Time in Bulgarian

15.06.2012 § 2 Comments

  • Second: секунда (sekúnda)
  • Minute: минута (minúta)
  • Hour: час (chas) – possibly a shortened version of част (chast), meaning “part” (of a day)
  • Day: ден (den)
  • Night: нощ (nosht)
  • Week: седмица (sédmica) – shares a root with седем (sédem), meaning “seven”
  • Month: месец (mésetz)
  • Year: година (godína) – the archaic лето or лет, similar to Russian, is also sometimes used
  • Decade: десетилетие (desetilétie) – the root for 10 (десет), followed by the archaic root for year (лет)
  • Century: век (vek)
  • Millenium: хилядолетие (hilyadolétie) – the root for 1000 (хиляда), followed by the archaic root for year (лет)

Telling Time

Knowing that час means “hour” will help us understand the following question:

Колко е часът? (Kólko e chasá?)

Literally, it means “how much is the hour?” In everyday use, it means “what time is it?”

The question is answered with:

Часът е … (Chasút e…)  followed by a time phrase.

(The perceptive among you may have noticed that час is followed by the definitive article for masculine nouns, -ът)

The time phrase that will work most of the time consists of the hour (12-hour format), followed by и (and), the minutes and then the designation for am/pm (which is a bit more complex in Bulgarian). The minutes, of course, are optional for telling time on the hour. This phrase is accepted at any time, even at ten minutes to the hour, and is the most versatile way to tell time.

Time phrase 1: <12-hour hours> (и <minutes>) <AM/PM designation>

If you’d prefer not to deal with AM/PM designations, you could also use the 24-hour phrase:

Time phrase 2: <24-hour hours> (и <minutes>)

AM/PM designations:

  • ~ 11 pm – 3 am – през нощта (prez noshtá) -> at night
  • 4 am – 11 am – сутринта (sutrintá) -> in the morning
  • 12 pm – на обяд / на обед (na obyát / na óbet) -> at lunch or at noon (both are equally acceptable)
  • 1 pm – 5 pm – следобед (sledóbet) -> after noon
  • 6 pm – 10 pm – вечерта (vechertá) -> in the evening
12 noon (дванадесет на обед / dvanáyse na óbed or пладне / pládne) and midnight (полунощ / polunósht, literally “half-night”) have separate names.

Days of the Week

Note: Days of the week and months are not capitalized in Bulgarian.

  • Monday – понеделник (ponedélnik)
  • Tuesday – вторник (vtórnik)
  • Wednesday – сряда (sryáda)
  • Thursday – четвъртък (chetvúrtuk)
  • Friday – петък (pétuk)
  • Saturday – събота (súbota)
  • Sunday – неделя (nedélya)

Dates and Months of the Year

The same way that we say “first of July” and not “one of July” in English, Bulgarian uses the ordinal, not the cardinal forms of numbers. This of course means that we need a whole new post about the ordinal numerals in Bulgarian. Go and read about those and come back.

Let’s look at month names. You will notice that they are similar, but slightly different from Romance or English month names:

  • January – януари (yanuári)
  • February – февруари (fevruári)
  • March – март (mart)
  • April – април (apríl)
  • May – май (máy)
  • June – юни (yúni)
  • July – юли (yúli)
  • August – август (ávgust)
  • September – септември (septémvri)
  • October – октомври (októmvri)
  • November – ноември (noémvri)
  • December – декември (dekémvri)

One thing that may make pronouncing these easier is to notice that in Bulgarian, many b’s (November, December, February) are pronounced as v’s (noemvri, dekemvri, fevruari).

Dates in Bulgarian are written in one of two formats:

22 юли, 1996 г. (day month, year, followed by the initial for the word година / year)

22.07.96 г. (day.month.short year, with the г. optional)

How do we actually say this date? We need to convert all numbers to ordinal, for which we’ll need to know the genders of the words ден (den : day) and година (godína : year). It turns out that ден is masculine and година is feminine, so we say, in order:

  • двадесет и втори (the masculine ordinal form of 22)
  • юли (the name of the month)
  • хиляда деветстотин деветдесет и шеста (the feminine ordinal form of 1996)
  • година (the word for year)
Overall, what you’re saying is: dváyse i ftóri yúli hilyáda dévetstotin devedesé i shésta godína.


  • spring – пролет (prólet)
  • summer – лято (lyáto)
  • autumn – есен (ésen)
  • winter – зима (zíma)

Years and Centuries

Years use the feminine ordinal forms, so 1925, the “one thousand nine hundred and twenty-fifth year” is хиляда деветстотин двадесет и пета година (hilyáda dévetstotin dváyset i péta godína).

Centuries are denoted by Roman numerals and followed by the word век or в. As in English, XV в. denotes the 15th century, which encompasses the years 1401-1500. Since век is masculine, we use the masculine ordinal form for centuries.

The twelfth century, for instance, is XII в. or дванадесети век (dvanáys’ti vek).

There are two systems to denote BC and AD. One makes reference to Christ:

  • BC – преди Христа (predí Hristá), literally “before Christ”, abbreviated пр. Хр.
  • AD – след Христа (sled Hristá), literally “after Christ”, abbreviated сл. Хр.  <- optional

The other makes reference to “the new age”, equivalent to the “common era” in English:

  • B.C.E. – преди новата ера (predí nóvata éra), literally “before the new era”, abbreviated пр. н. е.
  • C.E. – от новата ера (sled nóvata éra), literally “of the new era”, abbreviated от н. е.  <- optional

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