Word Derivation


Georgian has a rich word-derivation system. By using a root, and adding some definite prefixes and suffixes, one can derive many nouns and adjectives from the root. For example, from the root -Kart-, the following words can be derived:

  • Kartveli : a Georgian person.
  • Kartuli : a Georgian thing (e.g. Kartuli ena, "Georgian language").
  • Sakartvelo : Georgia.

Most Georgian surnames end in -dze ("son") (Western Georgia), -shvili ("child") (Eastern Georgia), -ia (Western Georgia, Samegrelo), -ani (Western Georgia, Svaneti), -uri (Eastern Georgia), etc. The ending -eli is a particle of nobility, equivalent to French de, German von or Polish -ski. At least two personalities with Georgian surnames are known abroad: Eduard Shevardnadze and Joseph Stalin, whose birth name was Dzhugashvili.

Case system


Georgian has seven grammatical cases: nominative, ergative (also known in the Kartvelological literature as the narrative (motxrobiti) case, due to the rather inaccurate suggestion of regular ergativity, and that this case occurs generally only in the aorist series, which usually moves the narrative forward), dative, genitive, instrumental, adverbial and vocative.

The nominative, ergative and dative are core cases, and due to the complex morphosyntactic alignment of Georgian, each one has several different functions and also overlap with each other, in different contexts. They will be treated together with the verb system.

The non-core cases are the genitive, the instrumental, the adverbial and the vocative.

  • The genitive case is the equivalent of the preposition of or the possessive clitic -'s in English. In the phrase "the republic of Georgia", the word "Georgia" is in the genitive case: Sakartvelos resp'ublik'a.
  • The instrumental case corresponds to the preposition with in English, as in, "he is cutting with a knife", where the word "knife" is in the instrumental case. It also occurs with the objects of certain postpositions.
  • The adverbial case commonly marks adverbial phrases. It is also used in some other contexts, especially while using the name of languages. For example, in the sentence "can you translate this to Georgian?", Georgian is in the adverbial case.
  • The vocative case is used in addressing someone. when, for example, a mother calls her child with bat'ono? (meaning "sir?"), the child says "yes?". An interesting fact about the Georgian vocative case is that with proper names, the use of the vocative case sounds condescending or rude, and so it tends to be limited to common nouns: rogora xart, Zurab (*Zurabo)? ("How are you, Zurab?").



The declension of a noun depends on whether the root of the noun ends with a vowel or a consonant. If the root of the noun ends with a vowel, the declension can be either truncating (roots ending with -e or -a) or non-truncating (roots ending with -o or -u). In the truncating declensions, the last vowel of the word stem is lost in the genitive and the instrumental cases. The table below lists the suffixes for each noun case, with an example next to it.

  Consonant final stem Example: k'ats- ("man") Vowel final stem (truncating) Example: mama- ("father") Vowel final stem (non-truncating) Example: Sakartvelo- ("Georgia")
Nominative -i k'ats-i -Ø mama -Ø Sakartvelo
Ergative -ma k'ats-ma -m mama-m -m Sakartvelo-m
Dative -s k'ats-s -s mama-s -s Sakartvelo-s
Genitive -is k'ats-is -is * mam-is -s Sakartvelo-s
Instrumental -it k'ats-it -it * mam-it -ti Sakartvelo-ti
Adverbial -ad k'ats-ad -d mama-d -d Sakartvelo-d
Vocative -o k'ats-o! -Ø mama! -Ø Sakartvelo!

(* truncation of the last vowel occurs)



The plural number is marked with the suffix -eb, which appears after the root of the noun and before the case suffix. Some examples are:

  • The nominative case of men in Georgian is constructed as, k'ats+eb+i, while the ergative case would be, k'ats+eb+ma.
  • The nominative case of trees in Georgian (xe, root ending with truncating vowel -e) is, xe+eb+i, while the dative case would be, xe+eb+s.
  • The nominative case of girls in Georgian (gogo, root ending with non-truncating vowel -o) is, gogo+eb+i, while the instrumental case would be, gogo+eb+it.

It is important to state that, however, the plural suffix is not used when the noun is preceded by a quantifier of some kind, such as a cardinal number. Therefore, for example, "five men" in Georgian is expressed as, "xuti (5) k'atsi," not, *"xuti k'atsebi." Additionally, in certain formal contexts, Georgian uses Old Georgian case endings distinct from those of modern Georgian: Sabch'ota Sakartvelo ("Soviet Georgia", lit. "Georgia of Soviets").



Properly speaking, Georgian does not distinguish nouns from adjectives; rather, it distinguishes modifiers from modified by relative position in the nominal clause. As a result of this, things that might sound like adjectives can have substantive force in Georgian: one could say mindoda lurji ts'igni ("I would like the blue book") or just mindoda lurji ("I would like the blue one"). The declension of these adjective-like modifiers is different from that of nouns, but like that of nouns, it depends on whether the root of the adjective ends with a consonant or a vowel: a vowel-final-stem adjective is identical in all cases, while a consonant-final-stem adjective changes from case to case. (Put another way, one might say that vowel-final-stem adjectives do not actually decline for case.) The following table presents declensions of the adjectives did- ("big") and ch'aghara- ("grey") with the noun datv- ("bear").

  Consonant final stem Example: did- Vowel final stem Example: ch'aghara- Noun example: datv-
Nominative -i did-i ch'aghara datv-i
Ergative -ma did-ma ch'aghara datv-ma
Dative did ch'aghara datv-s
Genitive -i did-i ch'aghara datv-is
Instrumental -i did-i ch'aghara datv-it
Adverbial did ch'aghara datv-ad
Vocative -o did-o ch'aghara datv-o

Possessive adjectives


The possessive adjectives (equivalent to English my, your, etc.) are declined like other consonant-stem-final adjectives, except for a final -s in the dative, instrumental, and adverbial forms of the first- and second-person possessive adjectives. Note the lack of second- and third-person vocative forms.

  Nominative Ergative Dative Genitive Instrumental Adverbial Vocative
First-person singular chem-i chem-ma chem-s chem-i chem-is chem-s chem-o
Second-person singular shen-i shen-ma shen-s shen-i shen-is shen-s -
Third-person singular mis-i mis-ma mis mis-i mis-i mis -
First-person plural chven-i chven-ma chven-s chven-i chven-s chven-s chven-o
Second-person plural tkven-i tkven-ma tkven-s tkven-i tkven-s tkven-s -
Third-person plural mat-i mat-ma mat mat-i mat-i mat -


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