European languages by number of native speakers

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

There are almost a hundred different languages spoken natively in Europe, but only about 40 of them have 1 million speakers or more. The map below shows estimates of the total number of native speakers for those languages. When a language is commonly spoken outside Europe, an estimate of the number of native speakers living in Europe and the total number of non-native (L2) speakers is also provided.

Map of the number of native speakers of European languages

The languages shown in the map are not necessarily mutually exclusive; for example, most speakers of minority languages in Italy are also speakers of Standard Italian, and most authors include them in their estimates of the number of native speakers of Italian. Such languages are marked with an asterisk in the table below:

#LanguageNative speakers
(in millions)
1Spanish470
2English~400
3Portuguese220
4Russian170
5German95
6Turkish88
7French~80
8Italian64
9Polish~45
10Ukrainian~40
11Romanian24
12Dutch23
13West Central German*17
14Greek13
15Hungarian13
16Czech11
17Swedish9.2
18Bulgarian9
19Serbian8.5
20Alemannic German*7.2
21Low German*6.7
22Neapolitan*5.7
23Croatian5.6
24Catalan5.5
25Danish5.5
26Finnish5.4
27Albanian5.4
28Slovak5.2
29Norwegian5.0
30Sicilian*4.7
31Venetian*3.9
32Lombard*3.6
33Belarusian3.2
34Lithuanian3.0
35Slovene2.5
36Bosnian2.5
37Galician2.4
38Macedonian2.0
39Emiliano-Romagnolo*1.8
40Latvian1.8
41Piedmontese*1.6
42Estonian1.1
43Sardinian*1.0
Other<1.0

Please note that there is no standardized way to divide German varieties into separate languages, so I divided them into 3 rough categories: Low German, West Central German (which includes Luxembourgish), and Alemannic German.

Figures preceded by the symbol “~”, as well as the numbers of L2 speakers, must be taken with a pinch of salt. The problem of estimating the number of native English and French speakers speakers is the large number of countries where the languages are widely spoken non-natively and the number of natives is unknown. Both Polish and Ukrainian have a large diaspora in many different countries. The situation of Ukrainian is further complicated by the existence of Surzhyk, which is a mix of Russian and Ukrainian spoken by around 15% of the Ukrainian population.

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