Top 10 Most Spoken Languages in Europe

Updated on: September 30, 2023

Have you ever wondered about which are the most spoken languages in Europe or even in the world? 

Europe is a linguistic treasure trove, with a vast array of tongues spoken across its diverse landscapes. In this article, we will inquire into the world of languages in Europe, focusing on the 10 Most Spoken Languages in Europe.

The 10 Most Spoken Languages in Europe

1. German - 95 million speakers

German, spoken by approximately 95 million people, holds a central place in Europe's linguistic landscape. As the official language of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, it is a key language in business, science, and culture. 

Known for its precision and efficiency, the German language has made significant contributions to philosophy, engineering, and literature, with renowned thinkers like Kant and Nietzsche, and writers like Goethe and Kafka.

Its influence extends beyond Europe, as it is one of the most widely studied foreign languages worldwide. German's grammatical structure, including its complex word order and cases, adds depth to its linguistic character. 

It remains an essential language for those interested in exploring Europe's intellectual and technological advancements.

2. French - 80 million speakers

French, spoken by approximately 80 million people in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and various other regions, is celebrated for its elegance and influence in diplomacy, arts, and cuisine.

This Romance language, descended from Latin, has a rich literary tradition dating back to medieval poetry and includes luminaries like Victor Hugo and Albert Camus. French culture has had a profound global impact, from the artistry of the Impressionist painters to the culinary delights of French cuisine.

With its melodious sounds and widespread use in international organizations like the United Nations, learning French not only opens doors to appreciating the cultural treasures of France but also serves as a gateway to a world of diverse experiences and opportunities.

3. English - 65 million speakers

English, spoken by approximately 65 million people in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and various other European countries, is a global lingua franca and one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide. 

Renowned for its versatility, English serves as a primary language of international business, science, technology, and entertainment. Its simplicity in grammar, coupled with a vast vocabulary, makes it accessible to learners of all levels. 

English literature boasts literary giants like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, while its influence on popular culture, music, and film is unparalleled. As a universal means of communication, mastering English opens doors to global connections, travel, and academic pursuits, making it an indispensable tool for navigating today's interconnected world.

4. Italian - 63 million speakers

Italian, with approximately 63 million speakers primarily in Italy, is celebrated for its musicality and is the language of art, fashion, and cuisine.

As a Romance language rooted in Latin, it possesses a rich literary heritage that includes luminaries like Dante Alighieri and Petrarch. Italian culture has made a profound impact on the world, from the Renaissance's artistic brilliance to Italy's renowned culinary traditions. 

The language's melodious tones and expressive gestures capture the essence of a nation known for its passion and creativity. Learning Italian not only offers a deeper understanding of Italy's cultural treasures but also invites enthusiasts to explore the world of opera, fine art, and exquisite cuisine that this enchanting language embodies.

5. Spanish - 48 million speakers

Spanish, with approximately 48 million speakers in Spain and significant numbers in Latin America, is known for its warmth and is one of the most spoken languages in the world.

As a Romance language derived from Latin, it boasts a rich literary tradition that includes iconic figures like Miguel de Cervantes and Gabriel García Márquez. Spanish culture has a global influence, from the spirited rhythms of flamenco to the flavors of paella and tacos. 

The language's melodious sounds and its prevalence across diverse regions make it a gateway to understanding the vibrant cultures and histories of Spanish-speaking countries. 

Learning Spanish not only opens doors to meaningful travel experiences but also connects individuals to a global community that embraces its rich linguistic and cultural heritage.

6. Polish - 40 million speakers

Polish, with approximately 40 million speakers in Poland and sizable communities worldwide, holds a special place among Slavic languages and is rich in history and literature. 

This language, characterized by its complex grammar and unique phonology, has been the bearer of Poland's cultural and historical identity through centuries of ups and downs. The works of iconic figures like Adam Mickiewicz and Henryk Sienkiewicz have left an indelible mark on world literature.

Polish culture thrives with its vibrant traditions, including music, dance, and hearty cuisine. Learning Polish not only grants access to a unique linguistic world but also provides a deeper connection to the resilient spirit and captivating traditions of Poland, making it an intriguing language for those with a passion for Slavic culture and history.

7. Ukrainian - 37 million speakers

Ukrainian, spoken by approximately 37 million people primarily in Ukraine, boasts a unique script and is deeply intertwined with Ukrainian identity. 

This East Slavic language, known for its melodic quality, has a rich literary tradition that includes renowned authors like Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko. Ukrainian culture flourishes with its vibrant folk traditions, particularly in music, dance, and art.

The language serves as a powerful symbol of Ukraine's cultural heritage and resilience, especially in the face of historical challenges. Learning Ukrainian not only provides access to this distinctive linguistic world but also offers a deeper understanding of Ukraine's rich history, cultural expressions, and its role in shaping Eastern European identity.

8. Dutch - 23 million speakers

Dutch, with approximately 23 million speakers mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium, is known for its straightforwardness and is essential in international business and diplomacy. 

As a Germanic language, it shares similarities with English and German, making it accessible for learners of those languages. Dutch culture is celebrated for its contributions to art, from the works of painters like Rembrandt to the contemporary design innovations.

The language's clarity and its widespread use in global trade and institutions make it a valuable asset for those interested in commerce and diplomacy. Learning Dutch not only offers insights into the rich culture of the Low Countries but also opens doors to a global network of Dutch-speaking communities and business opportunities.

9. Romanian - 20 million speakers

Romanian, with around 20 million speakers primarily in Romania and Moldova, is a Romance language with a distinct Eastern European flavor. 

This language, descended from Latin, is notable for its graceful phonetics and connection to ancient Roman roots. Romania's rich literary tradition features celebrated poets like Mihai Eminescu and novelists like Mircea Eliade. 

Romanian culture is marked by its unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, and its folk traditions, including music and dance, are vibrant and captivating. 

Learning Romanian not only allows one to explore this fascinating linguistic heritage but also offers a deeper appreciation of the diverse cultural tapestry of Eastern Europe, making it an intriguing choice for language enthusiasts and cultural explorers.

10. Portuguese - 11 million speakers

Portuguese, spoken by around 11 million people in Portugal and significant populations in Brazil and other parts of the world, is a Romance language known for its lyrical and expressive nature. 

As one of the world 's major languages, Portuguese boasts a rich literary heritage with renowned authors like Luís de Camões and Machado de Assis, shaping global literature. It plays a pivotal role in the cultural tapestry of Portugal and Brazil, from the vibrant rhythms of samba to the literary genius of Fernando Pessoa. 

Learning Portuguese not only opens doors to exploring these diverse cultures but also offers access to a dynamic and expanding global community, making it a valuable linguistic pursuit for those intrigued by the lusophone world.

Top 20 of the most spoken languages in Europe

There are over 200 languages spoken in Europe, presenting a captivating diversity that reflects its complex history and cultural richness.

These languages span various language families, with Indo-European being the dominant one, encompassing widely spoken languages like English, French, and Spanish.

While some languages are spoken by millions and serve as official languages in their respective countries, Europe also cherishes regional and minority languages, such as Catalan, Basque, and Welsh, each with its unique identity. 

Let’s see a list with the 20 most spoken languages in Europe:

No.LanguageNumber of speakers in Europe (Approximately)
1German95 million
2French80 million
3English65 million
4Italian63 million
5Spanish48 million
6Polish40 million
7Ukrainian37 million
8Dutch23 million
9Romanian20 million
10Portuguese11 million
11Greek10 million
12Swedish10 million
13Hungarian10 million
14Czech10 million
15Catalan9 million
16Bulgarian9 million
17Danish6 million
18Finnish5 million
19Norwegian5 million
20Slovak5 million

The origins of numerous Languages in Europe

The diversity of languages in Europe can be attributed to a combination of historical, geographical, and cultural factors. Here's a key points to explain why there are so many languages in Europe:

Historical Factors

Europe has a long and complex history marked by migrations, invasions, and the rise and fall of empires. This historical path has left a legacy of linguistic diversity. As different groups moved across the continent, they brought their languages with them, leading to the development of distinct regional languages. 

For example, the Roman Empire's influence left Latin-based languages such as Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The Slavic migrations contributed to the development of Slavic languages like Russian, Polish, and Ukrainian. The Germanic tribes gave rise to German, English, and Dutch.

Geographical Diversity

Europe's geographical features, including mountains, rivers, and seas, have often acted as natural barriers that isolated communities. This isolation allowed languages to evolve independently, leading to the creation of regional dialects and languages.

For example, the mountainous terrain in Switzerland led to the development of Swiss German, while the Pyrenees mountains contributed to the divergence of Catalan and Spanish.

Cultural Identity

Languages are closely tied to cultural identity. Many regions in Europe have strong regional or minority languages that are seen as a crucial part of their heritage. 

Communities have actively preserved and promoted these languages as symbols of their unique culture and history. 

For instance, languages like Basque in Spain and Sorbian in Germany are actively maintained by their respective communities.

Political Boundaries

Europe's complex political landscape, with numerous countries and regions, has also played a role in the proliferation of languages. 

Different regions often have their own official languages or dialects, which are promoted and protected by the respective governments. 

For instance, Belgium has Dutch and French as official languages, while Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.

Language Contact

Europe has been a melting pot of languages due to its central location in the world. Trade, travel, and conquest have led to language contact and borrowing, resulting in linguistic influences and the blending of languages. 

For example, English has borrowed extensively from French, Latin, and Norse due to historical interactions.

Cultural and Scientific Contributions

Europe has been a center of cultural, scientific, and intellectual developments for centuries. This has resulted in the production of literature, scientific works, and artistic creations in various languages, further enriching the linguistic landscape.

Most spoken languages in Europe: Final thoughts

Europe has an ancient history and a vibrant culture that over the centuries has seen the creation and development of hundreds of languages.

Today, the European continent has close to 200 living languages, many of them considered not only the most widely spoken in Europe, but also in the world, demonstrating the importance and richness of the continent.

Being interested in European languages and thinking about starting to learn one or several of them is a great opportunity to open the borders of professional and social life.

So if you are thinking about learning a new language, the area of European languages is a great option to start linguistic learning.


1. Which language has the most speakers in Europe?

German holds the top spot with approximately 95 million speakers.

2. Is English widely spoken in Europe?

Yes, English is spoken by about 65 million people in Europe and is commonly used as a second language.

3. What is the significance of learning these languages in Europe?

Learning these languages can enhance travel experiences, open up job opportunities, and foster cultural understanding.

4. Are there any endangered languages in Europe?

Yes, there are several endangered languages in Europe, with efforts being made to preserve them.

5. How long does it take to learn a new language?

The time it takes to learn a language varies depending on factors like your native language, dedication, and learning methods

6. How Many Languages are Spoken in Europe?

There are over 200 languages. Furthermore, Europe hosts a myriad of dialects, language varieties, and even endangered languages, compelling linguists and language enthusiasts to explore this vibrant linguistic landscape.

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Paula is an accomplished content strategist, communicator, and journalist with over 7 years of experience creating materials for language learners. Having worked on language curriculums and learning platforms in Colombia, Spain, and Australia, Paula offers an international perspective on second language acquisition. Her background in journalism and brand messaging allows her to develop content that informs and engages language learners across diverse platforms and learning styles.