Friday 13 March 2015

A few ugly words

While i am preparing the next "serious" article, here is something to amuse yourselves with: a collection of common Serbian and Irish insults and words used to describe nasty and ugly things and people...

Irish: leamh - soft, weak, impotent, soft-witted, insane, silly
Serbian (South Serbian dialect): lijav - week, bad, stupid, soft-witted, insane, silly

Irish: rúpach, -aighe, -acha, f., a young slut, a slattern, a harlot; a big, rough, strong woman, not very handsome (Don.).
Serbian: rupa - a hole. This word basically equates a woman with a hole, pussy...

Irish: rúplach - a strong fellow, anything strong; rúpálaí - a strong unmethodical worker.
Serbian: rmpalija - a stong man. The "rmp" block is difficult to pronounce and when pronounced fast transforms into "rup" so "rmpalija" becomes "rupalija"

Irish: gabhar - goat. From old Irish gabor. Cognate with Old Norse hafr, Old English hæfr, Welsh gafr, Latin caper, all meaning goat. Also cognate with Ancient Greek κάπρος (kápros, “wild boar”).
Serbian: gabor - someone with an ugly face, particularly a woman with an ugly face like a goat

Irish: magairle - testicle, magarlach -  worthless, silly, testicular, having large scrotum
Serbian: magare, magarac - donkey, has large penis and scrotum. Also used as a word meaning worthless, annoying, silly, usually applied to boys or young men, who are stubborn, have big balls and small brains...Magarac is a word is also found in Romanian as măgar and in Albanian as magar with the same meaning of donkey. It is of uncertain origin.  

Irish: bac - hinder, stop, heed, interfere; bacach -  lame person, beggar.
Serbian: baglja - crutch, forked branch, stick; bagljav - has problem with legs, walking; bagariti - limp, be lame, have problem walking.

Irish: cas - twisted, winding, curly, complicated, intricate, twisty. devious; caise - twistiness, curliness, warp; cásaigh - lament, deplore, sympathise, condole, express concern for; enquire for.

Serbian (South Serbian dialect): zakasa - get stuck in something winding, complicated, difficult...and complain about it...

Irish: boil, boile - madness, Irish buile, Early Irish baile
Serbian: baljesgati - talk like a madman, make no sense

Irish: blabaran - stammerer, Irish blabarán, from the English blabber, speak inarticulately
Serbian: blebetati - speak inarticulately

Irish: baisceall - a wild person; Middle Irish basgell
Serbian: bes - fury; besan - furious; besnica - promiscuous woman; besnik, besovik - wild person. English beast is probably related to Serbian bes or maybe even derived from it: Beast - From Middle English beeste, beste, from Old French beste (French bête), from Latin bēstia (“animal, beast”); many cognates – see bēstia. But the root of Latin bēstia is unknown :)

Irish: abair - say
Serbian: aber - word; abronosha - gossiper. The word aber also exists in Turkish. Celts lived both in the Balkans and in Asia minor?

Irish: drip - hurry, confusion, bustle, snare
Serbian: dripac - someone who is capable of causing havoc

Irish: dreòlan - a silly person
Serbian: drlepan - a silly person

Irish: draos - trash, filth
Serbian: droca - whore

Possibly cognate with English dross - waste or impure matter

Irish: saobhán - mental, silly
Serbian: šaban - glup, primitive

Irish: saonta - Naive, gullible
Serbian:šuntav - inept, clumsy, silly, stupid

Irish: balbhan - dumb person
Serbian: balvan - a tree log, something blunt, inert. Expression: "glup ko balvan" stupid like a log

Irish: Dudach - mopish shy foolish
Serbian: Duduk - ignorant, foolish

Irish:Gadai - thief, rogue; gadaidheach- robbing, thieving; gadaidheacht - robbery, plunder. 
Serbian:gad - a nasty person, gadan - ugly

Irish: Strabhas - grimace, ugly expression
Serbian: Strava - horror (and accompanying ugly expression)

Irish: graganach - shaggy person
Serbian: garagan - shaggy person usually kids

Irish: graosta - lewd, obscene, filthy
Serbian: greota - lewd, obscene, filthy

Irish: tút - dirt, filth, stench; tútach - uncouth, petulant, stinking, filthy, ungainly, Senseless, stupid, mean, churlish, rude...Basically everything bad you can think of something...
Serbian: "tuta" or "tuta - muta" - stupid person; tuta also means bedpan.... 

Irish: muta - worthless, lout
Serbian: mutav - worthless, stupid but also dumb (both meaning stupid and unable to speak which was equated with stupid)

Irish: ba - stupid, also onomatopoeic sound for sheep
Serbian - "glup ko ovca" stupid like a sheep

Irish: clip - tease, torment, prick
Serbian: klipan - someone who teases, torments, pricks, rude and ill-mannered person (especially younger), clumsy person, lubber

Irish: gairbhe - roughness
Serbian: grub - rough, coarse, rude, grubost - roughness. German grob - coarse, rough, uncouth, rude, crude, from Old High German grob. Cognate to Low German groff, Dutch grof.

Irish: gairbheisach - rough person
Serbian: grubian - rough person. English, German grobian - a coarse, uncouth, uncivilized fellow, perhaps violent, from German, from grob - rough

Irish: druth - irresponsible person, imbecile
Serbian: drtina - old useless person or animal or bad soil

Irish: cac - excrement
Serbian: kaka - euphemism used for excrement, kakano - dirty. From a Proto-Indo-European root *kakka-. Compare Old Irish cacc, Ancient Greek κακκάω (kakkáō), Middle Armenian քաք (kʿakʿ), Russian ка́кать (kákatʹ). Onomatopoeic.

Irish: cacaim - to void excrement, to defecate
Serbian: kakim - I am defecating. 

Irish: bochd - poor, so Irish, Old Irish bocht;
Serbian: ubog - ubog meaning in poverty poor. The Engllish word beggar probably comes from Slavic ubogar meaning poor person, beggar. In Serbian we also have nebogar with the same meaning: poor. All this points to the original meaning of the word bog, which today means god, as being luck, happiness, wealth, money...

Irish: Scots gaelic och an interjection, alas! Irish och, uch, Old Irish uch, vae, ochfad, sighing: *uk; Gothic aúhjôn, make a noise, Norse ugla, English owl; Leton. auka, stormwind,
Serbian: oh uh - alas, uka - a cry.

Irish: naoidhean - an infant, so Irish naíonán, Old Irish nóidiu, gen. nóiden
Serbian: ne ide - not walk - infant

Irish: cail - an old mare, usually applied to an old ass
Serbian: kilav - old, unable, feeble, someone who has hernia and can't lift or carry wight. Found also in Greek as κήλη (kele). So it seems it is a word of Balkan origin.

Irish: raspa, a bony old cow, etc.; a thin, wasted person
Serbian: raspada se - falls apart, used for machines which are losing parts, or animals and people who are wrecked, destroyed by work, old age or sickness. Raspad - breakdown...

Irish: raga - worthless person or thing
Serbian: raga worthless person or thing usually horse. Something better dead...

Irish: raispín - a miser, a mean person
Serbian: rospija - evil woman, woman who is always miserable and who makes others miserable, a witch

Irish: guta - puddle, mire, mud, filth, dirt.
Serbian: guda - pig, animal which wallows in mud

Irish: praiseach, práisc - 1. Mess. 2. (a) Botch, messer. (b) Slovenly person.
Serbian: prasac - 1. pig, piglet, 2. Messy person

Irish: láib, lábán (pronounced lob, lobon) - mud, mire; lábach - muddy, miry
Serbian (South Serbian dialect): ljopa - mud; mire, ljopa se - is getting muddy; ljopav - muddy, miry

Irish: lag - week person, creature, lacking in qualities; lagaigh - weaken; laghad - smallness

Lak, Lagan - light in weight, easy, lacking weight and therefore importance. Cognate of light (not heavey)
ljaga - slander, disgrace, shame, stain, stigma, blemish, taint, discredit, smirch; ljaganje - defamation, embarrassing, disgracing, diminishing....

Irish: Scot old name for an Irishman. Old Irish were predominantly cattle herders and the whole society was organized around cattle and sheep. Cattle was the main property of any person and determined how wealthy someone was.

Serbian: skot - cattle but also litter (animal young); skotan (pregnant animal with litter). Veles, Volos was known as "Skotiji bog" meaning the cattle god. Proto Germanic "*skattaz"  meaning cattle, kine and by extension owndom, wealth, goods, hoard, treasure, money, comes from Slavic skot meaning cattle as cattle was the original wealth. Skot also means "evil and merciless" person...

Was "Scoti" the old name given to the Irish given to them by their neighbors with the meaning Scoti = "cattle herders" who were also cattle raiders hence not very nice "evil and merciless" people? Or maybe the name did come from the Princess Scota...

Irish: mál - Prince, chief, noble
Serbian: mal - cattle, wealth. The word mal with the meaning of wealth is also found in Turkic languages and in Arabic. I presume that the original meaning was cattle, and considering that the Arabic doesn't contain the meaning cattle I wonder where and how far back in the past does the origin of this word lies...

What do you think about this? Long period of mutual insulting between the Serbians (Slavs) and the Irish, or just Proto Indo European common words which somehow were forgotten by all the other Indoeuropeans? I did try to find these words in other Indoeuropean languages apart from Slavic and Celtic, and I specified other cognates where I could find them. I would appreciate any information about the cognates that I have missed, so that I can update my post. Because the number of these non Celtic and non Slavic cognates is so small, I would say that the first thing is much more likely. Celts and Slavs spent a lot of time insulting each other... :) 

Particularly interesting are the words from the Irish language which are built using root blocks from Slavic languages. How did they end up in the Irish language?

You can find all the Irish words in these dictionaries:

Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Ó Dónaill, 1977)
Foclóir gaedhilge agus béarla (David Nutt 1904)

MacBain's Dictionary - Gaelic Languages (1896)

Serbian words you will unfortunately have to look for in printed dictionaries as they are not available online:

Vuk Karadzic Srbski Rjecnik 1852
Variouse dialectic dictionaries printed by the Serbian academy of art and science
Dictionary of Niksic area language by Ljubomir Djokovic
Various other local dialect dictionaries, like Gora region dictionary, Dalmatian dictionary, Shokacki dialect dictionary, Bunjevac dialect dictionary....


  1. Duduk - Also a frula longer than 40cm in Serbia, and in Srem a name for a karabljica, or karabica, or usne gajde in south Serbia.

  2. I think you are doing a very good and interesting job. Keep research.
    Also, look at Irish folk dancing and their 'kolo'' and Serb kolo similarities.

    -rospia is rather a bitch than a witch
    -stava- I guess you missed letter 'r'' /meant ''strava''. You got absolutely a correct meaning. :)

    Just to give you a hint. I have a friend who is from Gujarati State in India, and long time ago I learnt from him that few words in his native dialect/ Hindu language are pronounced same and have same meaning as in Serbian language. When I recall which words exactly were, I let you know.

    I think Sunskrit language(proto Ind-Euro L.) is a link, but you have to look at the big pre-historic migrations factors to see natural connections in between them.

    All the best. Velenka

  3. Thank you for your comment Valenka. It is Strava, I did miss r. rospia is someone who is constantly bitching and making someone's life miserable, but it also had a meaning of an evil woman witch....

    "Muto" (mutav, speechless);
    "Cacca" (kaki) and the verb "caccare or cagare" (kakiti);
    "Rana" (žaba, frog) and "rospo" (žaba krastača, toad);
    "Rospo" (ružan/na, ugly) "Sei brutto/a come un rospo" (Ružan/žna si kao krastača, You are ugly like a toad);
    "Scottare" (ispeći /opariti/opržiti/ošuriti/spržiti, burn, scald, sear, brown); "Scottarsi" (opeći se/get burned).

  5. Vrlo interesantna istraživanja i samo multidisciplinarni pristup (genetika, arheologija, mitologija, jezik...) mogu biti najsigurniji putokaz za dokazivanje starosti i rasprostiranje jezika. Bavimo se sličnim temama u okviru grupe istraživača (jezičara, istoričara, umetnika, genetičara, etnologa...). Nameravamo da napravimo skup na jesen u Beogradu. Voleli bismo da stupimo u kontakt i razmenimo mišljenja.
    Mislim da su nam razmišljanja skoro identična. Polazeći od Vašeg članka o nastanku jezika pa sve do ovih poslednjih, koji su svi bili interesantni, najviše nas je zaintrigirao "Ri-to cut with...". Mislimo da ste "zaboravili" srpski prefiks ras/z koji takođe "seče" i imali bismo predoge i dodatke za razmišljanje ali smatramo da bi bilo lakše u direktnom kontaktu nego preko komentara.
    Srdačan pozdrav Jelena Radojković (

  6. Dutch "kakken" = to defecate [though so to say, not an upperclass expression for it]. So at least for this word, there still ís something between Irish and Serbian.

  7. I speak both English and Irish. Whenever we look or similarities between languages we must be careful not to regard something as a link when it is more likely to be a linguistic fluke. It would be like me saying that "Madra" is the Irish Gaelic for a dog (which it is) so a Madras curry might have been made out of dogs by the ancient Irish.
    Sorry to be a wet blanket but I reckon most of the above are flukes. Peadar Ó'Colmáin, Dublin.

    1. So many flukes...Peadar I heard this before. This is the easy answer, the one which stops all the other difficult questions.

      Your example doesn't make sense by the way. The two words, apart from sounding similar have no similarity in meaning. All the above words both sound the same or similar and have identical or very similar meanings. How fluky is that?

  8. Ahaha! My baka uses some of these regularly, especially glup, magarac, and droca. She uses "raščupanko" (not sure if I'm spelling it right) to describe a messy person, though. And for some reason, I thought skot meant someone sleazy.

    Thanks again for posting this. My kid will have quite the vocabulary when she's old enough to talk, haha.

  9. The meanings for the Serbian words you gave are mostly wrong.

    1. Tesko da je tako. Prelistaj recnike ba ces videti da su sva znacenja ispravno prevedena.
      This is hardly true. Flick through dictionaries and you will see that the translations are correct.

    2. What motivates people to make false claims!?
      The meaning for the Serbian words are all true and correct.

  10. To be honest: you did a very bad job. First: the meanings that you twisted - to make it seem as if some "strong connection" was going on. Second: You cannot just leave out all the other cogantes from Baltic (literally the closest to slavic, > see balto-slavic), Albanian, Armenian, Germanic, Greek, Italic-Romance and Indo-Aryan.

    An example: the Albanian word "Ruspi" (whore) / "Ruspi-[ja]" ([the] whore) is borrowed from Ottoman turkish "ruspi/rospu"; which was borrowed from persian "ruspi" (meaning: whore/slut). Modern turkish: "orospu" (still meaning "whore/slut").
    But you think that the serbo-croatian word "rospija" must be something like a "cognate" to irish "raispín", huh? Don't be silly man. "Rospija" is also from Ottoman Turkish.
    Also: "rospija" has not an "evil women" meaning. It has the same meaning in serbian, croatian, bosnian, montenegrin, etc.:
    1. prostitute,
    2. hooker,
    3. harlot,
    4. whore,
    5. shrewish woman.

    Also: [-ja] is a suffix and found in albanian "ruspi[ja]" and srb-cro "rospi[ja]". It's a female definite article (which srb-cro does not have). The only slavic Languages with definite articles are modern macedonian and bulgarian.
    You would be surprised how much albanian and romanian are involved in this.
    In fact, if you search for cognates you'll find them for sure. Which is no wonder since Albanian, Celtic and Balto-Slavic are members of the Indo-European branch and share the same root.

  11. Thank you for your comment. I did not include all cognates. This is not an exhaustive linguistic study, just a blog post :) For this particular word, the root is ruspi (rospi). The suffix -ja is Slavic feminine making suffix. Any more examples where I didn't include cognates, please post them here.

  12. Hey man thia iis really good stuff. One more step towards unreaveling the origins of language and history. Keep it up man!

  13. That was a great read. Made my lunchbreak