In Serbian there are many words for forest. The most common word is “šuma”. I love this word. It shows how old the Serbian language is and how rooted in nature it is. In Serbian word “šum” means rustling noise, shushing “šššš” “sh” noise, like the noise made by leaves blown and rustled by wind. The same sound is made by animals walking on fallen leaves or moving through the bushes in the undergrowth.
Here is the sound I am talking about:
All these sounds are made by leaves, eather on trees or on the ground. The sound is in Serbian called “šum” and the action of making this sound is “šumoriti, šumeti” but also “šuškati” and place where this sound is most heard is called “šuma”, the place that makes “šum”, the “šu” sound. So word šuma comes from šu + ima = shishing + has = what has a shushing sound, forest or just from šum – a = the shushing place. This is a great example of how words developed from natural sounds.
Central Serbia was until the end of the 19th century covered with ancient oak forest, one of the last ancient oak forests left in Europe. Because of this, the whole area was called “Šumadija” meaning the land of forests.