What is the Difference Between Croatian and Serbian

croatian and serbian
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Serbian and Croatian

From the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century (until 1954, more precisely), Serbian and Croatian were one language, the so-called Serbo-Croatian. It was the language of Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins, and Bosnians. The Croats were the first (in 1954) to start a movement for the isolation of their language, but until the collapse of Yugoslavia, a single language continued to exist. Croatian was then spoken in Croatia, and in Serbia, until the reign of Sl. Milosevic continued to communicate in Serbo-Croatian. After the collapse of Yugoslavia in the former Yugoslav republics, their language norms began to stand apart actively. The language was divided into Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin appeared in 1995.

serbian language vs croatian language

Creating the Serbo-Croatian language and its division into several autonomous languages ​​can be fully considered a political act. The language, because of the acute issue of self-determination of previously united peoples, was divided into several closely related languages. The changes in these autonomous languages ​​were often driven by the desire for originality dissimilarity to other languages. At any cost, be different from the language of the neighbors.

To keep the idea of a common language, however, the first constitution of 1921 declared “Serbo-Croatian-Slovene” the “common official language.” The former Yugoslav Army provided significant support to Bosnian Serb troops, while the Croatian Army supported Bosnian Croat forces. The Yugoslav army, rapidly transforming into a Serbian army, supported the Serbs.

serbian language and croatian language

Croatian languages

In Croatia, for example, after the separation of the Croatian language, several uncomfortable and linguistically illogical rules were introduced that were aimed at emphasizing the originality of the Croatian language (for example, conservative neologisms, words with Croatian roots that should replace borrowings). In Serbia, only the Cyrillic alphabet is now recognized as the official alphabet, while the Latin alphabet is still much more prevalent in everyday life.

If you’re not familiar with the Slavic languages, you might be wondering about the difference between Croatian and Serbian. While the two are related languages that are both considered to be South Slavic, their vocabularies, spellings, and even pronunciations vary significantly between these two nations. If you’re planning to visit one of these countries shortly, it may be best to brush up on your knowledge of its native tongue before you go! Here are some facts about the difference between Croatian and Serbian to help you get started.

Facts About the Languages

Many Croatians feel strongly about their language and will assert that it is separate from Serbian. Today, there is a push to acknowledge Serbian and Croatian as independent languages, owing to the relationship between language and national identity. However, if you ask a linguist about it, they will point out that Croats speak a dialect of Serbo-Croatian, which makes them essentially cousins who still have lots to learn from each other. There are some critical grammatical differences between Croatian and Serbian (as well as between other Balkan languages).

Still, native speakers can communicate with little difficulty if they both get used to speaking slower. The premise was that there was already a single Czechoslovak language in two variants, even though Czech and Slovak were manifestly different as standard languages. However, ekavian is widespread in Serbia; virtually only people from Bosnia, Croatia, or Montenegro speak ijekavian here. Peninsula in the north and the Dalmatian coast extending south to the Gulf of Kotor.

Similarities Between the Languages

The similarity between these two languages stems from their shared history. Because of their shared religion, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Macedonia all speak forms of what’s called Serbo-Croatian.  However, if you ask locals if these languages are the same, you would get a firm answer – no, these are separate, distinct languages.

difference between croatian serbian
croatian language vs serbian language

Language Differences Between Serbian and Croatian

There are a few significant differences between Croatian and Serbian. One of these is spelling; although both languages come from a similar Slavic language branch, Croats typically use Latin script for writing, while Serbs generally use Cyrillic. Another difference is pronunciation: Cyrillic letters have been more traditionally used in Serbia than Croatia (there was no official language standard until 2009), which explains why many words sound different in each country. But there are also some cultural differences between them. For example, Croatian people tend to be much less religious than their neighbors to the east—and even though religion still plays an essential role in daily life for most people in Croatia, it’s certainly not as crucial as it is in other Balkan countries.

1. Writing

Serbo-Croatian had two alphabets, Cyrillic and Latin. Now Croatian uses the Latin alphabet, while Serbian officially uses the Cyrillic alphabet and unofficially uses the Latin alphabet.

2. Vocabulary

In terms of vocabulary, the differences are most apparent. In Croatia, the policy of purism is actively developing, crowding out borrowings and replacing them with Croatian words.

3. Grammar

In different ways, for example, essentially, the same word-building affixes are used. If in Croatian -nick, and tel are used to designate a profession, then in Serbian, declarations are indicated by other affixes (ac, etc.). There are some minor differences in syntax as well.

4. Phonetic

There are also phonetic differences between Serbian and Croatian. In Serbian, for example, quite often (but not always and not strictly necessary), “x” is replaced by the sound “v.” The Serbian standard allows both pronunciations.

croatian facts vs serbian facts

Independent Language of UNESCO

The situation is such that Serbian and Croatian are very close, similar languages, which, for political reasons, strive for as much autonomy and originality as possible. More and more – especially in Croatian – some rules separate this language from Serbian. Serbo-Croatian and Croatian-Serbian are independent languages ​​of UNESCO, and the organization publishes its books in both languages. Despite this, speakers of both languages ​​can easily communicate if they avoid using local vocabulary and use common vocabulary.


Serbs and Croats can communicate with each other on a fundamental level.

Croatian belongs to the Indo-European Slavic language family. Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian are some of the other Slavic languages. Croatian is a Slavic language belonging to the South Slavic subgroup. South Slavic languages include Bulgarian, Macedonian, and Slovene.

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