Romanian language

Romanian or Daco-Romanian (dated: Rumanian or Roumanian; self designation: limba română, ) is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova. It has official status in Romania, Moldova and the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia. The official form of the Moldovan language in the Republic of Moldova is identical to that of Romanian; a minor difference in spelling was abolished in 2000. Romanian is also an official or administrative language in various communities and organisations (such as the Latin Union and the European Union).

Romanian speakers are scattered across many other countries, notably Italy, Spain, Israel, Portugal, United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France and Germany.


The Dacians, an Indo-European people, were the ancient inhabitants of Romanian territory. They were defeated by the Romans in 106, and part of Dacia (Oltenia, Banat and Transylvania) became a Roman province. This province, which was rich in ores, especially silver and gold, was colonized by the Romans, who brought with them Vulgar Latin as the language of administration and commerce, and who started a period of intense romanization, which gave birth to proto-Romanian language. But in the 3rd century AD, under the pressure of Free Dacians and from invasions of migratory populations such as Goths, the Roman Empire was forced to withdraw from Dacia, in 271 AD, leaving it to the Goths. It is matter of debate whether modern-day Romanians are descendants of the people that abandoned the area and settled south of the Danube or of the people that remained in Dacia. (See also Origin of the Romanians.)

Owing to its people's geographical isolation, Romanian was probably among the first of the Romance languages to split from Latin. It received little influence from other Romance languages until the modern period (until the middle of the 18th century), and is therefore one of the most uniform languages in Europe. It is the most important of the remaining Eastern Romance languages and is more conservative than other Romance languages in nominal morphology. Romanian has preserved declension, but whereas Latin had seven cases, Romanian has five: the nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and the vocative, and still holds the neuter gender. However, the verb morphology of Romanian has shown the same move towards a compound perfect and future tense as the other Romance languages.

All the dialects of Romanian are believed to have been unified in a Proto-Romanian language up to sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries, when the area came under the influence of the Byzantine Empire. It was then that Romanian became influenced by the Slavic languages and to some degree the Greek. For example, Aromanian, one of the closest relatives of Romanian, has very few Slavic words. Also, the variations in the Daco-Romanian dialect (spoken throughout Romania and Moldova) are very small. The use of this uniform Daco-Romanian dialect extends well beyond the borders of the Romanian state: a Romanian-speaker from Moldova speaks the same language as a Romanian-speaker from the Serbian Banat. Romanian was influenced by Slavic (due to migration/assimilation, and feudal/ecclesiastical relations), Greek (Byzantine, then Phanariote), Turkish, and Hungarian, while the other Romance languages adopted words and features of Germanic.

Geographic distribution

Romanian speaking countries and territories
Country Speakers
Romania 91% 19,736,517 21,698,181
Moldova ² 76.4% 2,588,355 3,388,071
Transnistria (Moldova)³ 31.9% 177,050 555,500
Vojvodina (Serbia) 1.5% 29,512 2,031,992
not official:
Timočka Krajina (Serbia) 4 8.2% 58,221 712,050
Ukraine 5 0.8% 327,703 48,457,000
Spain 0.83% 312,000 44,708,964
Italy 0.51% 297,570 58,462,375
Hungary ~1% 100,000 10,198,315
not official:
Israel 3.7% 250,000 6,800,000
Kazakhstan 1 0.1% 20,054 14,953,126
Russia 1 0.12% 169,698 145,537,200
The Americas
not official:
Canada 0.2% 60,520 32,207,113
United States 6 0.11% 340,000 281,421,906
1 Many are Moldovans 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 called "Moldovan language"
³ In Transnistria, it is officially called "Moldovan language" and is written in 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).
6 See Romanian-American

Romanian is spoken mostly in Southeastern 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 from Romania to their original countries. Romanian speakers account for 0,5% of the world's population, and 4% of the Romance-speaking population of the world.

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 Odessa oblasts), Hungary (Gyula) and Bulgaria (Vidin). Large immigrant communities are found in Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal.

The largest Romanian-speaking community in Asia is found in Israel, where as of 1995 Romanian is spoken by 5% of the population. 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. 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 don't make up a large homogeneous community state-wide.

Legal status in Romania

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

Romania mandates the use of Romanian in official government publications, public education and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words.

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.

Legal status in Moldova

About 10% of the world's Romanian-speaking population is Moldovan, and Romanian is the single official language of Moldova. In the Constitution, the language is officially called Moldovan, although most linguists consider it to be largely identical to Romanian. It is also used in schools, mass media, education and in the colloquial speech and writing is often called "Romanian". Romanian has been the only official language of Moldova since the endorsement of the law on language of the Moldavian SSR. This law, still in force today, mandates the use of Moldovan in all the political, economical, cultural and social spheres, as it also asserts the existence of a "linguistic Moldo-Romanian identity". In the unrecognized state of Transnistria, it is co-official with Ukrainian and Russian.

In the 2004 census, out of the 3,383,332 people living in Moldova, 16.5% (558,508) stated Romanian as their mother tongue, whereas 60% stated Moldovan. While 40% of all urban Romanian/Moldovan speakers chose Romanian as their mother tongue, in the countryside under 12% of Romanian/Moldovan speakers indicated Romanian as their mother tongue. However, the group of experts from the international census observation Mission to the Republic of Moldova concluded that the items in the questionnaire dealing with nationality and language proved to be the most sensitive ones, particularly with reference to the recording of responses to these questions as being "Moldovan" or "Romanian", and therefore it concluded that special care would need to be taken in using them.

Legal status in Vojvodina

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.

The Statute of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina determines that, together with the Serbo-Croat language and the Cyrillic script, and the Latin script as stipulated by the law, the 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. 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 8 municipalities: Alibunar, Biserica Albă, Zitişte, Zrenianin, Kovăciţa, Cuvin, Plandişte and Secanj. In the municipality of Vârşeţ, Romanian is official only in the villages of Voivodinţ, Marcovăţ, Straja, Jamu Mic, Srediştea Mică, Mesici, Jablanka, Sălciţa, Râtişor, Oreşaţ and Coştei.

In the 2002 Census, the last carried out in Serbia, 1,5% Vojvodinians chose Romanian as their mother tongue.

Legal status in other countries and organisations

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

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 monk communities of Prodromos and Lacu.

Romanian 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 training courses in Romanian for language teachers in these countries. In some of the schools, there are non-Romanian nationals 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 various tertiary institutions, mostly in neighboring European countries such as Germany, France and Italy, as well as the Netherlands, and elsewhere, like the USA. Overall, it is taught as a foreign language in 38 countries around the world.

Popular culture

Romanian has become popular in other countries through movies and songs performed in the Romanian language. Examples of recent Romanian acts that had a great success in non-Roumanophone countries are the bands O-Zone (which had great success with their #1 single Dragostea din tei/Numa Numa across the world), Akcent (popular in the Netherlands, Poland and other European countries), Activ (successful in some Eastern European countries) as well as high-rated movies like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, or California Dreamin' (all of them with awards at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival).

On the other hand, some artists wrote songs dedicated to the Romanian language. The multi-platinum pop trio O-Zone (original from Moldova) released a song called "Nu mă las de limba noastră" (lit. 'I won't let go of 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 let go of our language, our Romanian language. Also, the Moldovan musicians Doina and Ion Aldea Teodorovici performed a song entitled "The Romanian language".


The term "Romanian" in a general sense envelops four hardly mutually intelligible speech varieties commonly regarded as independent languages. 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 northern and southern Danube, before the settlement of the Slavonian tribes south of the river - Daco-Romanian in the North, and the other three dialects in the south.

However, this article deals primarily with Daco-Romanian, and thus the regional variations of that will be discussed here instead. The differences between these varieties are usually very small, usually consisting in a few dozen regional words and some phonetic changes.

Like all other languages, Romanian can be regarded as a dialect continuum. Romanian cannot be neatly divided into separate dialects and Romanians themselves speak of the differences as accents or "speeches" (in Romanian: "accent" or "grai"). This correctly conveys the linguistics notion of accent, as language variants that only feature slight pronunciation differences (Romanian accents are fully mutually intelligible). Several accents are usually distinguished:

  • Muntenian accent (Graiul muntenesc), spoken mainly in Wallachia and southern parts of Dobruja.
  • Moldavian accent (Graiul moldovenesc), spoken mainly in Moldavia, northern parts of Dobruja and the Republic of Moldova. Written

    is realised as /k/; written before front vowels is realised as /ʃ/. Written <ă>, in final position, is palatalized.

  • Maramureşian accent (Graiul maramureşean), spoken mainly in Maramureş.
  • Transylvanian accent (Graiul ardealean), spoken mainly in Transylvania.
  • Banatian accent (Graiul bănăţean), spoken mainly in Banat. Written before front vowels is realised as /ʧ/ and as /dʒ/.
  • Oltenian accent (Graiul oltenesc), spoken mainly in Oltenia and by the Romanian minority in Timok region of Serbia. In Oltenia a notable dialectal feature is the usage of the simple perfect tense rather than the compound perfect which is used elsewhere.

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


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

However, the languages closest to Romanian are the other Eastern Romance languages, spoken south of Danube: Aromanian/Macedo-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian, which are sometimes classified as dialects of Romanian. An alternative name for Romanian used by linguists to disambiguate with the other Eastern Romance languages is "Daco-Romanian", referring to the area where it is spoken (which corresponds roughly to the onetime Roman province of Dacia).

Compared with the major Romance languages, Romanian is closest to Italian, and the two show limited degree of asymmetrical mutual intelligibility, especially in their cultivated forms: speakers of Romanian seem to understand Italian more easily than the other way around. Even though Romanian has obvious grammatical and lexical similarities with French, Catalan, Spanish or Portuguese, it is not mutually intelligible with them to a practical extent; Romanian speakers will usually need some formal study of basic grammar and vocabulary before being able to understand even the simplest sentences in those languages (and vice-versa).

In the following sample sentence (meaning "She always closes the window before having dinner.") cognates are written in bold:

Ea semper fenestram claudit antequam cenet. (Latin)
Ea închide întotdeauna fereastra înainte de a cina. (Romanian)
Ella chiude sempre la finestra prima di cenare. (Italian)
Elle ferme toujours la fenêtre avant de dîner. (French)
Ella siempre cierra la ventana antes de cenar. (Spanish)
Ela fecha sempre a janela antes de cear. (Portuguese)
''Idda sempri chiudi la finestra àntica cina. (Sicilian)
Ella tanca sempre la finestra abans de sopar. (Catalan)

A study done by Italian-American linguist Mario Pei in 1949, which analyzed the evolutionary degree of languages in comparison to their inheritance language (in the case of Romance languages to Latin comparing phonology, inflection, discourse, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation) revealed the following percentages:

In the modern times Romanian vocabulary has been strongly influenced by French and Italian, (see French, Italian and other international words). At present, the lexical similarity with Italian is estimated at 77%, followed by French at 75%, Sardinian 74%, Catalan 73%, Spanish 71%, Portuguese, and Rhaeto-Romance at 72%.

Contacts with other languages

Dacian language

The Dacian language was an Indo-European language spoken by the ancient Dacians. It may have been the first language to influence the Latin spoken in Dacia, but little is known about it. About 300 words found only in Romanian or with a cognate in the Albanian language may be inherited from Dacian, many of them being related to pastoral life (for example: balaur "dragon", brânză "cheese", mal "shore"). Some linguists have asserted that Albanians are Dacians who were not Romanized have migrated south.

A different view is that these non-Latin words (many with Albanian cognates) are not necessarily Dacian, but rather were brought into the territory that is modern Romania by Romance-speaking shepherds migrating north from Albania, Serbia, and northern Greece who became the Romanian people. However, the Eastern Romance substratum appears to have been a satem language, while the Paleo-Balkan languages spoken in northern Greece (Ancient Macedonian) and Albania (Illyrian) were most likely centum languages. The general opinion is that Dacian was a satem language, as was Thracian.

Balkan linguistic union

While most of Romanian grammar and morphology are based on Vulgar Latin, there are some features that are shared only with other languages of the Balkans and not found in other Romance languages. The languages of the Balkan linguistic union belong to individual branches of the Indo-European language family: Bulgarian and Albanian, and in some cases Greek and Serbian. The shared features include a suffixed definite article, the syncretism of genitive and dative case, the formation of the future and perfect tenses, and the lack of infinitives.

Slavic languages

The Slavic influence was primarily due to the migration of Slavic tribes who traversed the territory of present-day Romania during the early evolution of the language. It is interesting to note that Slavs were assimilated north of the Danube, whereas they almost completely assimilated the Romanized population (Vlachs) living south of Danube. An important part of this population was still Vlach in the 10th century, only to fade away along with Vlach political power. The other surrounding languages (all Slavic, with the exception of Hungarian) also influenced Romanian through centuries of interaction.

Of great importance was the influence of Old Church Slavonic, as it was the liturgical language of the Romanian Orthodox Church (compared to western and central European countries which used Latin) from the Middle Ages, until the 18th century. However, Latin held an important position in Transylvania during the Middle Ages, a part of the western-styled feudal Kingdom of Hungary at that moment. Liturgical Romanian was first officially used there after the union of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Transylvania with Rome, giving birth to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church in 1698 (the most numerous church in Transylvania until the World War II ). This caused Romanian to lose many of its borrowings form Slavonic as the first standardisation of it (among others the switch to the Latin alphabet) was done by Şcoala Ardeleană, founded in Transylvania.

Borrowings from Old Church Slavonic include: a izbăvi < izbaviti "to deliver", veşnicie < vĕčinŭ "forever, perpetual, undying", sfânt < svĕntŭ "holy, saint", a sluji < služiti "to serve", amvon < amŭvonŭ "pulpit", rai < raj "paradise", iad < jadŭ "hell", proroc < prorokŭ "prophet".

Most of these words have traditional or neological Latin-based synonyms that are usually preferred in the use of the modern language.

As was characteristic of the Middle Ages, the Church had a great influence on people's lives. Thus even basic words such as a iubi "to love", glas "voice", nevoie "need", and prieten "friend" are of Church Slavonic origin. Names were also influenced by the use of Slavonic in Church and in administration. However, many Slavic words are archaisms, and it is estimated that in modern Romanian 90% of the vocabulary is of Latin origin, the remainder representing Slavic, Greek, Hungarian, and Turkic borrowings as well as the Dacian substratum. Slavonic influences are also encountered in some phonetic particularities as well as in many suffixes .

Other influences

Even before the 19th century, Romanian came in contact with several other languages. Some notable examples include:

  • Greek: folos < ófelos "use", buzunar < buzunára "pocket", proaspăt < prósfatos "fresh", cutie < cution "box"
  • Hungarian: oraş < város "town", a cheltui < költeni "to spend", a făgădui < fogadni "to promise", a mântui < menteni "to save"
  • Turkish: cafea < kahve "coffee", papuc < papuç "slipper", ciorbă < çorba "wholemeal soup, sour soup"
  • German: cartof < Kartoffel "potato", bere < Bier "beer", şurub < Schraube "screw", turn < Turm "tower"

French, Italian and other international words

Since the 19th century, many modern 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 the number of words in Romanian are of French and/or Italian origin (in many cases both languages); and adding this to the words that were inherited from Latin, about 75%-85% of Romanian words can be traced to Latin. The use of these Romanianized French and Italian loanwords has tended to increase at the expense of Slavic 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 has tended to reinforce the Latin character of the language.

In the process of lexical modernization, many of the words already existing as Latin direct heritage, as a part of its core or popular vocabulary, have been doubled by words borrowed from other Romance languages, thus forming a further and more modern and literary lexical layer. Typically, the popular word is a noun and the borrowed word an adjective. Some examples:

Latin Romanian
direct Latin heritage
agilis (quick) ager (astute) agil (it.<agile, fr.<agile)
aqua (water) apă (water) acvatic (it. <acquatico, fr.<aquatique)
dens, dentem (tooth) dinte (tooth) dentist (it.<dentista, fr.<dentiste)
directus (straight) drept (straight, right) direct (it.<diretto, fr.<direct)
frigus (cold) frig (cold - noun) frigid (it.<frigido, fr.<frigide)

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; sandviş < sandwich; bişniţă < business; ciungă < chewing gum). These words are assigned grammatical gender in Romanian and handled according to Romanian rules; thus "the manager" is managerul. Some of these English words are in turn Latin lexical constructions - calqued, borrowed or constructed from Latin or other Romance languages, like "management" and "interview" (from the French "entrevue").


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

Romanian is the only Romance language where definite articles are enclitic: that is, attached to the end of the noun (as in North Germanic languages), instead of in front (proclitic). 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, voice. The usual word order in sentences is SVO (Subject - Verb - Object). Romanian has four verbal conjugations which further split into ten conjugation patterns. Verbs can be put in five moods that are inflected for the person (indicative, conditional/optative, imperative, subjunctive, and presumptive) and four impersonal moods (infinitive, gerund, supine, and participle).


Romanian has seven vowels: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/, /ə/, and /ɨ/. Additionally, /ø/ and /y/ may appear in some words.

In final positions after consonants (rarely within words) a short non-syllabic /i/ can occur, which is ʲ and is produced as a palatalization of the preceding consonant. A similar sound, the voiceless ending u, existed in old Romanian but has disappeared from the standard language.

There are also four semivowels and twenty consonants.


Descending diphthongs: ai, au, ei, eu, ii, iu, oi, ou, ui, ăi, ău, îi, îu.

Ascending diphthongs: ea, eo, ia, ie, io, iu, oa, ua, uă.


Pattern S-V-S (main vowel between two semivowels): eai, eau, iai, iau, iei, ieu, ioi, iou, oai.

Pattern S-S-V (two-semivowel glide before the main vowel): eoa, ioa.

Phonetic changes

Due to its isolation from the other Romance languages, the phonetic evolution of Romanian was quite different, but does share a few changes with Italian, such as [kl] > [kj] (Lat. clarus > Rom. chiar, Ital. chiaro) and also a few with Dalmatian, such as /gn/ (probably phonetically [ŋn]) > [mn] (Lat. cognatus > Rom. cumnat, Dalm. comnut).

Among the notable phonetic changes are:

  • diphthongization of e and o

* Lat. cera > Rom. ceară (wax)
* Lat. sole > Rom. soare (sun)

  • iotacism [e] → [ie] in the beginning of the word

* Lat. herba > Rom. iarbă (grass, herb)

  • velar [k], [g] → labial [p], [b], [m] before alveolar consonants:

* Lat. octo > Rom. opt (eight)
* Lat. quattuor > Rom. patru (four)
* Lat. lingua > Rom. limbă (tongue, language)
* Lat. signum > Rom. semn (sign)
* Lat. coxa > Rom. coapsă (thigh)

* Lat. caelum > Rom. cer (sky)

  • Alveolars [d] and [t] palatalized to [dz]/[z] and [ts] when before short [e] or long [i]

* Lat. deus > Rom. zeu (god)
* Lat. tenem > Rom. ţine (hold)

On the other hand, it (along with French) has lost the /kw/ (qu) sound from original Latin, turning it either into p (patru, "four"; cf. It. quattro) or a hard or soft c (când, "when"; calitate, "quality").

Writing system

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!").

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

In the late 1700s, Transylvanian scholars noted the Latin origin of Romanian and adapted the Latin alphabet to the Romanian language, using some 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, a special version of the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Russian version was used, until 1989, when it returned to the Romanian Latin alphabet.

Romanian alphabet

The Romanian alphabet is as follows:

A, a (a); Ă, ă (ă); Â, â (â din a); B, b (be), C, c (ce); D, d (de), E, e (e); F, f (fe / ef); G, g (ghe / ge); H, h (ha / haş); I, i (i); Î, î (î din i); J, j (je), K, k (ka de la kilogram), L, l (le / el); M, m (me / em); N, n (ne / en); O, o (o); P, p (pe); Q (chiu); R, r, (re / er); S, s (se / es); Ș ș (șe); T, t (te); Ț ț (țe); U, u (u); V, v (ve); W (dublu ve); X, x (ics); Y (i grec); Z, z (ze / zet).

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

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 phonemic. However, the letters "â" (used inside the words) and "î" (used at the beginning or the end; it can also be used in the middle of a composite word) both represent the same close central unrounded vowel /ɨ/.

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 the words containing a hiatus that might be mispronounced as a diphthong or a triphthong.

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".


  • h is not silent like in other Romance languages such as Spanish and French, but represents the phoneme /h/, except in the groups ch and gh (see below)
  • j represents /ʒ/, as in French or Portuguese.
  • There are two letters with a comma below, and , which represent the sounds /ʃ/ and /ʦ/. However, the allographs with a cedilla instead of a comma, Ş and Ţ, became widespread when pre-Unicode and early Unicode character sets did not include the standard form.
  • A final orthographical i after a consonant often represents the palatalization of the consonant (e. g. lup /lup/ "wolf" vs. lupi /lupʲ/ "wolves") -- it is not pronounced like Italian lupi (which also means "wolves"), and is indeed an example of the Slavic influence on Romanian.
  • ă represents the schwa, /ə/.
  • î and â represent /ɨ/.
  • The letter e is generally pronounced as the diphthong ie /je/ when it is in the beginning of a form of the verb a fi "to be", e. g. este /jeste/ "is". This rule also applies to personal pronouns beginning with e, e. g. el /jel/ "he". This also shows the Slavic influence on the language.
  • x represents either the phoneme /ks/ as in expresie = expression, or /gz/ as in exemplu = example, as in English.
  • As in Italian, the letters c and g represent the affricates /ʧ/ and /ʤ/ before i and e, and /k/ and /g/ elsewhere. When /k/ and /g/ are followed by vowels /e/ and /i/ (or their corresponding semivowels or the final /ʲ/) the digraphs ch and gh are used instead of c and g, as shown in the table below.

Group Phoneme Pronunciation Examples
ce, ci

/tʃ/ ch in chest, cheek cerc (circle), cine (who)
che, chi

/k/ k in kettle, kiss chem (I call), chimie (chemistry)
ge, gi

/dʒ/ j in jelly, jigsaw ger (frost), gimnast (gymnast)
ghe, ghi

/g/ g in get, give gheţar (glacier), ghid (guide)

Punctuation and capitalization

The main particularities Romanian has relative to other languages using the Latin alphabet are:

  • The quotation marks use the Polish format in the format „quote «inside» quote”, that is, 99 down and 99 up for normal quotations, with the addition of non-French double angle quotes without space for inside quotation when necessary.
  • Proper quotations which span multiple paragraphs don't start each paragraph with the quotation marks; one single pair of quotation marks is always used, regardless of how many paragraphs are quoted;
  • Dialogues are identified with quotation dashes;
  • The Oxford comma before "and" is considered incorrect ("red, yellow and blue" is the proper format);
  • Punctuation signs which follow a text in parentheses always follow the final bracket;
  • In titles, only the first letter of the first word is capitalized, the rest of the title using sentence capitalization (with all its rules: proper names are capitalized as usual, etc.).
  • Names of months and days are not capitalized (ianuarie "January", joi "Thursday")
  • Adjectives derived from proper names are not capitalized (Germania "Germany", but german "German")

Language sample

English 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)

Contemporary Romanian - highlighted words are French or Italian loanwords:

Toate fiinţele umane se nasc libere şi egale în demnitate şi în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu raţiune şi conştiinţă şi trebuie să se comporte unele faţă de altele în spiritul fraternităţii.

Romanian, excluding French and Italian loanwords - highlighted words are Slavic loanwords:

Toate fiinţele omeneşti se nasc slobode şi deopotrivă în destoinicie şi în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu înţelegere şi cuget şi trebuie să se poarte unele faţă de altele în duh de frăţietate.

Romanian, excluding loanwords:

Toate fiinţele omeneşti se nasc nesupuse şi asemenea în preţuire şi în drepturi. Ele sunt înzestrate cu înţelegere şi cuget şi se cuvine să se poarte unele faţă de altele după firea frăţiei.

See also



  • Rosetti, Alexandru, Istoria limbii române, 2 vols., Bucharest, 1965-1969.
  • Uwe, Hinrichs (ed.), Handbuch der Südosteuropa-Linguistik, Wiesbaden, 1999.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica

External links

Learning Romanian




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