Our Stories


By John Morovich

Today in the age of testing one’s DNA to find out one’s ethnic background and finding lost relatives, many Croatian Americans too, are constructing their family trees. In researching old documents and trying to decipher often times difficult to read penmanship, folks are encountering Croatian words that do not have English equivalents. Specifically, in the case of family names unique to the Croatian language. This year at CroatiaFest we will have a panel with all of the possible family names you may encounter in your research.

Names of immediate family members are pretty straight forward. Father is otac and mother is majka or mati; brother is brat and sister is sestra. Diminutive names for these family members include tata, mama, braco and seka.

Grandparents are called djed and baka in literary Croatian, but in many dialects and outside influences, they can be called dida and baba, or nono and nona. Something unique to Mrkopalj in the Gorski Kotar region, grandparents are called stari tata and stara mama.


For females:

The father of my husband - svekar

The mother of my husband - svekrva

Brother of my husband – djever

Wife of my husbands brother - jetrva

Sister of my husband – zaova

Husband of my husband’s sister – zaovac

For males:

Father of my wife – punac or tast

Mother of my wife – punica

Brother of my wife – šurjak

Wife of my wife's brother – šurjakinja

My wife's sister – svastika

Husband of my wife’s sister - svak


Upon first glance, this may seem straight forward, but things can quickly get confusing to the English speaker, particularly when it comes to aunts, uncles and cousins. 

While in English, our parents’ siblings and their spouses are all our aunts and uncles, in Croatian your father’s brother is your stric and his wife is your strina. Your mother’s brother is your ujak or ujko and his wife is called ujna. There is of course an exception to that rule in parts of Dalmatia, where everyone is either teta or barba. Unique to Dubrovnik is the use of the word dundo for uncle.

Because in past generations, families were so large in number, it was important to know how everyone was related. This is particularly the case when it comes to cousins.

For this article, let’s look at just the father’s side. The son of my father’s brother in general terms is called stričević or bratućed (but spefically if I am a male) he is called izvanji sinovac and his son izvanji prasinovac. (If I am a female) he is called izvanji bratić and his son izvanji prasinovac. His daughter, (if I am male) she is called izvanja sinovica, and her daughter izvanja prasinovica.

Please stop by the CroatiaFest Art Gallery or the Kako Se Kaže booth to view the entire panel and find out the names of the people in your family!


CroatiaFest Sponsors

Balkan Store
Maxwell Hotel
Mediteranean Inn
Big John's PFI
25th Anniversary
King County 4 Culture
Seattle Office of Arts and Culture
Ancestry Cellars
Croatian National Tourist Office