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Romanian language

Romanian (Română) is an Eastern Romance language, spoken by about 28 million people, most of them in Romania, Moldova (where it is the official language) and neighbouring countries.

SpokenRomania, Moldova, Ukraine, Israel, Serbia, Hungary, the Balkans, Canada, USA, Germany, Finland.
RegionEastern Europe
Total speakers 28 Million
Dialects 4
   East Romance
Official status
Official languageRomania, Moldova
Language codes
ISO 639-1ro
ISO 639-2rum, rou

Table of contents
1 History
2 Vocabulary
3 Geographic distribution
4 Grammar
5 Writing system
6 Common words and phrases
7 External Links


The Romanian teritory was inhabited in ancient times by the Dacians, who spoke an indo-european language, the Dacian language about which there is very little knowledge, but some linguists think that it was fairly close to Latin.

After the Roman conquest, Dacia was transformed in a Roman province and the popular ("vulgar") Latin was used for administration and commerce. It is noteworthy that only a small portion of Dacia / Romania was romanized, most of the teritory being inhabited by the Free Dacians, populations that were never under the Roman rule.

Although we may never know much about the Dacian language, there are some words that are found only in Romanian (in all dialects), some of them have a cognate in Albanian language and these are generally thought to be inherited from Dacian, most of them being related to the pastoral life. (see: List of Dacian words)

The grammar is roughly similar as that of Latin, keeping declensions and the neuter gender, unlike any other Romance language.

Map of Balkans with regions inhabited by Romanians/Vlachs highlighted

All dialects of Romanian are believed to have been unified to a common language until sometime in the 7th-10th century, before the Slavs interfered with Romanian. (Aromanian has very few Slavonic words). Also, the differences between the language spoken in various parts of Daco-Romania are very small, something pretty unusual, because until the Modern Era there were almost no connections between the Romanians in various regions (a Romanian from a Moldova speaks the same language as a Romanian from Serbian Banat).

The first written record of a Romanic language spoken in the Middle Ages in the Balkans was written by the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes Confessor in the 6th century about a military expedition against the Avars from 587, when 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!").


Most words in Romanian vocabulary (about 75%) are of Latin origin, but it also contains many words borrowed from its Slavonic neighbours and also from French, Italian, German, Hungarian, Turkish and English.

There are some Slavonic influences, both on the phonetic level and on the lexical level - for example, since Latin does not have a word for yes, Romanian took the Slavonic da. Also Romanian is the only Romance language with /h/. (Although in many dialects of Spanish, <j> is pronounced as [h], but the original, Castilian phoneme is /x/.)

It is also noteworthy that almost all rural activities are of Latin origin, while most words related to urban life were borrowed from other languages (French, Italian, German, English, Hungarian, etc).

Modern words were often borrowed from French or Italian in the 19th century, later some from German and English.

Geographic distribution

Romanian is spoken mostly in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece, but there are also Romanian language speakers in countries like Canada, United States, Germany, Israel, Australia and New Zealand.

Country Population Romanian native speakers Percentage Notes
Romania 21,698,181 19,420,000 89.5% Official language
Moldova 4,430,654 3,483,600 64.5% Official language
Russia 145,537,200 1,019,000 0.7% many are Moldavians that were deported to Siberia
Ukraine 48,055,439 385,000 0.8% in Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia
Serbia 10,662,087 200,000 - 500,000 0.5% - 4.6% in Voivodina
Israel 10,138,844 250,000 4.2%
Germany 83,251,851 150,000 0.2%
United States 281,421,906 100,000 0.03%
Hungary 10,138,844 71,000 0.7%
Canada 32,207,113 60,520 0.2%

Official status

Romanian is official in Romania and Moldova, where it is named "Moldovan language".

In other countries (excepting Hungary) the Romanian minority has very few rights regarding the use of their language in schools and institutions.


Romanian has four dialects:

It is thought that the Romanian language appeared north and south of the Danube. All the four dialects are offsprings of the Romance language spoken both in the North and South Danube, before the settlement of the Slavonian tribes South of the river - Daco-Romanian in North, and the other three dialects in the South.


Main article: Romanian grammar


As in Italian, pronouns are generally omitted in Romanian unless required to disambiguate the meaning of a sentence. Usually, the verb ending provides information about the subject.

Case 1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
masc fem masc fem
Nominative eu noi tu voi elea eiele
Genitive meu nostru tău vostru luiei lor
Dative mie nouă ţie vouă luiei lor
Accusative mine noi tine voi elea eiele
Vocative - - tu voi -- --


Unlike the other Romance languages, Romanian has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, keeping the neuter gender from Latin. Nouns of this gender use the masculine form for the singular and the feminine form for the plural.

Another peculiarity of Romanian is that it is the only Romance language that has the definite article attached to the end of the noun (as in Swedish) instead of being a separate word in front.

Gender Noun Definite article Noun with article
Feminine carte = book -a cartea = the book
Masculine drum = road -ul drumul = the road

See also: Romanian declension


Romanian has the same four groups of verbs as Latin and unlike English, it has no sequence of tenses nor strict rules regarding their use, but it does has many alternatives (for example, it has six different types of future tense).

See also: Romanian conjugation

Writing system

The oldest written text in Romanian is a letter from 1521 ("Neacşu of Cāmpulung's letter"). It is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, like all early Romanian writings (because the usual language for religious services was old Slavonian).

In the late 1700s, Transylvanian scholars started using the Latin alphabet to write Romanian. The Cyrillic alphabet remained in (gradually decreasing) use until 1860, when Romanian writing was first officially regulated.

Romanian alphabet

The Romanian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, and has five additional letters (these are not diacriticals, but letters in their own right). Initially, there were as many as 12 additional letters, but some of them disappeared in subsequent reforms. Also, until the early 20th century, a short vowel marker was used.

Today, the Romanian alphabet is largely phonetic, with one exception: the "â" (used inside the words) and "î" (used at the beginning or the end), both representing the same sound. Long and short vowels are not distinguished in writing. Usually, the sounds denoted by letters are similar to Italian.

Here are the letters of the Romanian alphabet, and their pronunciation.

A a/a/ Like in 'Mars'
Ă ă (a with breve) /@/Schwa: first sound of above
 â (a with circumflex)/1/ No equivalent in English
ы in Russian, ı in Turkish
B b/b/
C c/k/Like in 'cat'
D d/d/
E e/e/Like in 'merry'
F f/f/
G g/g/Like in 'goat'
H h/h/Like in 'house'
I i/i/Like in 'machine'
Î î (i with circumflex)/1/the same as â
J j/Z/Like French 'j': 'jour'
K k/k/
L l/l/Like in 'lamp'
M m/m/
N n/n/
O o/o/Like in 'door'
P p/p/
R r/r/Trilled - like Italian, Spanish 'r'
S s/s/
Ș ș (s with comma)
(also with cedilla: Ş ş)
/S/ like in sheep
T t/t/
Ț ț (t with comma)
(also with cedilla: Ţ ţ)
/ts/ like in nuts
U u/u/Like in 'group'
V v/v/
X x/ks/
Z z/z/

Q, W and Y are not part of the core Romanian alphabet; they are used mainly to write imported words, such as: quasar, watt, etc.

Writing letters /S/ and /ts/ with a cedilla instead of a comma is incorrect, but widespread, especially in computer environments. The preferred form is with comma below. (Note that not all computer systems can properly render these "comma-below" characters. However, they are included as special Romanian Unicode characters in the Unicode standard.)

There are seven vowels in Romanian:

a e i o u ă î â

The last two letters both represent exactly the same sound, and since they are also not interchangeable in writing this article counts them as a single vowel.

The reason for using both î and â is historical, denoting the language's Latin origin. Unfortunately during Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, the communists also crippled the language by imposing only the usage of î, except for the name of the country, which was still România (probably in order to prevent ambiguity in foreign relations). After his regime ended, the Romanian Academy decided to reintroduce â; unfortunately most of the population had forgotten how to properly use â, so the Academy proposed an artificial set of rules for the usage of this letter. For instance, the Latin angelus (angel) naturally became the Romanian ânger, but today it's spelled înger.

When authoring HTML that uses the more unusual Romanian characters, the following information may be useful:

Upper case Lower case Upper case encoding Lower case encoding Notes
Ă ă &#x102; &#x103;
 â &Acirc; &acirc;
Î î &Icirc; &icirc;
Ș ș &#x218; &#x219; s with comma, more correct, but not widely supported
Ş ş &#x15E; &#x15F; s with cedilla, considered less correct
Ț ț &#x21A; &#x21B; t with comma, more correct, but not widely supported
Ţ ţ &#x162; &#x163; t with cedilla, considered less correct

Group of letters

These groups of letters are identical to those in Italian:

Group Sound Example
ge dZ like 'ge' in gentle
gi like 'gi' in gin
ghe like 'ge' in get
ghi like gui in guitar
ce tS like tche in hatchet
ci like tchi in sketching
che ke like ke in kerosen
chi ki like ki in kimono

Common words and phrases

The Romanian alphabet is phonetic, so the words are read nearly as in Italian/Latin (with the exception of the quasi-diacriticals).

See also:

External Links