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Word formation


Below follows a list of suffixes. Please note that if the stem ends in a particular consonant, it is changed before the suffixes -ji, -ka, -ko, -nik, -ny, -ok, -sky and -stvo, as follows:

  • k/c > č (e.g. ruka > ručny)
  • g > ž (e.g. kniga > knižka)
  • h > š (e.g. muha > mušji)

On the other hand, the soft consonant nj hardens before -nik and -ny.

Suffixes starting with -o- change to -e- when following a soft consonant:

  • byk + -ok > byček
  • konec + -ovy > koncevy
  • noč + -ovati > nočevati

Noun to noun

  • Diminutives are formed as follows:
    • masculine words on a hard consonant have the suffix -ok: pes „dog” > pesok (gen. peska) „doggy”
    • masculine words on a soft consonant have the suffix -ik or -ek: muž „man” > mužik „little man”
    • feminine words add the suffix -ka to the word stem: kniga „book” > knižka „booklet”
    • neuter words add the suffix -ko to the word stem: polje „field” > poljko „small field”
  • To derive abstract qualities from names of persons, the suffix -stvo is used: prijatelj „friend” > prijateljstvo „friendship”, muž „man” > mužstvo „manhood”
  • A place described as a preposition in combination with the name of another place usually has the ending -je: morje „sea” > primorje „land by the sea”, brjuh „belly” > podbrjušje „underbelly”
  • A more general place indicator is the ending -išče: voz „wagon, car” > vozišče „parking lot”, ogonj „fire” > ognišče „fireplace, hearth”
  • To derive the person who is in charge of something or who is handling something, or the object that contains something, the suffix -nik is used: glava „head” > glavnik „boss, chief”, kabel „cable” > kabelnik „cable guy”, kniga „book” > knižnik „book case”
  • To derive the person who is without something, we use a combination of the prefix bez- and the suffix -nik: Bog „God” > bezbožnik „godless person”
  • The inhabitant of a country, region or city has the ending -ec (sometimes -an(in)): Albanija > Albanec „Albanian”
  • The female equivalent of the endings -nik and -ec is -nica and -ica respectively: rada „council” > radnik „counsellor” > radnica „female counsellor”; Albanec „Albanian” > Albanica „Albanian woman”
  • In other cases, we rather use the ending -ka for female equivalents of male persons: prijatelj „friend” > prijateljka „girl friend”, gradžanin „citizen”, gradžanka „female citizen”
  • A baby animal is usually derived by adding -e to the name of the animal, resulting in a neuter noun of the -et- class: kot „cat” > kote „kitten”, jelenj „deer” > jelene „fawn”

Adjective to noun

  • To derive an abstract quality from an adjective, the suffix -ost is used: dobry „good” > dobrost „goodness”
  • A person who represents the quality expressed by an adjective often has the ending -ec (fem. -ica): glupy „stupid” > glupec „stupid person, fool”, izgnany „banished, expelled” > izgnanec „exiled person, exile”
  • The place indicator -išče can be used with adjectives, too: mokry „wet” > mokrišče „wetland, swamp”, tajny „secret” > tajnišče „secret place”
  • An adjective can also function as a noun, remaining unchanged: běly „white” > běly „a white one”

Verb to noun

  • To derive the name of a person occupied with an activity denoted by the original verb, the suffix -telj is used: učiti „to teach” > učitelj „teacher”
  • Professions are often expressed with the ending -ač or -ar: kovati „to forge” > kovač „blacksmith”, krojiti „to cut” > krojač „tailor”, pekti „to bake” > pekar „baker”
  • The place indicator -išče can be used with verbs, too (often based on the L-participle): igrati „to play” > igrališče „playground”, žiti „to live” > žilišče „domicile, dwelling place”
  • The act itself is represented by the verbal noun (gerund), ending on -nje, sometimes -tje dělati „to do, to make” > dělanje „doing, making”, žiti „to live” > žitje „life”

Adjective to adjective

  • For comparatives and superlatives, see under adjectives
  • To change the meaning of an adjective into the opposite, use the prefix ne-: dobry „good” > nedobry „not good”
  • To intensify the meaning of an adjective, the prefix prě-, meaning „very” or „too” can be used: umorjeny „tired” > prěumorjeny „deadly tired, exhausted”
  • To weaken the meaning of an adjective, the suffix -ovity is used: zeleny „green” > zelenovity „greenish”

Noun to adjective

  • Adjectives (in the sense of: pertaining to something) are derived from nouns by means of three suffixes: -sky if the original noun is a geographical name or entity, or a person (usually a profession), -ji in the case of animals, other persons or divine entities, or -ny (in other cases): žena „woman” > žensky „female, feminine”, morje „sea” > morsky „related to the sea”, člověk „human, person” > člověčji „human”, konj „horse” > konji „horse's”, noč „night” > nočny „nocturnal, night-”, pismo „letter, script” > pisemny „written, in writing” There can be a few irregularly formed adjectives, too.
  • To derive an adjective that expresses the material something is made of, the suffix -ěny can be used: drěvěny „wooden”, steklěny „made of glass”
  • To derive an adjective that expresses „having the characteristics of”, the suffix -ovy (-evy) can be used: pomaranča „orange (fruit)” > pomarančevy „orange (colour)”
  • To derive an adjective that expresses similarity to something, the suffix -ovity (-evity) is used: malpa „monkey” > malpovity „ape-like”
  • To derive an adjective that expresses the absence of something, we use the prefix bez- in combination with the suffix -ny: dom „house” > bezdomny „homeless”, naděja „hope” > beznadějny „hopeless”
  • An adjective that expresses a particular characteristic of a body part is formed as follows: characteristic + -o- + body part + -y: oko „eye” > jednooky „one-eyed”, ruka „arm” > bezruky „armless”

Verb to adjective

  • Verbal conjugation itself produces four adjectives in the form of participles (see: participles): dělati „to do” > dělajuči „doing, making”, dělajemy „being made”, sdělavši „having done”, sdělany „done”
  • To derive an adjective that expresses a tendency or habit, the ending can be substituted by the suffix -livy: govoriti „to speak, to talk” > govorlivy „talkative”
  • To derive an adjective that expresses a possibility (cf. English -able/-ible), the endings -omy (-emy, -imy) or -livy can be attached to the present tense stem: razuměti „to understand” > razumlivy „understandable”, nesti „to carry” > nesomy „portable”

Adverb to adjective

  • An adverb can be adjectivised with the suffix -šnji: včera „yesterday” > včerašnji „yesterday's”, dnes „today” > dnešnji „today's”, nyně „currently, at present” > nyněšnji „current, present”

Noun to verb

  • The simplest way of deriving a verb from a noun is using the suffix -ovati: malpa „ape, monkey” > malpovati „to behave/act like a monkey”, noč „night” > nočevati „to spend the night”
  • For the act of making someone/something undergo treatment with something, the prefix o- and the ending -iti are used together: kamenj „stone” > okameniti „to stone”, světlo „light” > osvětliti „to illuminate, to lighten up”, svoboda „freedom” > osvoboditi „to set free”
  • To rid or devoid someone/something, the prefix obez- is used with the ending -iti: glava „head” > obezglaviti „to decapitate”, dom „house” > obezdomiti „to render homeless”

Adjective to verb

  • The process of becoming is expressed by the ending -ěti: běly „white” > bělěti „to turn white”, bogaty „rich” > bogatěti „to grown rich”, hvory „sick, ill” > hvorěti „to be or become sick/ill”
  • To make someone/something have the characteristics expressed by an adjective, the prefix o- and the ending -iti are used together: črny „black” > očrniti „to blacken, to make black”
  • To make someone/something have more of the characteristics expressed by an adjective (often a comparative), the prefix u- is combined with the ending -iti: lěpši „better” > ulěpšiti „to improve, to make better”, menši „less” > umenšiti „to reduce, to diminish”
  • To remove the characteristics expressed by an adjective, the prefix od- and the suffix -iti are used together: črny „black” > odčrniti „to unblacken, to remove the black colour”

Verb to verb

  • The base form of a prefixed verb is always perfective. An imperfective verb can be derived from it as follows:
    • if the verb has the ending -ati, the imperfective verb has -yvati: sodržati „to contain” > sodrživati
    • if the verb has the ending -iti, the imperfective verb has -jati: obnoviti „to renew” > obnavjati
    • if the verb has the ending -nuti, the imperfective verb has -ati: oddohnuti „to breathe” > oddyhati
    • if the verb is monosyllabic and ending in a vowel, the imperfective verb has -vati: prodati „to sell” > prodavati

Adjective to adverb

  • An adjective is adverbialised by using the ending -o: dobry „good” > dobro „well”
  • The comparitive -(ěj)ši is adverbialised by replacing it with -(ě)je: slabějši „weaker” > slaběje „weaklier”


One or more of the followings prefixes can be used to modify the meaning of word. They can be attached to all kinds of words, but mostly to verbs.


(complementary with od-)

  • to do something or go somewhere till the end/goal/barrier/result: dojdti „to arrive, to come (to the goal)”, doletěti „to arrive by flying”, dozvati „to call sbd. to make him come”
  • to do additionally: dopisati „to add by writing, to complete writing by adding sth.”, dopolniti „to fill by adding a bit”


(complementary with v-, interchangeable with vy-)

  • out, off, ex-: izgnati „to exile”, izbrati „to pick out, to select, to choose”, izdati „to give out”
  • see further under vy-


(often used as a perfective marker)

  • up, on, over: navrgnuti „to throw on(to) sth.”, naložiti „to lie on/over sth.”, najdti „to find” (lit. „to come on sth.”), napisati „to write down”
  • to do or achieve a lot, in a certain amount: nagovoriti „to speak a lot”, nabrati „to take a certain amount of sth.”
  • (with the reflexive pronoun se) enough, full: naspati se „to sleep fully, to have a good sleep”, najesti se „to eat to the point of having a full stomach”


(complementary with pod-)

  • Over (moving); over, better (figuratively): nadsiliti „to overbear”, nadigrati „to defeat, to outplay”, nadpisati nad „write over sth.”, nadlomiti „break from above”, nadkryti „to cover over”


(complementary to do-)

  • to do incompletely, not entirely: nedopisati „to write without finishing”, nedopolniti „to fill but not entirely”


(derives verbs from nouns and adjectives)

  • to give or get the characteristics expressed by a noun or an adjective: okrugliti „to make round”, okameniti „to turn into stone”
  • to make the object undergo treatment with something (lit. or fig.) expressed by a noun: okružiti „to get around, to encircle”, okameniti „to stone”


(derives verbs from nouns and adjectives)

  • around: obidti „to go around”, „to avoid”, obmotati „to coil around”


(derives verbs from nouns; complementary to ob-)

  • to devoid of something expressed by a noun (dis-): obezsiliti „to disempower”, obezhrabriti „to discourage”


  • away, off (moving): odidti „to go away”, oddati „to give away”, odvinuti „to screw off”, odgovoriti „to answer” (lit. to talk back/away)
  • to complete or fulfill an action (in order to be rid of it): odrabotati „to work off”


  • to start to, to get ready to, to do right away: početi „to start”, pojdti „to start to go, to go off”
  • for a short while, a little bit, from time to time, here and there: pospati „to sleep a little”, posmatrjati „to watch here and there”
  • denotes an action performed by many or affecting all/many: poskryvati se „hide” (many people), pobiti „to kill all/many”
  • completion, result: pojesti „to eat everything”, pokryti „to cover the whole thing”


  • under, sub-, from below: podmetnuti „to put under sth.”, podbiti „to knock from below”
  • secretly, surreptitiously: podkazati „to tell in secret”, podgledati „to watch secretly”, podsměhnuti se „to jeer, to jest” (laugh secretly)


  • across, over (motion): prějdti „go on the other side”, prěvesti „bring over, to transfer”, prěložiti „to translate”
  • transformation from something old into something new: prěbudovati „to rebuild”, prěorganizovati „to reorganise”
  • through, from one side to the other: prěsěkti „to cut through, to transsect”, prěpisati „to rewrite, to copy”
  • too much, over-: prěsoliti „to use too much salt”, prěvariti „cook too long”


(complementary to za)

  • before, in advance: prědviděti „to foresee”, prědstaviti „to imagine, to introduce”, prědplatiti „to pay in advance”


  • close, next to: prijdti „to approach, to come closer”
  • on, onto, tied: privinuti „to screw on”, primetnuti „to put closer, put next to sth.”
  • in addition: privinuti „to screw on in addition”, pripisati „write in addition”, prigovoriti „to object” (lit. say in addition)
  • just a little bit: priodkryti „to open a bit”, prikryti „to close, but not entirely”


  • through(out): probiti „to break out, to penetrate”, protěkti „to flow through”, progrějati „to heat through”
  • to miss, past to: projehati mimo „to miss sth.”, promašiti, promahnuti „to to miss the mark”
  • through the whole time: prorabotati ves denj „to work through the whole day”
  • to lose all: protratiti penezy „to lose all the money”, proigrati igru „to lose the game”


(complementary to s(o))

  • apart, dis-, down: razidti „to go apart”, razkydnuti „to break down, to disunite”
  • de-, undo: razminovati „to de-mine”
  • be in middle of sth., carry the action through: razcvětati „to be in flower”, razgovarjati „to converse, to be in middle of speaking”


  • together, with: svezati „to bind together, interconnect”, sozvati „to call together”, sobrati „to collect, to gather”
  • down from: sojdti „to go, come down”, snesti „to bring down”
  • entirely, done, down: srězati „to cut down”, sdělati „to make done” sbriti „to shave entirely”, svariti „to cook entirely”, sbudovati „to build entirely”


  • next to, parallel, co-: surabotati „to work together, next to each other”
  • to move face to face; suhoditi „to come together, to meet up”


(often used as a perfective marker)

  • away: uletěti „to fly away (so that somebody misses his flight”), uběgti „to run away”
  • totally (often negatively): ubiti „to kill” (lit. beat completely), uginuti „to die off”, usohnuti „to dry up”
  • (based on an adjective) to make more: ulěpšiti „to improve, to make better”, umenšiti „to diminish, to reduce, to make less”


  • in, into (with verbs of motion): vojdti „to go in, to enter”, vnesti „to bring in”, vlupiti „to indent”
  • (with the reflexive pronoun se) to do sth. accurately, observantly, curiously: včitati se „to start to read curiously”, vslušati se „to start to hear curiously”


  • up, aloft, upstairs: vozletěti „to fly up”, vozidti „to go uphill”
  • to start sudden to do sth. intensively: vozvyti „to start to cry suddenly”, vozbuditi „to stimulate, to stir up”
  • back, again, re-: vozvratiti se „come back”, vozživiti „to reanimate”>


(instead of vy- Southslavs use iz- in all cases)

  • out, afield, onto (woth verbs of motion): vyjdti (iz) „to go out (of)”, vynesti (iz) „to care out”
  • do sth. completely, entirely: vyvariti „to boil comletely”, vysušiti „to dry completely, dry out”
  • well, long, around: vyležati se „to lie around”


  • behind, under: zajdti „to go behind”, zametnuti „to put behind, forget; zaryti „to plant, thrust under sth.”
  • make closed, shut, tightly: zatvoriti „to shut”, zavinuti „to screw tightly, twist”, zašiti „to sew up (tightly)”, zapakovati „to pack (make shut)”
  • start doing sth.: zapěvati „to start singing”, zaplakati „to start crying” stard doing intensive (with se): zagledati se, zasmotriti se „to look ahead, look constantly, look deeply”

Compound words

Two roots can be freely compounded to create a new idea. Usually, this is done by means of a connecting -o- (-e- after a soft consonant):

  • voda „water” + padati „to fall” > vodopad „waterfall”
  • sam „self” + kritika „criticism” > samokritika „self-criticism”
  • myš „mouse” + loviti „catch, hunt” > myšelovka „mousetrap”
  • zemja „land, earth” + tresenje „trembling” > zemjetresenje „earthquake”

When the first member is a borrowing from English, they may be divided by a hyphen (defis):

  • rok-muzika „rock music”
  • veb-stranica „web page”
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This article has been republished with the permission of its original author, Jan van Steenbergen.