The Tigrinya Language

Tigrinya is a Semitic (Afro-Asiatic) language. Semitic (derived from the Biblical "Shem") languages belong to a language family that includes modern languages such as  Tigrinya, Tigre, Amharic  Hebrew, Arabic, Maltese (from Malta) and Aramic. Tigrinya is spoken by about 7 million people around the world. It is a widely spoken language in Eritrea and in the northern part of Ethiopia. In Eritrea it is a working language in offices along with Arabic. Tigrinya is also spoken by many immigrant communities around the world,for example in the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada,  Australia, Uganda, and Sweden. .

 Some facts about Gee'z and Tigrinya

  1. The oldest inscription of Ge’ez  dates back 3rd  to 4th Centuries. 
  2. The Bible was translated into Ge’ez between the 5th and 7th Centuries. 
  3. Ge’ez ceased as a spoken language between 900 and 1200. However, it is still used by Orthodox and Catholic churches in Eritrea and Ethiopia. 
  4. The first written example of Tigrinya is a text of local laws found in the district of Logosarda, southern Eritrea, which dates from the 1200s.

Tigrinya is written in the Ge'ez script, originally developed for the now-extinct Ge'ez language. It is written and read from left to right as the English language. There are 32 set of letters in the Tigrinya alphabet. Ge'ez script looks difficult at the beginning, but it does not take long to learn how to read in Tigrinya.  Pronunciation is very simple and straight forward. In Tigrinya "You write as you read it and you read as you write it".  You will be surprised to find many familiar words.

Borrowed Words

Tigrinya has borrowed a lot of words from other languages. Among the Italian words in Tigrinya you will find:


Sound Tigrinya
pasta pasta pasta
machina makina car
armadio armadio capboard
autobus autobus autobus

Among the English words in Tigrinya you will find:

computer komputer computer
telephone telefon telephone
post posta posta
radio radio radio

Test your Knowledge of Tigrinya terms

NOW look at and listen to the Tigrinya alphabet.