Oʻzbekcha, Oʻzbek tili,
Ўзбекча, ўзбек тили,
اۉزبېکچه, اۉزبېک تیلی
Uzbek in Latin, Perso-Arabic Nastaliq, and Cyrillic scripts
Native toUzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and China
RegionCentral Asia
Native speakers
33 million (incl. 29 million Northern Uzbek & 3.5 million Southern Uzbek) (2017–2022)[1]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1uz
ISO 639-2uzb
ISO 639-3uzb – inclusive code
Individual codes:
uzn – Northern
uzs – Southern
Linguasphere44-AAB-da, db
A map, showing that Uzbek is spoken throughout Uzbekistan, except the western third (where Karakalpak dominates) and Northern Afghanistan.
Dark blue = majority; light blue = minority
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.

Uzbek[c] (pronounced [œzˈbektʃæ; œzˈbek tiˈli]), formerly known as Turki, is a Karluk Turkic language spoken by Uzbeks. It is the official and national language of Uzbekistan and formally succeeded Chagatai, an earlier Karluk language also known as "Turki", as the literary language of Uzbekistan in the 1920s.[citation needed]

Uzbek is spoken as either a native or second language by 33 million people around the world, making it the second-most widely spoken Turkic language after Turkish.[1]

There are two major variants of the Uzbek language: Northern Uzbek, or simply "Uzbek", spoken in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and China; and Southern Uzbek, spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[5][6] Both Northern and Southern Uzbek are divided into many dialects. Uzbek and Uyghur are sister languages and they constitute the Karluk or "Southeastern" branch of Turkic.

External influences on Uzbek include Arabic, Persian and Russian.[7] One of the most noticeable distinctions of Uzbek from other Turkic languages is the rounding of the vowel /ɑ/ to /ɒ/ under the influence of Persian. Unlike other Turkic languages, vowel harmony is almost completely lost in modern Standard Uzbek, though it is still observed to some degree in its dialects, as well as in Uyghur.

Different dialects of Uzbek show varying degrees of influence from other languages such as Kipchak and Oghuz Turkic (for example, in grammar) as well as Persian (in grammar and phonology), which gives literary Uzbek the impression of being a mixed language.[8]

In February 2021, the Uzbek government announced that Uzbekistan plans to fully transition the Uzbek language from the Cyrillic script to a Latin-based alphabet by 1 January 2023.[9][10] Similar deadlines had been extended several times.[11] As of 2024, most institutions still use both alphabets.[12]


Main article: Turkic languages

Uzbek is the western member of the Karluk languages, a subgroup of Turkic; the eastern variant is Uyghur. Karluk is classified as a dialect continuum. Northern Uzbek was determined to be the most suitable variety to be understood by the most number of speakers of all Turkic languages despite it being heavily Persianized,[13] excluding the Siberian Turkic languages.[14] A high degree of mutual intelligibility found between certain specific Turkic languages has allowed Uzbek speakers to more easily comprehend various other distantly related languages.

Number of speakers

Uzbek, being the most widely spoken indigenous language in Central Asia, is as well spoken by smaller ethnic groups in Uzbekistan and in neighbouring countries.

The language is spoken by other ethnic groups outside Uzbekistan. The popularity of Uzbek media, including Uzbekfilm and RizanovaUz, has spread among the Post-soviet states, particularly in Central Asia in recent years. Since Uzbek is the dominant language in the Osh Region of Kyrgyzstan[citation needed] (and mothertongue of the city Osh), like the rest of Eastern, Southern and South-Eastern Kyrgyzstan (Jalal-Abad Region), the ethnic Kyrgyzes are, too, exposed to Uzbek, and some speak it fluently. This is a common situation in the rest of Central Asian republics, including: the Turkistan region of Kazakhstan, northern Daşoguz Welaýat of Turkmenistan,[15] Sughd region and other regions of Tajikistan.[16] This puts the number of L2 speakers of Uzbek at a varying 1–5 million speakers.

The Uzbek language has a special status in countries that are common destination for immigration for Uzbekistani citizens. Other than Uzbekistan and other Central Asian Republics, the ethnic Uzbeks most commonly choose the Russian Federation[17] in search of work. Most of them however, are seasonal workers, whose numbers vary greatly among residency within the Russian Federation. According to Russian government statistics, 4.5 million workers from Uzbekistan, 2.4 million from Tajikistan, and 920,000 from Kyrgyzstan were working in Russia in 2021, with around 5 million being ethnic Uzbeks.[17]

Estimates of the number of native speakers of Uzbek vary widely, from 35 up to 40 million. Ethnologue estimates put the number of native speakers at 35 million across all the recognized dialects. The Swedish national encyclopedia, Nationalencyklopedin, estimates the number of native speakers to be 38 million,[18] and the CIA World Factbook estimates 30 million. Other sources estimate the number of speakers of Uzbek to be 34 million in Uzbekistan,[19] 4.5 million in Afghanistan,[20] 1,630,000 in Pakistan,[5] 1,500,000 in Tajikistan,[21] about 1 million in Kyrgyzstan,[22] 600,000 in Kazakhstan,[23] 600,000 in Turkmenistan,[24] and 300,000 in Russia.[25]

Uzbek language is taught in more than fifty higher education institutions around the world.[26]

Etymology and background

Historically, the language under the name "Uzbek" referred to a totally different language of Kipchak origin. The language was generally similar to the neighbouring Kazakh, more or less identical lexically, phonetically and grammatically. It was dissimilar to the area's indigenous and native language, known as Turki, until it was changed to Chagatai by western scholars due to its origins from the Chagatai Khanate.[27] The ethnonym of the language itself now means "a language spoken by the Uzbeks."


Turkic speakers probably settled the Amu Darya, Syr Darya and Zarafshon river basins from at least 600–650 CE, gradually ousting or assimilating the speakers of the Eastern Iranian languages who previously inhabited Sogdia, Bactria and Khwarazm. The first Turkic dynasty in the region was that of the Kara-Khanid Khanate from the 9th–12th centuries,[28] a confederation of Karluks, Chigils, Yagma, and other tribes.[29]

Uzbek (along with Uyghur) can be considered the direct descendant of Chagatai, the language of great Turkic Central Asian literary development in the realm of Chagatai Khan, Timur (Tamerlane), and the Timurid dynasty[30] (including the early Mughal rulers of the Mughal Empire).

Chagatai was championed by Ali-Shir Nava'i in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nava'i was the greatest representative of Chagatai literature.[31][32] He significantly contributed to the development of Chagatai and is widely considered to be the founder of Uzbek literature.[33][34][35][36][37][38][39] Chagatai contained large numbers of Persian and Arabic loanwords. By the 19th century, it was rarely used for literary composition and disappeared only in the early 20th century.

Muhammad Shaybani (c. 1451 – 2 December 1510), the first Khan of Bukhara, wrote poetry under the pseudonym "Shibani". A collection of Chagatai poems by Muhammad Shaybani is currently kept in the Topkapı Palace Museum manuscript collection in Istanbul. The manuscript of his philosophical and religious work, Bahr al-Khudā, written in 1508, is located in London.[40]

Shaybani's nephew Ubaydullah Khan (1486-1540) skillfully recited the Quran and provided it with commentaries in Chagatai. Ubaydulla himself wrote poetry in Chagatai, Classical Persian, and Arabic under the literary pseudonym Ubaydiy.[41]

For the Uzbek political elite of the 16th century, Chagatai was their native language. For example, the leader of the semi-nomadic Uzbeks, Sheibani Khan (1451–1510), wrote poems in Chagatai.[42]

The poet Turdiy (17th century) in his poems called for the unification of the divided Uzbek tribes: "Although our people are divided, but these are all Uzbeks of ninety-two tribes. We have different names – we all have the same blood. We are one people, and we should have one law. Floors, sleeves and collars – it's all – one robe, So the Uzbek people are united, may they be in peace."[43]

Sufi Allayar (1633–1721) was an outstanding theologian and one of the Sufi leaders of the Khanate of Bukhara. He showed his level of knowledge by writing a book called Sebâtü'l-Âcizîn. Sufi Allayar was often read and highly appreciated in Central Asia.[44]

The term Uzbek as applied to language has meant different things at different times.

According to the Kazakh scholar Serali Lapin, who lived at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century, "there is no special Sart language different from Uzbek.[45] Russian researchers of the second half of the 19th century, like L. N. Sobolev, believed that "Sart is not a special tribe, as many tried to prove. Sart is indifferently called both Uzbek and Tajik, who live in the city and are engaged in trade.[46]

In Khanate of Khiva, Sarts spoke a highly Oghuz-influenced variety of Karluk. All three dialects continue to exist within modern spoken Uzbek.

After the independence of Uzbekistan, the Uzbek government opted to reform Northern Uzbek by changing its alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin in an attempt to stimulate the growth of Uzbek in a new, independent state. However, the reform never went into full application, and As of 2024 both alphabets are widely used, from daily uses to government publications and TV news. Uzbek language hasn't eclipsed Russian in the government sector since Russian is used widely in sciences, politics, and by the upper class of the country. However, the Uzbek internet, including Uzbek Wikipedia, is growing rapidly.[47]

Writing systems

A 1911 text in the Arabic alphabet
Covers of translated books in Uzbek. As can be seen, both Latin and Cyrillic scripts are widely used in the country. Most names are also transliterated, for example Aleksandr Dyuma is equivalent to Alexandre Dumas.

Main article: Uzbek alphabet

Uzbek has been written in a variety of scripts throughout history:

Despite the official status of the Latin script in Uzbekistan, the use of Cyrillic is still widespread, especially in advertisements and signs. In newspapers, scripts may be mixed, with headlines in Latin and articles in Cyrillic.[50] The Arabic script is no longer used in Uzbekistan except symbolically in limited texts[50] or for the academic studies of Chagatai (Old Uzbek).[48]

In 2019, an updated version of the Uzbek Latin alphabet was revealed by the Uzbek government, with five letters being updated; it was proposed to represent the sounds "ts", "sh", "ch", "oʻ" and "gʻ" by the letters "c", "ş", "ç", "ó" and "ǵ", respectively.[51] This reverses a 1995 reform, and brings the orthography closer to that of Turkish and also of Turkmen, Karakalpak, Kazakh (2018 version) and Azerbaijani.[52] In 2021, it was proposed to change "sh", "ch", "oʻ" and "gʻ" to "ş", "ç", "ō" and "ḡ".[53][54] These proposals were not implemented.[citation needed]

In the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, in northern Afghanistan and in Pakistan,[55] where there is an Uzbek minority, the Arabic-based script is still used. In the early 21st century, in Afghanistan, standardization, publication of dictionaries, and an increase in usage (for example in News agencies' website, such as that of the BBC) has been taking place.

Modern Latin alphabet
А а B b D d Е е F f G g H h I i J j K k
L l М m N n О о P p Q q R r S s Т t U u
V v X x Y y Z z Oʻ oʻ Gʻ gʻ Sh sh Ch ch Ng ng
Cyrillic alphabet
А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з
И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н О о П п Р р
С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Ъ ъ
Ь ь Э э Ю ю Я я Ў ў Қ қ Ғ ғ Ҳ ҳ
Modern Arabic alphabet
ا / آ ب پ ت ث ج چ ح
خ د ذ ر ز ژ س ش
ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق
ک گ ل م ن ڭ و ۉ
ھ ی ی ې


Words are usually oxytones (i.e. the last syllable is stressed), but certain endings and suffixal particles are not stressed.[which?][citation needed]


Standard Uzbek has six vowel phonemes.[56] Uzbek language has many dialects: contrary to many Turkic languages, Standard Uzbek (due to being based on one of the so-called Iranized Uzbek dialects[57]) no longer has vowel harmony, but other dialects (Kipchak Uzbek and Oghuz Uzbek) retain vowel harmony.

Front Central Back
Close i ~ ɨ u
Mid e o
Open æ ~ ɑ ɔ


Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
voiceless p (t͡s) t͡ʃ k q (ʔ)
voiced b d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless ɸ s ʃ χ h
voiced w~v z (ʒ) ʁ
Approximant l j
Tap / Flap ɾ


As a Turkic language, Uzbek is null subject, agglutinative and has no noun classes (gender or otherwise). Although Uzbek has no definite articles[clarification needed], it has indefinite articles bir and bitta. The word order is subject–object–verb (SOV).

In Uzbek, there are two main categories of words: nominals (equivalent to nouns, pronouns, adjectives and some adverbs) and verbals (equivalent to verbs and some adverbs).


Plurals are formed by suffix -lar. Nouns take the -ni suffix as a definite article; unsuffixed nouns are understood as indefinite. The dative case ending -ga changes to -ka when the noun ends in -k, -g, or -qa when the noun ends in -q, -gʻ (notice *tog‘qatoqqa). The possessive suffixes change the final consonants -k and -q to voiced -g and -gʻ, respectively (yurakyuragim).[58] Unlike neighbouring Turkmen and Kazakh languages, due to the loss of "pronominal -n" there is no irregularity in forming cases after possessive cases (uyida "in his/her/its house", as opposed to Turkmen öýünde, though saying uyinda is also correct but such style is mainly used in literary contexts).[59]

Case Suffix Example
nominative -∅




genitive -ning





of (the) house

dative -ga





to the house

definite accusative -ni





the house

locative -da





in the house

ablative -dan





from the house

instrumental (literary) -la





with the house

similative -day, -dek, -daqa



like (a) house

Possessive cases
Singular Plural
1st -(i)m -(i)miz
2nd -(i)ng -(i)ngiz
3rd -(s)i


Uzbek verbs are also inflected for number and person of the subject, and it has more periphrases. Uzbek uses some of the inflectional (simple) verbal tenses:[60]

Non-finite tense suffixes
Function Suffix
Infinitive -moq
Finite tense suffixes
Function Suffix
Present- future -a/y
Focal present -yap
Momentary present -yotir[1]
Progressive present -moqda
Definite past -di
Indefinite past -gan
Indirective past -ib
Definite future -(y)ajak[2]
Obligatory future -adigan/ydigan
Imperative -(a)yin (men)

-gin (sen) -sin (u) -(a)ylik (biz) -ing (siz) -inglar (sizlar) -sinlar (ular)

  1. ^ Cognate with Turkish present continuous suffix -(i)yor[61]
  2. ^ This suffix is likely a borrowing from Ottoman Turkish[62]


Pronoun Translation
men I
biz we
sen you
(formal singular and informal singular without respect)
senlar you
(informal plural without respect)
siz you
(formal plural and informal singular with respect)
sizlar you
(informal plural with respect)
u he/she/it
ular they

Word order

The word order in the Uzbek language is subject–object–verb (SOV), like all other Turkic languages. Unlike in English, the object comes before the verb and the verb is the last element of the sentence.







Men kitobni koʻrdim


I saw the book


The influence of Islam, and by extension, Arabic, is evident in Uzbek loanwords. There is also a residual influence of Russian, from the time when Uzbeks were under the rule of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. There are a large number of Russian loanwords in Uzbek, particularly when related to technical and modern terms, as well everyday and sociopolitical terms. Most importantly, Uzbek vocabulary, phraseology and pronunciation has been heavily influenced by Persian through its historic roots. It is estimated that Uzbek contains about 60 Mongolian loanwords,[63] scattered among the names of animals, birds, household items, chemical elements and especially military terms.


A man speaking Uzbek

Uzbek can be roughly divided into three dialect groups. The Karluk dialects, centered on Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and the Ferghana Valley, are the basis for the standard Uzbek language. This dialect group shows the most influence of Persian vocabulary, particularly in the important Tajik-dominated cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. The Kipchak dialect, spoken from the Surxondaryo region through north-central Uzbekistan into Karakalpakstan, shows significant influence from the Kipchak Turkic languages, particularly in the mutation of [j] to [ʑ] as in Kazakh and Kyrgyz. The Oghuz dialect, spoken mainly in Khorezm along the Turkmenistan border, is notable for the mutation of word-initial [k] to [g].

By country


In Turkmenistan since the 2000s the government conducted a forced "Turkmenization" of ethnic Uzbeks living in the country.[64][65][66] In the Soviet years and in the 1990s, the Uzbek language was used freely in Turkmenistan. There were several hundred schools in the Uzbek language, many newspapers were published in this language. Now there are only a few Uzbek schools in the country, as well as a few newspapers in Uzbek. Despite this, the Uzbek language is still considered to be one of the recognized languages of national minorities in this country. Approximately 300,000–600,000 Uzbeks live in Turkmenistan. Most of the Uzbek speakers live in Dashoghuz Velayat, as well as in Lebap Velayat and partly in Ashghabad.[67]


Uzbek is one of the many recognized languages of national minorities in Russia. More than 400 thousand Uzbeks are citizens of the Russian Federation and live in the country. Also in Russia there are 2 to 6 million Uzbeks from the Central Asian republics (mainly Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) who are immigrants and migrants. Large diasporas of Uzbeks live in large cities of Russia such as Saint Petersburg. Signs in Uzbek are often found in these cities. Signs refer mainly to various restaurants and eateries, barbershops, shops selling fruits, vegetables and textile products. There is a small clinic, where signs and labels are in the Uzbek language. There are also illegal signs in Uzbek on the streets of these cities with underground sex services ("Call girls"). Uzbeks in Russia prefer to use the Cyrillic Uzbek alphabet, but in recent years Uzbek youth in Russia are also actively using the Latin Uzbek alphabet. Small newspapers in Uzbek are published in large cities of Russia.[68][69][70] Some instructions for immigrants and migrants are duplicated, including in Uzbek. Uzbek language is studied by Russian students in the faculties of Turkology throughout Russia.[citation needed] The largest Uzbek language learning centers in Russia are located in the universities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. There are also many Russians who are interested in and love the Uzbek language and culture and who study this language for themselves. Uzbek is one of the most studied languages among the many languages of the former USSR in Russia. Native speakers of Uzbek in Russia usually use in their vocabulary a lot of words from Russian.[71]

Uzbek language researchers

Scientific interest in the history of the Uzbek language arose in the 19th century among European and Russian orientalists. A. Vambery, V. Bartold, Sh. Lapin and others wrote about the history of the Uzbek language. Much attention was paid to the study of the history of the language in the Soviet period. E. Polivanov, N.Baskakov,[72] A.Kononov,[73] U. Tursunov, A. Mukhtarov, Sh. Rakhmatullaev and others wrote about the history of the Uzbek language among famous linguists.

Sample text

The following is a sample text in Uzbek Arabic script of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (with English version in the bottom), contrasted with a version of the text in Uzbek written in Latin script.

Uzbek Arabic: برچه آدملر ایرکین، قدرقیمت و حقوقلرده تیݣ بولیب توغیله‌دیلر. اولر عقل و وجدان صاحبیدیرلر و بیربیرلری ایله برادرلرچه معامله قیلیشلری ضرور.
Uzbek Latin: Barcha odamlar erkin, qadr-qimmat va huquqlarda teng boʻlib tugʻiladilar. Ular aql va vijdon sohibidirlar va bir-birlari ila birodarlarcha muomala qilishlari zarur.
Uzbek Cyrillic: Барча одамлар эркин, қадр-қиммат ва ҳуқуқларда тенг бўлиб туғиладилар. Улар ақл ва виждон соҳибидирлар ва бир-бирлари ила биродарларча муомала қилишлари зарур.
IPA: /bart͡ʃa ɒd̪amlar erkɪn, qad̪r-qɨmmat̪ va huquqlard̪a t̪eŋ bɵlɨp t̪uʁɨlad̪ɨlar. ular aql va vɪd͡ʒd̪ɒn sɒhɨbɨdɨrlar va bɨr-bɨrlarɨ ila bɨrɒdarlart͡ʃa muɒmala qɨlɨʃlarɨ zarur/
English original: "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."

See also


  1. ^ Used in Afghanistan, Pakistan and China
  2. ^ Third official language in areas where Uzbeks are majority[3]
  3. ^


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    Northern at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Southern at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Scott Newton (20 November 2014). Law and the Making of the Soviet World: The Red Demiurge. Routledge. pp. 232–. ISBN 978-1-317-92978-9.
  3. ^ [1] From amongst Pashto, Dari, Uzbeki, Turkmani, Baluchi, Pachaie, Nuristani, Pamiri and other current languages in the country, Pashto and Dari shall be the official languages of the state. In areas where the majority of the people speak in any one of Uzbeki, Turkmani, Pachaie, Nuristani, Baluchi or Pamiri languages, any of the aforementioned language, in addition to Pashto and Dari, shall be the third official language, the usage of which shall be regulated by law.
  4. ^ Ethnic Groups and Religious department, Fujian Provincial Government (13 September 2022). "少数民族的语言文字有哪些?". (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 28 October 2022. Retrieved 28 October 2022.
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  6. ^ "Uzbek, Northern". Ethnologue. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
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  8. ^ Turaeva, Rano (19 November 2015). Migration and Identity in Central Asia. Routledge. ISBN 9781317430070.
  9. ^ Uzbekistan Aims For Full Transition To Latin-Based Alphabet By 2023, 12 February, 2021 12:54 GMT, RadioFreeEurope
  10. ^ "В Узбекистане в 2023 году узбекский алфавит в делопроизводстве переведут с кириллицы на латинскую графику".
  11. ^ "Uzbekistan: Keeping the Karakalpak Language Alive". 17 May 2019. Archived from the original on 17 May 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
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  15. ^ "What Languages Are Spoken in Turkmenistan?". 12 June 2019.
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  17. ^ a b "Central Asians in Russia Pressured to Join Moscow's Fight in Ukraine". 17 March 2022.
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  27. ^ Vladimir Babak; Demian Vaisman; Aryeh Wasserman (23 November 2004). Political Organization in Central Asia and Azerbaijan: Sources and Documents. Routledge. pp. 343–. ISBN 978-1-135-77681-7.
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  30. ^ Allworth, Edward (1994). Central Asia: 130 Years of Russian Dominance, a Historical Overview. Duke University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-8223-1521-1.
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Grammar and orthography
Learning/teaching materials

[3], Learn Uzbek (in Russian)

[4], Learn Uzbek (in English)

Ona tili uz, a website about Uzbek