Slavic loanwords in Albanian language

Before you start reading:

My only merit here was to copy the text from Wiktionary (first list) and leave the link for each word in the end, as a reference. The second list is derived directly from “Albanian etymological dictionary”.

Therefore, all of the etymologies presented here are officially accepted by linguists – they are not a result of my own interpretation.


Albanian: brazdë – English: furrow (a line cut in the soil)
Etymology: From a Slavic language; compare Common Slavic *borzda.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: plug – English: plough
Etymology: From a Slavic language, compare Proto-Slavic *plugъ.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: lopatë – English: spade
Etymology: From a Slavic language. Compare Common Slavic *lopata ‎(shovel, spade). Wiktionary link

Albanian: kopaç – English: trunk (of a tree)
Etymology: From South Slavic (compare Bulgarian копач ‎(kopač, sapper)), from *kopati ‎(to dig, hollow out) (compare Serbo-Croatian kopati, Bulgarian копая ‎(kopája)).
Wiktionary link

Albanian: kastravec – English: cucumber
Etymology: From Serbo-Croatian краставац / krastavac.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: klekë – English: mountain pine (Pinus mugo)
Etymology: From Proto-Albanian *klekā, related to Slavic *klokъ tuft, tow. Alternatively from Macedonian клек ‎(klek) ‘mountain pine’ or Serbo-Croatian клека ‎(kleka) ‘juniper; (dial.) mountain pine’.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: bumbar – English: tripe / bumblebee
Etymology: No etymology here, but the only two languages that have this word are Albanian and Serbo-Croatian.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: zhabë – English: toad
Etymology: From Serbo-Croatian žaba.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: kokosh – English: cock, rooster
Etymology: From Slavic. Compare Serbo-Croatian кокош / kokoš and Bulgarian кокош ‎(kokoš).
Wiktionary link

Albanian: kuç – English: doggie
Etymology: From South Slavic; cf. Serbo-Croatian kȕče ‘pup’, Bulgarian куче ‎(kuče) ‘pup, doggie’.
Wiktionary link
*Note: the same is valid for “mace” which means “cat” and relates to “mače” in Serbo-Croatian, but in this case etymology is not given so I am not posting it as a separate word.

Albanian: kockë – English: bone
Etymology: From South Slavic *kostъka, from Proto-Slavic *kostь ‎(bone) + *-ъka; cf. Macedonian коска ‎(koska), Serbo-Croatian kȍska.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: grabë – English: grave
Etymology: From Proto-Indo-European *gʰrebʰ- ‘to scratch, dig’. Akin to Old High German grab ‎(grave), Old Saxon graf, Common Slavic *grobъ ‎(grave)
Wiktionary link

Albanian: duhi – English: ghost
Etymology: From Slavic *duxь ‘ghost, spirit’.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: kos – English: yogurth
Etymology: From Old Church Slavonic квасъ ‎(kvasŭ, sour dough, sour drink).
Wiktionary link

Albanian: kotec – English: pen
Etymology: From a Slavic language; compare Serbo-Croatian kòtac.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: breg – English: shore
Etymology: From a Slavic language; compare Common Slavic *bergъ.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: jug – English: south
Etymology: From Serbo-Croatian jug.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: stan – English: sheperd’s hut
Etymology: Borrowed from South Proto-Slavic *stanъ ‎(lodging) (compare Bulgarian стан ‎(stan) ‘camp’, Serbo-Croatian ста̑н ‎(stȃn) ‘appartment’); Romanian stână and Greek στάνη ‎(stáni) also from Slavic.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: prag – English: threshold
Etymology: From a Slavic language, from Proto-Slavic *porgъ ‎(threshold), Proto-Balto-Slavic *porʔgos, from Proto-Indo-European *porg-o-.
Wiktionary link

Albanian: pushkë – English: rifle
Etymology: From Serbo-Croatian puška. Compare also Czech and Slovak puška, Hungarian puska, Romanian puşcă.
Wiktionary link

And these are just some words I have found in Albanian etymological dictionary:




















As you can see these are just letters A-C. I was way too bored to continue doing this but I think you get the idea. For those who are more persistent the dictionary link is above.


Why languages have loanwords? According to the article from Rice university:

“Borrowing is a consequence of cultural contact between two language communities. Borrowing of words can go in both directions between the two languages in contact, but often there is an asymmetry, such that more words go from one side to the other. In this case the source language community has some advantage of power, prestige and/or wealth that makes the objects and ideas it brings desirable and useful to the borrowing language community. For example, the Germanic tribes in the first few centuries A.D. adopted numerous loanwords from Latin as they adopted new products via trade with the Romans. Few Germanic words, on the other hand, passed into Latin. “

And according to Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Languages borrow words freely from one another. Usually this happens when some new object or institution is developed for which the borrowing language has no word of its own.

Makes sense. For the same reason the whole world says “television”, “telephone” or “internet”. At the same time it is highly unlikely that whole nation will just start using a word from a foreign language for the word that already exists in their own. Number of Albanian loanwords in Slavic languages of Balkans is virtually zero. If we consider that majority of the words on this list are archaisms that relate to agriculture, animal domestication, habitation and superstition it is not hard to understand that contact between Slavs and Albanians had to be a very early one. It is otherwise impossible to imagine that Albanians did not have these words in their dictionary before the supposed arrival of Slavs in the 6th century.

So better than any history book or political propaganda, this list shows that there are only two options:

  1. Slavs arrived to Balkans in the 5th or 6th century, but Albanians came even later, and somehow they still did not know about these prehistorical inventions, or
  2. Both Slavs and Albanians were present on Balkans much earlier, in prehistory, and so this cultural exchange could have happened.

I incline towards the second theory, as Albanian language has also many borrowings from Greek and Latin, which would have been impossible if they had arrived to Balkans after the 6th century, but strangely enough all of the words listed above come from Slavic, and not from these two other languages. To simply change a part of a most basic dictionary in the 6th century, with arrival of Slavs, would be a precedent in human history.

It is also worth pointing out that this supposed arrival of Slavs on Balkans in the 6th century is based on one single document – “De administrando imperium” written in the 10th century Byzantium. Indeed, this text does say that Serbs and Croats arrived on Balkan in the 6th century, but does not say that this was the first time. On the other hand, Slavic medieval chroniclers, like Nestor and Dalimil, claim that Slavs had to migrate north from Balkans because of atrocities committed by Roman armies. This migration from Balkans would have happened some 600 years before that one to the Balkans, and some 1000 years before “De administrando imperium” was written, so it is quite possible that Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VII was not aware of it, or he simply didn’t care enough to go into details. Therefore, these two sides of the story in fact may not be in conflict after all. It would have been perfectly normal for Serbs and Croats to return to their homeland once the Roman empire had crumbled.

If this is true, we can also have one positive conclusion from all this – that Slavs and Albanians once may have coexisted, sharing a common culture, without being brainwashed by foreign politics, religion and nationalism. I say this because of many good people my Serbian friends have met during their travels in Albania, and afterwards told me their experience first-hand. But I also dedicate this text to those who think that it will be so easy to rewrite history.


Ruins of “Old Ras”, one of the first capitals of medieval Serbia