Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Speaking Ragusan - The Dubrovnik Subdialect Explored

October the 18th, 2022 - The Dubrovnik subdialect is spoken (as the name should suggest) in the wider Dubrovnik area, and was formerly known as the Ragusan dialect back during the days of the aristocratic maritime Dubrovnik Republic, or the Republic of Ragusa.

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. This dialect is the least widely spoken of all of the many subdialects of the Croatian language and was once deemed to be independent. 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


For more on the Croatian language, including information on different dialects, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Documents Confiscated From Dubrovnik Archives Returned

ZAGREB, 23 June, 2021 - Documents that were confiscated from the Dubrovnik State Archives and were found in the Salzburg Diocese Archives were handed over on Wednesday in the presence of Croatia's Minister of Culture and Media Nina Obuljen Koržinek and Croatia's Ambassador to Austria Danijel Glunčić.

The operation ended successfully with the return of Croatia's cultural heritage, Minister Obuljen Koržinek said, noting this isn't the first or last time this has been done.

Ambassador Glunčić underscored that the Salzburg Diocese had full understanding that the medieval documents could not be considered to be part of Austria's or Salzburg's history.

The documents involved are two pontifical documents which the diocese was immediately prepared to return to Croatia, and this was also approved by Austria's state authorities, he said, adding that the documents will be placed in Dubrovnik's Archives.

Police working on issues related to cultural heritage

Police Director Nikola Milina said that the police were working on cultural heritage issues, adding that they have had good results so far.

A soon as the information was released, the Croatian police contacted the police in Austria and the documents were quickly identified which led to them being returned, he said.

Digitalisation to facilitate return of other missing documents

Director of Dubrovnik State Archives Nikolina Pozniak is convinced that digitisation will contribute to other documents that have gone missing from the archives and other institutions to be returned.

The head of the archive's collection, Zoran Perović, explained that the documents returned today are two pontifical bulls dated 1189 and 1252. The first notes that the Pope is deploying Archbishop Bernard to Dubrovnik while the other bull refers to the appointment of an archbishop to be a judge in a dispute between the Bar and Dubrovnik Archdioceses.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

16th Century Wreck of a Dubrovnik Ship Found Near Genoa

June 27, 2020 - International media report on an exceptional find off the Italian coast, and one which should interest the readers in Croatia as well, as it is probably what's left of the old Dubrovnik ship Santo Spirito - Santa Maria di Loreto, which sank in 1579.

The remarkable find was first reported back in February when two commercial divers reported that they had found a wooden shipwreck while diving near Camogli, a fishing/tourist village located near Genoa. Edoardo Sbaraini and Gabriele Succi, the divers, encountered a set of wooden timbers at a depth of about 150 feet in the vicinity of Punta Chiappa, south of Camogli, and the local administration posted about the find on their Facebook page, reporting their discovery.

The remarkable accidental discovery garnered a lot of attention because it is well-known that the sea mirror of Punta Chiappa was the location of a 1579 shipwreck of the Santo Spirito - Santa Maria di Loreto, an amazing ship about which so much is still known - and now, it seems, its final resting place is known as well. 

In the late afternoon of October 29, 1579, an imposing merchant ship that tried to find shelter from a furious storm, smashed against the cliff in front of the Church of San Nicolò between Camogli and Punta Chiappa, about ten nautical miles east of Genoa. Santo Spirito - Santa Maria di Loreto was probably the largest ship that sailed the western Mediterranean in those times (a website dedicated to naval archaeology states that it could carry 1800 tonnes of weight). The ship's port was then Ragusa (modern day Dubrovnik) in the Ragusa Republic, a maritime republic which was (mostly) independent and carried the name from 1358 until 1808.

In late 16th century, the Republic was at its peak, with a large merchant navy and many clients. One of their biggest ships (and probably one of the biggest in the Mediterranean as well) was Santo Spirito, then captained by Antonio Iveglia Ohmuchievich, a member of a very rich and influential Ragusa family, who probably owned the boat as well (at least partially). Ivelja is still a common Dalmatian last name. Antonio probably took command of the ship from his brother Giorgio, who had likely tragically died that same year, 1579, in a naval battle which damaged the ship significantly. 

Santo Spirito left for its final voyage from Genoa in October 1579, and if you paid attention during your high-school history classes, you might be able to recall that the plague was raging in Genoa at the time, so the city was under strict quarantine. It carried a lot of cannons and munition but got caught in the storm which slammed it against the cliffs. The brave peasants of the village near the site braved both the storm and the potential risk of contracting the plague to save the sailors, and luckily there weren't any fatalities. It took the ship a few days to completely sink, and right away the operation to salvage as much of the cargo as possible was started, and they managed to save some of the bronze cannons and other munition.

And after that, the precise location of the wreck was somehow - lost. Many naval archaeologists tried locating it in the second half of the twentieth century, many expeditions went to the region and it's a miracle that nobody was able to find it until now, especially since there was a lot of precise data on where the ship sank. It took two commercial divers in 2020 (one might even go so far as to say something poetic about 2020 being a year of quarantine as well), doing something completely unrelated, to find the Dubrovnik ship many have been looking for, and a major part of Croatia's very rich naval tradition.