Serbian Boy Names: a comprehensive guide

Serbian boy names have various roots and deep meanings. The Slavic compound names can lead you to the fantastic past. On the other hand, you can also notice the Slavic roots in today’s names. Their short forms and variants can show you their richness and beauty.

In the 9th century, two Greek missionaries, Sts. Cyril and Methodius brought and popularized Christianity among the Slavs. Since the adoption of the Christian faith, many Serbian names tend to reflect Biblical names and ideals. The meanings and forms are adaptations from Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

Throughout history, the influence of other nations and cultures had an impact on the Serbian language. In the last two centuries, the shorter names are more common than the longer ones. Serbian parents tend to give their baby boys names of Christian origin.

Most Popular Serbian Boy Names

The most popular Serbian boy names come from Greek and Hebrew. They are usually the adaptations of the names of Christian saints and other Biblical figures and themes. However, there are also prolific names of Slavic origin with many variants and derivatives.

Most of the male names end in a consonant. Some of the usual suffixes are -an, -ak, -ko, -oje, -in, -oš, -en, –iša, -eta, etc. They carry zero meaning when standing alone. They are attached to different roots that may have specific meanings thus forming new words.

Now, let’s explore the diverse Serbian male names further!

Luka

The Serbian name Luka is likely derived from the Ancient Greek Loukâs ‎(Λουκᾶς). The meaning “light, brightness” refers to the Indo-European root “leuk-”. Also, Luka is the Holy Apostle and the Evangelist. He wrote the Gospel of St. Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

Lazar

The Biblical name Lazar comes from Hebrew El'azar, literally meaning “he whom God has helped.” In the Serbian language, the short form of endearment of this name is Laza. One of the most important medieval Serbian rulers was named Lazar Hrebeljanović.

Vasilije

Vasilije is a South Slavic male name coming from the Ancient Greek basileús ‎(βᾰσῐλεύς) and basíleios (βασίλειος) meaning “chief, patron”. Greek and Byzantine titles for many types of monarchs and emperors used the term “basileus”.

One of the famous Serbian saints is Saint Basil of Ostrog, the Wonderworker. (Sveti Vasilije Ostroški Čudotvorac) The Ostrog Monastery dedicated to him is carved into a vertical face of the cliff 900 m above the Zeta valley. Millions of tourists visit this monastery which is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Montenegro every year.

Stefan

Stefan is a popular Serbian boy name which originates from the Greek name Stéphanos (Στέφανος) meaning “wreath, crown”. Serbian medieval rulers carried this name as a title of honor. Other popular male name variants are Stepan, Stevan, Šćepan, Stevica, Steva, Stepa, etc.

Aleksa

Aleksa is the variant of names Aleksandar or Aleksije. The Serbian form Aleksandar comes from the Greek Ἀλέξανδρος meaning “the defender of the people”.

Bogdan

The powerful Serbian name Bogdan is a loan translation of the Ancient Greek Θεόδοτος Theódotos literally meaning “given by God”. Another possible loan translation refers to the Ancient Greek Θεόδωρος (Theódōros) meaning “gift of God”.

Vuk

In Serbian folklore, the boy name Vuk is the symbol of fearlessness and bravery. The role of this name was to protect newborn sons from the evil forces presented as “the witches who ate babies”. Many traditional Serbian names are the derivatives of the word “vuk” meaning wolf.

Filip

The Serbian masculine name Filip comes from the Ancient Greek “Phílippos” (Φίλιππος). The latter consists of two parts: “philéō” ‎(φιλέω) meaning “love, kindly” and “híppos” ‎(ίππος) meaning “horse, cavalry”. So, this is someone who is “fond of horses” or “lover of horses”.

The variations of “hippos” were epithets or parts of ancient Greek names. In early Christianity, Philip was one of the apostles.

Mihajlo

Mihajlo is a variant of the name Mihailo that is very popular in Serbia. The latter comes from the Greek “Μιχαήλ” (Michaḯl). Further back, one finds Hebrew “Mı̂ykâ'êl”, the question meaning "who is like God?". In Christianity he is known as the Archangel Michael.

Vukašin

The name Vukašin derives from the name Vuk (which means “wolf” in Serbian). Vuk and the suffix –aš form Vukaš. Further on, Vukaš and the suffix -in create Vukašin.

Another possible explanation refers to the ancient Slavic origin: “vьlkъ” (“wolf”) and “sin” (“son”). So, the meaning of this name could be “son of the wolf”. The short form of this name is Vule.

Slavic Compound Names in Serbian

Dithematic Names

Compound names which combine two themes or parts can be found in many Indo-European languages such as German, Sanskrit, Celtic, as well as other languages.

Serbian, as a Slavic language, also has dithematic first names. Through them, the ancestors tried to express wishes for their newborns. One day, they would be individuals having specific characteristics and roles in the community.

Their names can be magical or metaphorical. The relations between their parts can also be a mystery. The ancestors had different challenges and beliefs compared to today’s modern world. Now, let’s explore the past roots!

Tihomir

Tihomir is a south Slavic name which is popular in Serbian. Being a dithematic name, it combines the themes from two slavic root words:

These two Slavic root words are combined using the connecting vowel ‘o’ to form the Serbian boy name Tihomir.

The meaning of this name likely refers to the wish for a newborn son to be gentle and peaceful, or for him to live in tranquility and peace.

Here are some examples of Serbian vocabulary words which contain the slavic root terms “tih” or “mir” found in this name:

Radoljub

Radoljub is a dithematic Serbian male name which combines the following slavic root words:

A possible meaning of this Slavic compound name is “a lover of work”.

See the related Serbian vocabulary words which contain the Slavic root words “rad” or “ljub” :

Branislav

The masculine name Branislav consists of the following Slavic roots: the verb “braniti” (to defend) and “slav” (from slavaglory, honor). Therefore, the meaning points to “the one who defends the glory”. The short form of this name is Brana.

Borivoj (e)

The Serbian boy name Borivoj is related to the Serbian verb “boriti se” (which means “to fight”).

More precisely, the name Borijov comes from two Slavic root words: “bor-” (fighting, war) and “voj-” (fighter, warrior).

See the related Serbian vocabulary words which contain these Slavic root words:

This name evokes the wish of the parents for a newborn son who reflects the characteristics of a warrior. The short form of this name is Bora.

Milibrat

Although Milibrat is a rather rare Serbian boy’s name, it comes from very common Slavic words.

The first part of the name, “mil-”, is a Slavic root word meaning “dear”. The second part of the name (“brat”) is the Serbian word for “brother”. The name Milibrat, therefore means “dear brother“.

Živodrag

The Serbian boy name Živodrag is a Dithematic name, which is composed of two Slavic root words: “živ” (meaning “alive”) and “drag” (meaning “dear” or “precious”).

These two Slavic root words are combined with the connecting vowel ‘o’ to form the name Živodrag.

The meaning of this Slavic boy name is “the one who is alive and precious.”

See the related Serbian vocabulary words which contain the Slavic root words “živ” or “drag” :

Most Common Serbian Masculine Names

Some of the most common Serbian masculine names of the second half of the 20th and the 21st centuries are:

Milan

Milan has been one of the widely used boy names in Serbia. The Slavic root mil- (dear, beloved) and the suffix -an form this name. The most common terms of endearment are Miki, Mića, and Milanče.

Dragan

Dragan comes from the Slavic root drag- (precious, dear) and the suffix -an. The most common expressions of endearment are Gaga, Dragi, and Draganče.

Zoran

The Serbian name Zoran derives from the word zora (dawn). This uplifting male name is also common in North Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia. The nickname is Zoki.

Slobodan

The inspirational boy name Slobodan is the translation of the Ancient Greek name Eleuthérios (Ελευθέριος) meaning free, the liberator. The most common nickname is Sloba.

Nikola

Nikola is the name of the Christian St. Nicholas. In Serbia, hundreds of churches are dedicated to him. The meaning comes from the Greek nikē, νίκη (victory) and laos, λαός (people) – "a victory of the people".

Goran

The Serbian male name Goran uncovers the Slavic root gora (hill, mountain). The bearer of this name is the mountain man or highlander. In the past, Slavs likely wished for their newborn son to be as tall as a mountain or strong as a rock.

Miodrag

The compound name Miodrag consists of two Slavic roots: mio- (dear, beloved) and --drag (precious). So, the bearer of this name is someone dear and precious.

Marko

Marko likely owes its origin to the Latin Marcus derived from Mars, the Roman God of war. In Christian tradition, Marko is one of the four Evangelists and the author of the Gospel of Mark.

Miloš

One of the top baby boy names is Miloš. This name is the derivative that consists of the Slavic root mil- (dear, kind) and the suffix –oš. In the Serbian epic folk songs and legends, one of the greatest heroes is the medieval knight called Miloš Obilić.

Dejan

The meaning and form of the name Dejan refer to the Old Slavic word дѣятъ (dejati meaning to act or to do). Another possible explanation can be in the Latin deus meaning god.

Nenad

In the past, Nenad was likely a protective disguising name composed of the negative prefix ne- and a positive attribute. The latter is the verb form nadati se (to expect). The derivative nenadan (unexpected) reveals the meaning that serves to protect a newborn from bad power. [1]

Nemanja

Nemanja is likely the name of endearment coming from Nenad. Also, one of the most important Serbian rulers from the late 12th to the mid-14th century was the family Nemanjići. The founder of the Serbian state and Nemanjić dynasty was the Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja.

Protective Male Names in Serbian

Baby Boy Names That Symbolize The Divine Protection

In many cultures, some names carry associations with divine power or protection. Naming a child after a saint who would support him has been common. However, that naming custom hasn’t been obligatory in Serbia. Choosing a name for a child according to the church calendar has been the exemption.

In Serbian naming custom, parents or godparents are the ones who can name a newborn. Many names of religious figures or themes were adapted to the Serbian language. Among the diverse baby boy names are also the ones that denote the names of saints. Here are some of them:

Đorđe

The Serbian name Đorđe refers to St. George. The name origin is Ancient Greek Γεώργιος (Geṓrgios) meaning "the land-worker, farmer".

In Serbia, many families celebrate him as their patron saint on their Slava, an important holiday occurring once a year on May 6. This Slava is called Đurđevdan.

Petar

The calendar name Petar refers to Peter the Apostle. Coming from the Ancient Greek Πέτρος (Pétros) this name means stone or rock.

Pavle

The Serbian name Pavle connects with Paul the Apostle. The Greek origin of this name is Παῦλος (Paûlos) while Latin is Paulus both meaning tiny, modest.

Matej

Matej connects with the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. The origin of this name is Hebrew Mattithyâh/Mattithyâhû meaning "the god’s gift". In the Serbian language, other variants are Mateja and Matija.

The Old Protective Naming Custom in Serbia

Serbian, as a Slavic language, had some distinct protective naming customs [1]. On the other hand, it also shared many similarities with other societies and nations. Now, let’s explore some examples:

Prodan

Prodan (meaning "sold") is the Serbian boy’s name that symbolizes the abandonment or selling of a child. This naming practice was common in ancient Rome, and many other countries. The symbolic role to disguise a child into someone looking worthless or unattractive was to make demons avoid him.

Negating Names for Boys

The earlier example of Nenad referred to the negating disguising names. Here are some more examples containing the negative prefix ne- and a positive aspect:

Nehten (unwanted). This name has a form of a verbal adjective derived from the prefix ne- and the verb hteti (to want).

Nemil (unbeloved). This name is likely derived from the negative prefix ne- and the root mio, mil (dear, beloved).

See also reference [1].

Derogatory Protective Serbian Boy Names

In ancient times, derogatory names symbolically served to repel the bad power or intentions from a child. Here are some of them with their meanings:

Animal-inspired Serbian boy names

In ancient Serbian tradition, naming a boy after an animal served the purpose of protecting him from death, evil powers, or illnesses.

Ancestors also may have associated certain positive aspects of the protective animal with its namesake.

In the Balkans, the protective naming custom was still frequent at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, that’s not the common case. Those kinds of names usually lost their original purpose.

Besides the popular name Vuk and its derivatives, here are some other old animal-inspired Serbian boy names:

Serbian Boy Names That Carry Magical Power

Odoljen

The Serbian name Odoljen likely refers to the plant Valerian. In the past, Serbs believed that it had magical power.

Drenko

Drenko points to the medicinal plant dren (Cornelian cherry). This rare Serbian male name is a symbol of strength and good health.

Conclusion

This comprehensive guide covers a diverse range of Serbian boy names. You can choose modern or traditional ones. The revival of certain names may entice your curiosity to explore more history and meanings behind them.

Others may reveal the universals between different cultures you may have not noticed before. We hope that this broad list will help you in finding the very special name smoothly.

For more boy names, see this article on Slavic boy names.

There is also an article on Serbian girl names, and one on Slavic girl names.

References:
  1. [1] Apotropaic naming: A comparative study of semantically transparent derogatory-, disguising- and programmatic- protective names - researchgate.net