena and today I’ll teach you how to say goodbye in Serbian in 10 different ways


Let’s start from the most formal way of saying goodbye:


1)            Doviđenja.

It actually means “until seeing (you next time)”. Sometimes another word is put in the middle of it, and we get do skorog viđenja, and it means “until I see you soon again”, but that’s mostly written in letters or emails, and it’s kind of obsolete, so we don’t really use it that much, but you can write it.


2)           Prijatno

Doviđenja is usually combined with another word, with another formal farewell: prijatno, which means “pleasantly”. So, you can use it to say that something is pleasant: “Ovde je prijatno”, (it’s pleasant here). And we also use it to say “have a nice meal, bon appetit”: Prijatno!

It’s also used to say have a pleasant day/evening/whatever.

A tip is to combine these two words: Doviđenja, prijatno! When someone says “Doviđenja”, you can answer with “Doviđenja” or “Prijatno”, or you can combine them to “Doviđenja, prijatno” and be double-polite.


3)          Zbogom

You might have seen zbogom in a book, but it’s old-fashioned and it’s not used nowadays. It means “may god be with you” or “travel with god”. If you use it, people will think that you’re leaving for good and never want to see them again, or that you’re extra religious. So, only if you want to sound like that, you can use “zbogom”.


4)           Uzdravlje

If you have a chance to talk to old people, you can hear them use uzdravlje, or aj uzdravlje („to health, go to health, to our health“) as another old way of saying goodbye. It is also another possible toast, in addition to živeli, which is in some regions also used as a farewell interjection. So, you can hear „uzdravlje“, „živeli“, „živeo“, „živio“ as a farewell as well.



Informal ways to say goodbye in Serbian language 


5)           Zdravo, ćao

In the previous video, you’ve learned zdravo and ćao. These are used informally both as hi and bye. However, when leaving, we tend to combine them with „aj“ (which is a word I will explain in one of my next videos). So, when leaving, we will say: Aj zdravo. Aj ćao.


6)            Vidimo se

To finish an informal conversation with a friend or family, we can and often do say Vidimo se (see you, literally: we see each other), since we know that we’ll meet soon again.


7)           Čujemo se

However, if we intend to talk to them on the phone first, we will say Čujemo se. It means: “we hear each other” or “I’ll talk to you on the phone”.


And these two are usually combined with any word telling time, such as večeras, sutra, prekosutra, kasnije, za vikend, u petak, i tako dalje (tonight, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, later, on the weekend, on Friday, etc). There are plenty of combinations, whenever you plan to see or call someone, you can just say that day or date.

Čujemo se večeras! (talk to you tonight)

Vidimo se prekosutra! (see you the day after tomorrow)

Čujemo se večeras, pa se vidimo sutra. (talk to you on the phone tonight, and then see you tomorrow)


Both of these goodbye phrases are used also in the future tense, so you can say: čućemo se, videćemo se (we will hear each other, we will see each other).


8)            Uživaj!

We also have an informal variant of „prijatno“, and that is: Uživaj! (for you singular) and Uživajte! (for you plural) It literally means „enjoy yourself“ or „enjoy yourselves“


Many times you will hear a combination of these phrases, so for example you will hear:

„Hej, aj ćao, čujemo se, uživaj!“


9)            Laku noć

When we’re leaving late at night, we will always say Laku noć, formally and informally. In any kind of situation, „laku noć“ is safe to use. It follows shaking hands as well as a good-night kiss with your partner, so just use „laku noć“ whenever it’s late at night and you’re leaving to go to sleep.

Now, if you want to be nice and answer nicely to this phrase, you will say: Laku noć i lepo spavaj (good night and sleep tight/nicely).


10)          And lastly, if you want to be mischievous a little bit and to make a joke, you can answer Jele te bube celu noć! (let the bugs bite you all night).




To summarize, here we’ve learned how to say goodbye in Serbian

We’ve learned 10 phrases you can say when leaving or parting with your friends in Serbia:

  1. Doviđenja
  2. Prijatno
  3. Zbogom
  4. Uzdravlje! Živeli!
  5. Aj zdravo! Aj ćao!
  6. Vidimo se, videćemo se
  7. Čujemo se, čućemo se
  8. Uživaj! Uživajte!
  9. Laku noć i lepo spavaj
  10. Jele te bube celu noć!




A ti? Kako se ti opraštaš od svojih prijatelja? How do you part from your friends?

Share your experience and ask questions in the comments bellow.

If you liked this video or found it useful, share it with your friends on Youtube, Facebook and other social networks. Allow your friends to benefit from it, and help me spread the word about the Natural Serbian Course. Hvala puno!


If you haven’t done so already, enroll in the Natural Serbian Course on my website to get the videos with transcripts and additional insider information sent directly to your inbox.

Learn how to blend in with your Serbian friends and how to sound really Serbian!