Can You Speak Like a Purger? The Zagreb Dialect Explored

By 24 October 2022
Can You Speak Like a Purger? The Zagreb Dialect Explored
Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

October the 24th, 2022 - We've looked into the Dubrovnik subdialect and at some mostly forgotten Dalmatian words with their modern standard Croatian (as well as English) translations, but what about the Zagreb dialect? There's much more to it than just replacing 'sto?' (what?) for 'kaj'. Let's delve deeper.

The first thing to point out about the Zagreb dialect is that not all residents of the capital and its immediate surroundings speak the exact same dialect. It's important I highlight that before I get strung up by a patriotic purger (the word for someone from Zagreb). That said, there are enormous similarities in all ways of speaking in and around the Croatian capital city, so for the sake of simplicity, I'll lump it all into the Zagreb dialect in this article. 

The Zagreb dialect is a Kajkavian one, and it is spoken by Croats across the majority of Central Croatia, parts of Northern Istria and in Gorski Kotar. Some rather noteworthy Croatian linguists consider the South Slavic Kajkavian dialect to be a language of its own. Stjepaj Ivsic, who was a Slavic specialist and accentologist from Orahovica and who used numerous examples of vocabulary in spoken Kajkavian as evidence of that is one of them.

To anyone who is familiar with the language spoken in neighbouring Slovenia, you'll quickly notice that there are many quite striking similarities, especially when compared with other Croatian dialects, and despite the fact that there are Shtokavian features in the Zagreb dialect as well. Debates on whether Kajkavian is a language in its own right and not a mere dialect still go on among linguists and other experts to this very day.

Now a brief history of Kajkavian is out of the way, let's have a look at some words you'll likely hear in Zagreb and its surroundings that you definitely won't hear on the Croatian coast, beginning with the letter A, with their English and standard Croatian translations.

As(h)nbeher - ashtray/pepeljara

Badav - free/besplatno

Cifra - number or pin/broj

Drot - policeman/policajac

Escajg - cutlery/pribor za jelo

Fakat - really or seriously/stvarno or zaista

Gertas(h)lin - novcanik/wallet

Haustor - building entrance/ulaz u zgradu

Iberciger - a cover or casing/navlaka or prevlaka

Jurgati - to complain or reproach/prigovarati

Klajda - dress/haljina

Lojtre - ladder/ljestve

Majzl - chisel/sjekac(h)

Navek - always/uvijek

Otprti - to open something/otvoriti

Pajdas(h) - friend, buddy or pal/prijatelj

Ring - ring/prsten

Spika - a conversation/razgovor

Tancati - to dance/plesati

Vekerica - alarm clock/budilica

Ziherica - sigurnosna igla/safety pin


For more on Croatian language, including everything from swearing in Croatian to exploring the different Croatian dialects and subdialects, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.