Friday 16 October 2020


There are several words in Serbian that mean black. 

The most common one is Crn, which comes from Proto-Slavic *čьrnъ...
Then we have the word Vran...This word means crow, raven in most Slavic languages, so the literal meaning is "like a crow, raven"...
Then we have the word Garav. This word comes from the word "gar" meaning soot, so literal meaning is "like soot"...
Then we have the word "Mrk" cognate with "mrak" (darkness). 

Finally we have a very little known word Gal. It comes from Proto-Slavic Galъ, and is of uncertain origin...

I would like to talk here about this word...

In dialectic dictionaries of Crna Trava region and South Morava region of Serbia we find these interesting words:

Gal - black, dark
Gal - raven

Galica, Galja, Galjka, Galjes, Galjča - black or dark brown cow or sheep.

Galati - make dirty, black (gal)
Galin - black (gal) horse
Gal, Galić - raven, black (gal) bird
Galjan - black, dark person, negro
Galičast - black (gal)
Galovran - black (galo) crow. This one is very interesting. Because black crows don't live in Serbia...

Galka - chough

Both yellow billed

And red billed

Galobela - Sheep with black (galo) head and white (bela) body
Galoš - black (gal) string plated into hair in Serbia

In the same dictionaries we see that "kalj, kal" is the equivalent of "galj, gal":

Kal - dirt, blackness 
Kaljav, Kalovit - muddy, black (kal)

Kaloka - person or sheep with black, dark (kal) rings around their eyes
Kalušast- person or sheep with black, dark (kal) rings around their eyes
Kaljav - dirty, black (kalj)
Kaljuga - muck, blackness (kalj)

"k" and "g" and "l" and "lj" are interchangeable sounds which depend on dialect and pronunciation abilities which gives us "kal", "kalj", "gal", "galj" all with the same meaning "black, dirty"...

Interestingly we find the same root (gal) with the same meaning several other languages:

In Croatian we find

Galka, Galica - chough 

In Bulgarian we find

Gal - pitch black, dirt
Galica - Black corvid, raven, jackdaw, chough
Galata - dirt, black 

In Czech we find

Gał - pitch (black substance)

In Ukrainian and Russian we find

Galka - jackdaw

In Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi, Romani we find 

kala - black

In Nepali we find 

kalo - black

This is the root of the name of the Goddess Kali...

And in Gaelic we find 


which has several very interesting meanings: 

Cailleach dhubh - Cormorant. Cormorant literally means the raven of the sea, the black bird of the sea. So Cailleach dhubh basically means "black black bird". I believe that dhubh was added later when the original meaning of the word Cailleach was forgotten. In Serbian cormorant is called Vranac, meaning black like a crow.

Cailleach - old hag winter, old woman (wrapped in black shawl), nun (in black habit). By the way this is how Romans depicted the "winter spirit":

So we have the word kal, kalj, gal, galj meaning black. 

Now, where does this word come from...

Another black bird from the crow family is rook which is in Serbian called "gačac". Here you can hear the sound of rooks. It sounds like "Ga, Ga, Ga". This is why this bird is in Serbian called "gačac", the bird that says "Ga".

One proposal is that the words "gal", "galka", "galica" used for black corvids are onomatopoeic and come from the sound all these corvids make: "ga!"... 

And then the word gal (black) would literally mean "like a bird that says ga" 🙂

This is a very very interesting word indeed...I will come back to it in few of my next posts...


  1. Назив за вола галоња је исти корен?

  2. Excellent!
    Kal in old and modern Macedonian is mud, that is the same in Serbian "kaljav".
    I love your posts, and I would suggest you refer more often to the Macedonian language, since it is the root of all the Slavic languages, and has closer relations to the old roots of the words ( especially sanskrt ). Cheers!