limba română, românește, română [a]
Native toRomania, Moldova
RegionCentral Europe, Southeastern Europe, and Eastern Europe
Native speakers
25 million (2020)[1]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byRomanian Academy
Language codes
ISO 639-1ro
ISO 639-2rum (B)
ron (T)
ISO 639-3ron
Linguasphere51-AAD-c (varieties: 51-AAD-ca to -ck)
Blue: region where Romanian is the dominant language. Cyan: areas with a notable minority of Romanian speakers.
Distribution of the Romanian language in Romania, Moldova and surroundings
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Native from Bucharest, Romania, speaking Romanian. The Romanian dialect from Bucharest is standard Romanian (from the region of Muntenia, part of the historical Wallachia).

Romanian (obsolete spelling: Roumanian; endonym: limba română [ˈlimba roˈmɨnə] , or românește [romɨˈneʃte], lit.'in Romanian') is the official and main language of Romania and Moldova. Romanian is part of the Eastern Romance sub-branch of Romance languages, a linguistic group that evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin which separated from the Western Romance languages in the course of the period from the 5th to the 8th centuries.[12] To distinguish it within the Eastern Romance languages, in comparative linguistics it is called Daco-Romanian as opposed to its closest relatives, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian. It is also spoken as a minority language by stable communities in the countries surrounding Romania (Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Ukraine), and by the large Romanian diaspora. In total, it is spoken by 25 million people as a first language.[1]

Romanian was also known as Moldovan in Moldova, although the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled in 2013 that "the official language of Moldova is Romanian".[c] On 16 March 2023, the Moldovan Parliament approved a law on referring to the national language as Romanian in all legislative texts and the constitution. On 22 March, the president of Moldova, Maia Sandu, promulgated the law.[13]


The history of the Romanian language started in the Roman provinces north of the Jireček Line in Classical antiquity but there are 3 main hypotheses about its exact territory: the autochthony thesis (it developed in left-Danube Dacia only), the discontinuation thesis (it developed in right-Danube provinces only), and the "as-well-as" thesis that supports the language development on both sides of the Danube.[14] Between the 6th and 8th century, following the accumulated tendencies inherited from the vernacular spoken in this large area and, to a much smaller degree, the influences from native dialects, and in the context of a lessened power of the Roman central authority the language evolved into Common Romanian. This proto-language then came into close contact with the Slavic languages and subsequently divided into Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, Istro-Romanian, and Daco-Romanian.[15][16] Due to limited attestation between the 6th and 16th century, entire stages from its history are re-constructed by researchers, often with proposed relative chronologies and loose limits.[17]

From the 12th or 13th century, official documents and religious texts were written in Old Church Slavonic, a language that had a similar role to Medieval Latin in Western Europe. The oldest dated text in Romanian is a letter written in 1521 with Cyrillic letters, and until late 18th century, including during the development of printing, the same alphabet was used. The period after 1780, starting with the writing of its first grammar books, represents the modern age of the language, during which time the Latin alphabet became official, the literary language was standardized, and a large number of words from Modern Latin and other Romance languages entered the lexis.

In the process of language evolution from fewer than 2500 attested words from Late Antiquity to a lexicon of over 150,000 words in its contemporary form,[18] Romanian showed a high degree of lexical permeability, reflecting contact with Thraco-Dacian, Slavic languages (including Old Slavic, Serbian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, and Russian), Greek, Hungarian, German, Turkish, and to languages that served as cultural models during and after the Age of Enlightenment, in particular French.[19] This lexical permeability is continuing today with the introduction of English words.[20]

Yet while the overall lexis was enriched with foreign words and internal constructs, in accordance with the history and development of the society and the diversification in semantic fields, the fundamental lexicon—the core vocabulary used in everyday conversation—remains governed by inherited elements from the Latin spoken in the Roman provinces bordering Danube, without which no coherent sentence can be made.[21]


Main article: History of the Romanian language

Common Romanian

Main article: Proto-Romanian language

See also: Slavic superstratum in Romanian and Substrate in Romanian

Romanian descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken in the Roman provinces of Southeastern Europe[2] north of the Jireček Line (a hypothetical boundary between the dominance of Latin and Greek influences).

Most scholars agree that two major dialects developed from Common Romanian by the 10th century.[2] Daco-Romanian (the official language of Romania and Moldova) and Istro-Romanian (a language spoken by no more than 2,000 people in Istria) descended from the northern dialect.[2] Two other languages, Aromanian and Megleno-Romanian, developed from the southern version of Common Romanian.[2] These two languages are now spoken in lands to the south of the Jireček Line.[22]

Of the features that individualize Common Romanian, inherited from Latin or subsequently developed, of particular importance are:[23]

Old Romanian

Main article: Old Romanian

The use of the denomination Romanian (română) for the language and use of the demonym Romanians (Români) for speakers of this language predates the foundation of the modern Romanian state. Romanians always used the general term rumân/român or regional terms like ardeleni (or ungureni), moldoveni or munteni to designate themselves. Both the name of rumână or rumâniască for the Romanian language and the self-designation rumân/român are attested as early as the 16th century, by various foreign travelers into the Carpathian Romance-speaking space,[24] as well as in other historical documents written in Romanian at that time such as Cronicile Țării Moldovei [ro] (The Chronicles of the land of Moldova) by Grigore Ureche.

The few allusions to the use of Romanian in writing as well as common words, anthroponyms, and toponyms preserved in the Old Church Slavonic religious writings and chancellery documents, attested prior to the 16th century, along with the analysis of graphemes show that the writing of Romanian with the Cyrillic alphabet started in the second half of the 15th century.[25]

Neacșu's letter is the oldest surviving document written in Old Romanian that can be precisely dated

The oldest extant document in Romanian precisely dated is Neacșu's letter (1521) and was written using the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet, which was used until the late 19th century. The letter is the oldest testimony of Romanian epistolary style and uses a prevalent lexis of Latin origin.[26] However, dating by watermarks has shown the Hurmuzaki Psalter is a copy from around the turn of the 16th century.[25] The slow process of Romanian establishing itself as an official language, used in the public sphere, in literature and ecclesiastically, began in the late 15th century and ended in the early decades of the 18th century, by which time Romanian had begun to be regularly used by the Church. The oldest Romanian texts of a literary nature are religious manuscripts (Codicele Voronețean, Psaltirea Scheiană), translations of essential Christian texts. These are considered either propagandistic results of confessional rivalries, for instance between Lutheranism and Calvinism, or as initiatives by Romanian monks stationed at Peri Monastery in Maramureș to distance themselves from the influence of the Mukacheve eparchy in Ukraine.[27]

The language spoken during this period had a phonological system of seven vowels and twenty-nine consonants. Particular to Old Romanian are the distribution of /z/, as the allophone of /dz/ from Common Romanian, in the Wallachian and south-east Transylvanian varieties, the presence of palatal sonorants /ʎ/ and /ɲ/, nowadays preserved only regionally in Banat and Oltenia, and the beginning of devoicing of asyllabic [u] after consonants.[25] Text analysis revealed words that are now lost from modern vocabulary or used only in local varieties. These words were of various provenience for example: Latin (cure - to run, mâneca- to leave), Old Church Slavonic (drăghicame - gem, precious stone, prilăsti - to trick, to cheat), Hungarian (bizăntui - to bear witness).[28]

Modern Romanian

Main article: Modern Romanian

Samuil Micu-Klein

The modern age of Romanian starts in 1780 with the printing in Vienna of a very important grammar book[23] titled Elementa linguae daco-romanae sive valachicae. The author of the book, Samuil Micu-Klein, and the revisor, Gheorghe Șincai, both members of the Transylvanian School, chose to use Latin as the language of the text and presented the phonetical and grammatical features of Romanian in comparison to its ancestor.[29] The Modern age of Romanian language can be further divided into three phases: pre-modern or modernizing between 1780 and 1830, modern phase between 1831 and 1880, and contemporary from 1880 onwards.

Pre-modern period

Beginning with the printing in 1780 of Elementa linguae daco-romanae sive valachicae, the pre-modern phase was characterized by the publishing of school textbooks, appearance of first normative works in Romanian, numerous translations, and the beginning of a conscious stage of re-latinization of the language.[23] Notable contributions, besides that of the Transylvanian School, are the activities of Gheorghe Lazăr, founder of the first Romanian school, and Ion Heliade Rădulescu. The end of this period is marked by the first printing of magazines and newspapers in Romanian, in particular Curierul Românesc and Albina Românească.[30]

Lithograph of a group portrait by Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, showing Paris-based revolutionaries during the early 1840s. From left: Rosenthal (wearing a Phrygian cap), C. A. Rosetti, anonymous Wallachian

Modern period

Starting from 1831 and lasting until 1880 the modern phase is characterized by the development of literary styles: scientific, administrative, and belletristic. It quickly reached a high point with the printing of Dacia Literară, a journal founded by Mihail Kogălniceanu and representing a literary society, which together with other publications like Propășirea and Gazeta de Transilvania spread the ideas of Romantic nationalism and later contributed to the formation of other societies that took part in the Revolutions of 1848. Their members and those that shared their views are collectively known in Romania as "of '48"(pașoptiști), a name that was extended to the literature and writers around this time such as Vasile Alecsandri, Grigore Alexandrescu, Nicolae Bălcescu, Timotei Cipariu.[31]

Between 1830 and 1860 "transitional alphabets" were used, adding Latin letters to the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet. The Latin alphabet became official at different dates in Wallachia and Transylvania - 1860, and Moldova -1862.[32]

Following the unification of Moldavia and Wallachia further studies on the language were made, culminating with the founding of Societatea Literară Română on 1 April 1866 on the initiative of C. A. Rosetti, an academic society that had the purpose of standardizing the orthography, formalizing the grammar and (via a dictionary) vocabulary of the language, and promoting literary and scientific publications. This institution later became the Romanian Academy.[33]

Ion Creangă

Contemporary period

The third phase of the modern age of Romanian language, starting from 1880 and continuing to this day, is characterized by the prevalence of the supradialectal form of the language, standardized with the express contribution of the school system and Romanian Academy, bringing a close to the process of literary language modernization and development of literary styles.[20] It is distinguished by the activity of Romanian literature classics in its early decades: Mihai Eminescu, Ion Luca Caragiale, Ion Creangă, Ioan Slavici.[34]

The current orthography, with minor reforms to this day and using Latin letters, was fully implemented in 1881, regulated by the Romanian Academy on a fundamentally phonological principle, with few morpho-syntactic exceptions.[35]

Modern history of Romanian in Bessarabia

The first Romanian grammar was published in Vienna in 1780.[36] Following the annexation of Bessarabia by Russia in 1812, Moldavian was established as an official language in the governmental institutions of Bessarabia, used along with Russian,[37] The publishing works established by Archbishop Gavril Bănulescu-Bodoni were able to produce books and liturgical works in Moldavian between 1815 and 1820.[38]

Bessarabia during the 1812–1918 era witnessed the gradual development of bilingualism. Russian continued to develop as the official language of privilege, whereas Romanian remained the principal vernacular.[citation needed]

The period from 1905 to 1917 was one of increasing linguistic conflict spurred by an increase in Romanian nationalism.[citation needed] In 1905 and 1906, the Bessarabian zemstva asked for the re-introduction of Romanian in schools as a "compulsory language", and the "liberty to teach in the mother language (Romanian language)". At the same time, Romanian-language newspapers and journals began to appear, such as Basarabia (1906), Viața Basarabiei (1907), Moldovanul (1907), Luminătorul (1908), Cuvînt moldovenesc (1913), Glasul Basarabiei (1913). From 1913, the synod permitted that "the churches in Bessarabia use the Romanian language". Romanian finally became the official language with the Constitution of 1923.

Historical grammar

Romanian has preserved a part of the Latin declension, but whereas Latin had six cases, from a morphological viewpoint, Romanian has only three: the nominative/accusative, genitive/dative, and marginally the vocative. Romanian nouns also preserve the neuter gender, although instead of functioning as a separate gender with its own forms in adjectives, the Romanian neuter became a mixture of masculine and feminine. The verb morphology of Romanian has shown the same move towards a compound perfect and future tense as the other Romance languages. Compared with the other Romance languages, during its evolution, Romanian simplified the original Latin tense system.[39]

Geographic distribution

See also: List of countries and territories where Romanian is an official language and Romanian Americans

Romanian language, as part of the Eastern Romance sub-branch of Romance languages, alongside and related to Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian. All of these Eastern Romance languages are spoken in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.

Romanian is spoken mostly in Central, South-Eastern, and Eastern Europe, although speakers of the language can be found all over the world, mostly due to emigration of Romanian nationals and the return of immigrants to Romania back to their original countries. Romanian speakers account for 0.5% of the world's population,[40] and 4% of the Romance-speaking population of the world.[41]

Romanian is the single official and national language in Romania and Moldova, although it shares the official status at regional level with other languages in the Moldovan autonomies of Gagauzia and Transnistria. Romanian is also an official language of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia along with five other languages. Romanian minorities are encountered in Serbia (Timok Valley), Ukraine (Chernivtsi and Odesa oblasts), and Hungary (Gyula). Large immigrant communities are found in Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal.

In 1995, the largest Romanian-speaking community in the Middle East was found in Israel, where Romanian was spoken by 5% of the population.[42][43] Romanian is also spoken as a second language by people from Arabic-speaking countries who have studied in Romania. It is estimated that almost half a million Middle Eastern Arabs studied in Romania during the 1980s.[44] Small Romanian-speaking communities are to be found in Kazakhstan and Russia. Romanian is also spoken within communities of Romanian and Moldovan immigrants in the United States, Canada and Australia, although they do not make up a large homogeneous community statewide.

Geographic distribution of Romanian
Country Speakers
Country Population
World 0.33% 23,623,890 7,035,000,000
Countries where Romanian is an official language
Romania 90.65% 17,263,561[45] 19,043,767
Moldova 2 82.1% 2,184,065 2,681,735
Transnistria (Moldova)3 33.0% 156,600 475,665
Vojvodina (Serbia) 1.04% 18,038[46] 1,740,230[47]
minority regional co-official language:
Ukraine 5 0.8% 327,703 48,457,000
not official:
Other neighboring European states (except for CIS where Romanian is not official)
Hungary 0.14% 13,886[48] 9,937,628
Timok Valley (Serbia) 0.39% 25,702[49] 6,664,007
Bulgaria 0.06% 4,575[50][full citation needed] 7,364,570
not official:
Russia 1 0.06% 92,675[51] 142,856,536
Kazakhstan 1 0.1% 14,666 14,953,126
Israel 1.11% ~82,300[52] 7,412,200
UAE 0.1% 5,000[citation needed] 4,106,427
Singapore 0.02% 1,400[citation needed] 5,535,000
Japan 0.002% 2,185[citation needed] 126,659,683
South Korea 0.0006% 300[citation needed] 50,004,441
China 0.0008% 12,000[citation needed] 1,376,049,000
The Americas
not official:
United States 0.049% 154,625[53] 315,091,138
Canada 0.289% 100,610[54] 34,767,250
Argentina 0.03% 13,000[citation needed] 40,117,096
Venezuela 0.036% 10,000[citation needed] 27,150,095
Brazil 0.002% 4,000[citation needed] 190,732,694
not official:
Australia 0.046% 12,251[55] 26,482,413
New Zealand 0.08% 3,100[citation needed] 4,027,947
not official:
South Africa 0.007% 3,000[citation needed] 44,819,778

1 Many are Moldavians who were deported
2 Data only for the districts on the right bank of Dniester (without Transnistria and the city of Tighina). In Moldova, it is sometimes referred to as the "Moldovan language"
3 In Transnistria, it is officially called "Moldovan language" and is written in Moldovan Cyrillic alphabet.
4 Officially divided into Vlachs and Romanians
5 Most in Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia; according to a Moldova Noastră study (based on the latest Ukrainian census).[56]

Legal status

In Romania

According to the Constitution of Romania of 1991, as revised in 2003, Romanian is the official language of the Republic.[57]

Romania mandates the use of Romanian in official government publications, public education and legal contracts. Advertisements as well as other public messages must bear a translation of foreign words,[58] while trade signs and logos shall be written predominantly in Romanian.[59]

The Romanian Language Institute (Institutul Limbii Române), established by the Ministry of Education of Romania, promotes Romanian and supports people willing to study the language, working together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department for Romanians Abroad.[60]

Since 2013, the Romanian Language Day is celebrated on every 31 August.[61][62]

In Moldova

Main article: Moldovan language

Romanian is the official language of the Republic of Moldova. The 1991 Declaration of Independence named the official language Romanian,[63][64] and the Constitution of Moldova as originally adopted in 1994 named the state language of the country Moldovan. In December 2013, a decision of the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled that the Declaration of Independence took precedence over the Constitution and the state language should be called Romanian.[65] In 2023, the Moldovan parliament passed a law officially adopting the designation "Romanian" in all legal instruments, implementing the 2013 court decision.[66]

Scholars agree that Moldovan and Romanian are the same language, with the glottonym "Moldovan" used in certain political contexts.[67] It has been the sole official language since the adoption of the Law on State Language of the Moldavian SSR in 1989.[68] This law mandates the use of Moldovan in all the political, economic, cultural and social spheres, as well as asserting the existence of a "linguistic Moldo-Romanian identity".[69] It is also used in schools, mass media, education and in the colloquial speech and writing. Outside the political arena the language is most often called "Romanian". In the breakaway territory of Transnistria, it is co-official with Ukrainian and Russian.

In the 2014 census, out of the 2,804,801 people living in Moldova, 24% (652,394) stated Romanian as their most common language, whereas 56% stated Moldovan. While in the urban centers speakers are split evenly between the two names (with the capital Chișinău showing a strong preference for the name "Romanian", i.e. 3:2), in the countryside hardly a quarter of Romanian/Moldovan speakers indicated Romanian as their native language.[70] Unofficial results of this census first showed a stronger preference for the name Romanian, however the initial reports were later dismissed by the Institute for Statistics, which led to speculations in the media regarding the forgery of the census results.[71]

In Serbia

Main article: Romanian language in Serbia

Official usage of Romanian language in Vojvodina, Serbia
Romanian language in entire Serbia (see also Romanians in Serbia), census 2002
  over 35%

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia determines that in the regions of the Republic of Serbia inhabited by national minorities, their own languages and scripts shall be officially used as well, in the manner established by law.[72]

The Statute of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina determines that, together with the Serbian language and the Cyrillic script, and the Latin script as stipulated by the law, the Croat, Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian and Rusyn languages and their scripts, as well as languages and scripts of other nationalities, shall simultaneously be officially used in the work of the bodies of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, in the manner established by the law.[73][74] The bodies of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina are: the Assembly, the Executive Council and the provincial administrative bodies.

The Romanian language and script are officially used in eight municipalities: Alibunar, Bela Crkva (Biserica Albă), Žitište (Sângeorgiu de Bega), Zrenjanin (Becicherecu Mare), Kovačica (Covăcița), Kovin (Cuvin), Plandište (Plandiște) and Sečanj (Seceani). In the municipality of Vršac (Vârșeț), Romanian is official only in the villages of Vojvodinci (Voivodinț), Markovac (Marcovăț), Straža (Straja), Mali Žam (Jamu Mic), Malo Središte (Srediștea Mică), Mesić (Mesici), Jablanka (Iablanca), Sočica (Sălcița), Ritiševo (Râtișor), Orešac (Oreșaț) and Kuštilj (Coștei).[75]

In the 2002 Census, the last carried out in Serbia, 1.5% of Vojvodinians stated Romanian as their native language.

Timok Valley

The Vlachs of Serbia are considered to speak Romanian as well.[76]

Regional language status in Ukraine

In parts of Ukraine where Romanians constitute a significant share of the local population (districts in Chernivtsi, Odesa and Zakarpattia oblasts) Romanian is taught in schools as a primary language and there are Romanian-language newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasting.[77][78] The University of Chernivtsi in western Ukraine trains teachers for Romanian schools in the fields of Romanian philology, mathematics and physics.[79]

In Hertsa Raion of Ukraine as well as in other villages of Chernivtsi Oblast and Zakarpattia Oblast, Romanian has been declared a "regional language" alongside Ukrainian as per the 2012 legislation on languages in Ukraine.

In other countries and organizations

See also: Romanian diaspora

Romanian is an official or administrative language in various communities and organisations, such as the Latin Union and the European Union. Romanian is also one of the five languages in which religious services are performed in the autonomous monastic state of Mount Athos, spoken in the monastic communities of Prodromos and Lakkoskiti. In the unrecognised state of Transnistria, Moldovan is one of the official languages. However, unlike all other dialects of Romanian, this variety of Moldovan is written in Cyrillic script.

Distribution of first-language native Romanian speakers by country. Voivodina is an autonomous province of northern Serbia bordering Romania, while Altele means "Other"

As a second and foreign language

Romanian is taught in some areas that have Romanian minority communities, such as Vojvodina in Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Hungary. The Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) has since 1992 organised summer courses in Romanian for language teachers.[80] There are also non-Romanians who study Romanian as a foreign language, for example the Nicolae Bălcescu High-school in Gyula, Hungary.

Romanian is taught as a foreign language in tertiary institutions, mostly in European countries such as Germany, France and Italy, and the Netherlands, as well as in the United States. Overall, it is taught as a foreign language in 43 countries around the world.[81]

Romanian as secondary or foreign language in Central and Eastern Europe
  Above 3%
  Under 1%

Popular culture

Romanian has become popular in other countries through movies and songs performed in the Romanian language. Examples of Romanian acts that had a great success in non-Romanophone countries are the bands O-Zone (with their No. 1 single Dragostea Din Tei/Numa Numa across the world in 2003–2004), Akcent (popular in the Netherlands, Poland and other European countries), Activ (successful in some Eastern European countries), DJ Project (popular as clubbing music) SunStroke Project (known by viral video "Epic sax guy") and Alexandra Stan (worldwide no.1 hit with "Mr. Saxobeat") and Inna as well as high-rated movies like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, 12:08 East of Bucharest or California Dreamin' (all of them with awards at the Cannes Film Festival).

Also some artists wrote songs dedicated to the Romanian language. The multi-platinum pop trio O-Zone (originally from Moldova) released a song called "Nu mă las de limba noastră" ("I won't forsake our language"). The final verse of this song, "Eu nu mă las de limba noastră, de limba noastră cea română", is translated in English as "I won't forsake our language, our Romanian language". Also, the Moldovan musicians Doina and Ion Aldea Teodorovici performed a song called "The Romanian language".


Main article: Romanian dialects

Romanian is also called Daco-Romanian in comparative linguistics to distinguish from the other dialects of Common Romanian: Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian. The origin of the term "Daco-Romanian" can be traced back to the first printed book of Romanian grammar in 1780,[36] by Samuil Micu and Gheorghe Șincai. There, the Romanian dialect spoken north of the Danube is called lingua Daco-Romana to emphasize its origin and its area of use, which includes the former Roman province of Dacia, although it is spoken also south of the Danube, in Dobruja, the Timok Valley and northern Bulgaria.

This article deals with the Romanian (i.e. Daco-Romanian) language, and thus only its dialectal variations are discussed here. The differences between the regional varieties are small, limited to regular phonetic changes, few grammar aspects, and lexical particularities. There is a single written and spoken standard (literary) Romanian language used by all speakers, regardless of region. Like most natural languages, Romanian dialects are part of a dialect continuum. The dialects of Romanian are also referred to as 'sub-dialects' and are distinguished primarily by phonetic differences. Romanians themselves speak of the differences as 'accents' or 'speeches' (in Romanian: accent or grai).[82]

Depending on the criteria used for classifying these dialects, fewer or more are found, ranging from 2 to 20, although the most widespread approaches give a number of five dialects. These are grouped into two main types, southern and northern, further divided as follows:

Over the last century, however, regional accents have been weakened due to mass communication and greater mobility.

Some argots and speech forms have also arisen from the Romanian language. Examples are the Gumuțeasca, spoken in Mărgău,[83][84] and the Totoiana, an inverted "version" of Romanian spoken in Totoi.[85][86][87]


Romance language

See also: Romance languages

Romance languages diagram

Romanian is a Romance language, belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family, having much in common with languages such as Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese.[88]

Compared with the other Romance languages, the closest relative of Romanian is Italian.[88] Romanian has had a greater share of foreign influence than some other Romance languages such as Italian in terms of vocabulary and other aspects. A study conducted by Mario Pei in 1949 which analyzed the degree of differentiation of languages from their parental language (in the case of Romance languages to Latin comparing phonology, inflection, discourse, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation) produced the following percentages (the higher the percentage, the greater the distance from Latin):[89]

The lexical similarity of Romanian with Italian has been estimated at 77%, followed by French at 75%, Sardinian 74%, Catalan 73%, Portuguese and Rhaeto-Romance 72%, Spanish 71%.[90]

The Romanian vocabulary became predominantly influenced by French and, to a lesser extent, Italian in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[91]

Balkan language area

While most of Romanian grammar and morphology are based on Latin, there are some features that are shared only with other languages of the Balkans and not found in other Romance languages. The shared features of Romanian and the other languages of the Balkan language area (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Albanian, Greek, and Serbo-Croatian) include a suffixed definite article, the syncretism of genitive and dative case and the formation of the future and the alternation of infinitive with subjunctive constructions.[92][93] According to a well-established scholarly theory, most Balkanisms could be traced back to the development of the Balkan Romance languages; these features were adopted by other languages due to language shift.[94]

Slavic influence

Main article: Slavic influence on Romanian

Slavic influence on Romanian is especially noticeable in its vocabulary, with words of Slavic origin constituting about 10–15% of modern Romanian lexicon,[95][96] and with further influences in its phonetics, morphology and syntax. The greater part of its Slavic vocabulary comes from Old Church Slavonic,[97][98] which was the official written language of Wallachia and Moldavia from the 14th to the 18th century (although not understood by most people), as well as the liturgical language of the Romanian Orthodox Church.[99][100] As a result, much Romanian vocabulary dealing with religion, ritual, and hierarchy is Slavic.[101][99] The number of high-frequency Slavic-derived words is also believed to indicate contact or cohabitation with South Slavic tribes from around the 6th century, though it is disputed where this took place (see Origin of the Romanians).[99] Words borrowed in this way tend to be more vernacular (compare sfârși, "to end", with săvârși, "to commit").[101] It has also been argued that Slavic borrowing was a key factor in the development of [ɨ] (î and â) as a separate phoneme.[102]

Other influences

Even before the 19th century, Romanian came in contact with several other languages. Notable examples of lexical borrowings include:

Furthermore, during the Habsburg and, later on, Austrian rule of Banat, Transylvania, and Bukovina, a large number of words were borrowed from Austrian High German, in particular in fields such as the military, administration, social welfare, economy, etc.[103] Subsequently, German terms have been taken out of science and technics, like: șină < Schiene "rail", știft < Stift "peg", liță < Litze "braid", șindrilă < Schindel "shingle", ștanță < Stanze "punch", șaibă < Scheibe "washer", ștangă < Stange "crossbar", țiglă < Ziegel "tile", șmirghel < Schmirgelpapier "emery paper";

French, Italian, and English loanwords

Further information: Re-latinization of Romanian

Since the 19th century, many literary or learned words were borrowed from the other Romance languages, especially from French and Italian (for example: birou "desk, office", avion "airplane", exploata "exploit"). It was estimated that about 38% of words in Romanian are of French and/or Italian origin (in many cases both languages); and adding this to Romanian's native stock, about 75%–85% of Romanian words can be traced to Latin. The use of these Romanianized French and Italian learned loans has tended to increase at the expense of previous loanwords, many of which have become rare or fallen out of use. As second or third languages, French and Italian themselves are better known in Romania than in Romania's neighbors. Along with the switch to the Latin alphabet in Moldova, the re-latinization of the vocabulary has tended to reinforce the Latin character of the language.

In the process of lexical modernization, much of the native Latin stock have acquired doublets from other Romance languages, thus forming a further and more modern and literary lexical layer. Typically, the native word is a noun and the learned loan is an adjective. Some examples of doublets:

Latin and native doublets in Romanian
Latin Native stock Learned loan
agilis 'quick’ ager 'astute’ agil 'agile' (< French, Italian agile)
aqua apă 'water’ acvatic 'aquatic' (< Fr aquatique)
dens, dentem dinte 'tooth’ dentist 'dentist' (< Fr dentiste, It dentista)
directus drept 'straight; right’ direct 'direct' (< Fr direct)
frigidus 'cold' (adj.) frig 'cold' (noun) frigid 'frigid' (< Fr frigide)
rapidus repede 'quick’ rapid 'quick' (< Fr rapide, It rapido)

In the 20th century, an increasing number of English words have been borrowed (such as: gem < jam; interviu < interview; meci < match; manager < manager; fotbal < football; sandviș < sandwich; bișniță < business; chec < cake; veceu < WC; tramvai < tramway). These words are assigned grammatical gender in Romanian and handled according to Romanian rules; thus "the manager" is managerul. Some borrowings, for example in the computer field, appear to have awkward (perhaps contrived and ludicrous) 'Romanisation,' such as cookie-uri which is the plural of the Internet term cookie.


Romanian's core lexicon (2,581 words); Marius Sala, VRLR (1988)

Main article: Romanian lexis

A 1988 statistic by Marius Sala is based on 2,581 words chosen on the criteria of frequency, semantic richness and productivity, which also contain words formed on the territory of the Romanian language. This statistic gives the percentages below:[95]

If the analysis is restricted to a core vocabulary of 2,500 frequent, semantically rich and productive words, then the Latin inheritance comes first, followed by Romance and classical Latin neologisms, whereas the Slavic borrowings come third.

Romanian according to word origin[95][105]
Romance and Latin

Although they are rarely used nowadays, the Romanian calendar used to have the traditional Romanian month names, unique to the language.[106]

The longest word in Romanian is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniconioză, with 44 letters,[107] but the longest one admitted by the Dicționarul explicativ al limbii române ("Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language", DEX) is electroglotospectrografie, with 25 letters.[108][109]


Main article: Romanian grammar

Romanian nouns are characterized by gender (feminine, masculine, and neuter), and declined by number (singular and plural) and case (nominative/accusative, dative/genitive and vocative). The articles, as well as most adjectives and pronouns, agree in gender, number and case with the noun they modify.

Romanian is the only major Romance language where definite articles are enclitic: that is, attached to the end of the noun (as in Scandinavian, Bulgarian and Albanian), instead of in front (proclitic).[110] They were formed, as in other Romance languages, from the Latin demonstrative pronouns.

As in all Romance languages, Romanian verbs are highly inflected for person, number, tense, mood, and voice. The usual word order in sentences is subject–verb–object (SVO). Romanian has four verbal conjugations which further split into ten conjugation patterns. Romanian verbs are conjugated for five moods (indicative, conditional/optative, imperative, subjunctive, and presumptive) and four non-finite forms (infinitive, gerund, supine, and participle).


Main article: Romanian phonology

Romanian has seven vowels: /i/, /ɨ/, /u/, /e/, /ə/, /o/ and /a/. Additionally, /ø/ and /y/ may appear in some borrowed words. Arguably, the diphthongs /e̯a/ and /o̯a/ are also part of the phoneme set. There are twenty-two consonants. The two approximants /j/ and /w/ can appear before or after any vowel, creating a large number of glide-vowel sequences which are, strictly speaking, not diphthongs.

In final positions after consonants, a short /i/ can be deleted, surfacing only as the palatalization of the preceding consonant (e.g., [mʲ]). Similarly, a deleted /u/ may prompt labialization of a preceding consonant, though this has ceased to carry any morphological meaning.

Phonetic changes

Main article: Latin-to-Romanian sound changes

Owing to its isolation from the other Romance languages, the phonetic evolution of Romanian was quite different, but the language does share a few changes with Italian, such as [kl][kj] (Lat. clarus → Rom. chiàr, Ital. chiaro, Lat. clamare → Rom. chemare, Ital. chiamare) and [ɡl][ɡj] (Lat. *glacia (glacies) → Rom. ghéață, Ital. ghiaccia, ghiaccio, Lat. *ungla (ungula) → Rom. unghie, Ital. unghia), although this did not go as far as it did in Italian with other similar clusters (Rom. plàce, Ital. piace); another similarity with Italian is the change from [ke] or [ki] to [tʃe] or [tʃi] (Lat. pax, pacem → Rom. and Ital. pace, Lat. dulcem → Rom. dulce, Ital. dolce, Lat. circus → Rom. cerc, Ital. circo) and [ɡe] or [ɡi] to [dʒe] or [dʒi] (Lat. gelu → Rom. r, Ital. gelo, Lat. marginem → Rom. and Ital. margine, Lat. gemere → Rom. m (gemere), Ital. gemere). There are also a few changes shared with Dalmatian, such as /ɡn/ (probably phonetically [ŋn]) → [mn] (Lat. cognatus → Rom. cumnat, Dalm. comnut) and /ks/[ps] in some situations (Lat. coxa → Rom. cópsă, Dalm. copsa).

Among the notable phonetic changes are:

  • Lat. cera → Rom. céră (wax)
  • Lat. sole → Rom. sóre (sun)
  • Lat. herba → Rom. ĭarbă (grass, herb)
  • Lat. octo → Rom. opt (eight)
  • Lat. lingua → Rom. lìmbă (tongue, language)
  • Lat. signum → Rom. sèmn (sign)
  • Lat. coxa → Rom. cópsă (thigh)
  • Lat. caelum → Rom. cèr (sky)
  • Lat. deus → Rom. èŭ → zèŭ (god)
  • Lat. tenem → Rom. ține (hold)

Romanian has entirely lost Latin /kw/ (qu), turning it either into /p/ (Lat. quattuor → Rom. pàtru, "four"; cf. It. quattro) or /k/ (Lat. quando → Rom. când, "when"; Lat. quale → Rom. càre, "which"). In fact, in modern re-borrowings, while isolated cases of /kw/ exist, as in cuaternar "quaternary", it usually takes the German-like form /kv/, as in acvatic, "aquatic". Notably, it also failed to develop phonemic palatalised sounds /ɲ/ and /ʎ/, which exist at least historically in all other major Romance languages, and even in neighbouring non-Romance languages such as Serbian and Hungarian (/ʎ/ has become /j/). However, the other Eastern Romance languages kept these sounds, so it is likely old Romanian had them as well.

Writing system

Hurmuzaki Psalter, written around 1500

The first written record about a Romance language spoken in the Middle Ages in the Balkans is from 587. A Vlach muleteer accompanying the Byzantine army noticed that the load was falling from one of the animals and shouted to a companion Torna, torna, fratre! (meaning "Return, return, brother!"). Theophanes Confessor recorded it as part of a 6th-century military expedition by Comentiolus and Priscus against the Avars and Slovenes.[111]

The oldest surviving written text in Romanian is a letter from late June 1521,[112] in which Neacșu of Câmpulung wrote to the mayor of Brașov about an imminent attack of the Turks. It was written using the Cyrillic alphabet, like most early Romanian writings. The earliest surviving writing in Latin script was a late 16th-century Transylvanian text which was written with the Hungarian alphabet conventions.

In the 18th century, Transylvanian scholars noted the Latin origin of Romanian and adapted the Latin alphabet to the Romanian language, using some orthographic rules from Italian, recognized as Romanian's closest relative. The Cyrillic alphabet remained in (gradually decreasing) use until 1860, when Romanian writing was first officially regulated.

In the Soviet Republic of Moldova, the Russian-derived Moldovan Cyrillic alphabet was used until 1989, when the Romanian Latin alphabet was introduced; in the breakaway territory of Transnistria the Cyrillic alphabet remains in use.[113]

Romanian alphabet

Main articles: Romanian alphabet and Romanian braille

The Romanian alphabet is as follows:

Capital letters
Lower case letters
a ă â b c d e f g h i î j k l m n o p q r s ș t ț u v w x y z
/a/ /ə/ /ɨ/ /b/ /k/,
/d/ /e/,
/f/ /ɡ/,
/ɨ/ /ʒ/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /o/,
/p/ /k/ /r/ /s/ /ʃ/ /t/ /t͡s/ /u/,
/v/ /v/,

K, Q, W and Y, not part of the native alphabet; they were officially introduced in the Romanian alphabet in 1982 and are mostly used to write loanwords like kilogram, quasar, watt, and yoga.

The Romanian alphabet is based on the Latin script with five additional letters Ă, Â, Î, Ș, Ț. Formerly, there were as many as 12 additional letters, but some of them were abolished in subsequent reforms. Also, until the early 20th century, a breve marker was used, which survives only in ă.

Today the Romanian alphabet is largely phonemic. However, the letters â and î both represent the same close central unrounded vowel /ɨ/. Â is used only inside words; î is used at the beginning or the end of non-compound words and in the middle of compound words. Another exception from a completely phonetic writing system is the fact that vowels and their respective semivowels are not distinguished in writing. In dictionaries the distinction is marked by separating the entry word into syllables for words containing a hiatus.

Stressed vowels also are not marked in writing, except very rarely in cases where by misplacing the stress a word might change its meaning and if the meaning is not obvious from the context. For example, trei copíi means "three children" while trei cópii means "three copies".


A close shot of some keys with Romanian characters on the keyboard of a laptop

See also: Romanian alphabet § Î versus Â

Group Phoneme Pronunciation Examples
ce, ci /tʃ/ ch in chest, cheek cerc (circle), ceașcă (cup), cercel (earring), cină (dinner), ciocan (hammer)
che, chi /k/ k in kettle, kiss cheie (key), chelner (waiter), chioșc (kiosk), chitară (guitar), ureche (ear)
ge, gi /dʒ/ j in jelly, jigsaw ger (frost), gimnast (gymnast), gem (jam), girafă (giraffe), geantă (bag)
ghe, ghi /ɡ/ g in get, give ghețar (glacier), ghid (guide), ghindă (acorn), ghidon (handle bar), stingher (lonely)

Punctuation and capitalization

Uses of punctuation peculiar to Romanian are:

Academy spelling recommendations

In 1993, new spelling rules were proposed by the Romanian Academy. In 2000, the Moldovan Academy recommended adopting the same spelling rules,[116] and in 2010 the Academy launched a schedule for the transition to the new rules that was intended to be completed by publications in 2011.[117]

On 17 October 2016, the Moldovan minister of education signed Order No. 872, adopting the revised spelling rules as recommended by the Moldovan Academy of Sciences, and giving the following two school years as a transition period. Thus the spelling used by institutions under Moldova's ministry of education has been brought in line with the Romanian Academy's 1993 recommendation. This order, however, did not apply to other government institutions, and Law 3462 of 1989 (which provided for the means of transliterating Cyrillic to Latin) has not been amended to reflect the ministry of education's changes either; thus, most Moldovan government institutions, along with most Moldovans, prefer to use the spelling adopted in 1989 (when the use of Latin script became official).

Examples of Romanian text

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

The sentence in contemporary Romanian. Words inherited directly from Latin are highlighted:

Toate ființele umane se nasc libere și egale în demnitate și în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu rațiune și conștiință și trebuie se comporte unele față de altele în spiritul fraternității.

The same sentence, with French and Italian loanwords highlighted instead:

Toate ființele umane se nasc libere și egale în demnitate și în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu rațiune și conștiință și trebuie să se comporte unele față de altele în spiritul fraternității.

The sentence rewritten to exclude French and Italian loanwords. Slavic loanwords are highlighted:

Toate ființele omenești se nasc slobode și deopotrivă în destoinicie și în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu înțelegere și cuget și trebuie să se poarte unele față de altele în duh de frățietate.

The sentence rewritten to exclude all loanwords. The meaning is unchanged. Only that it would sound somewhat strange to contemporary Romanian speakers, similar to how "Anglish" probably sounds to contemporary English speakers:

Toate ființele omenești se nasc nesupuse și asemenea în prețuire și în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu înțelegere și cuget și se cuvine să se poarte unele față de altele frățește.

See also


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  3. ^ The constitution of the Republic of Moldova referred to the country's language as Moldovan, whilst the 1991 Declaration of Independence named the official language Romanian. In December 2013, an official decision of the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled that the Declaration of Independence takes precedence over the Constitution and that the state language is therefore Romanian, not 'Moldovan'. "Moldovan court rules official language is 'Romanian,' replacing Soviet-flavored 'Moldovan'".
  4. ^ German-based influence and English loanwords


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