The 10 Most Common Languages Spoken in India

INDIA FLAG FLYING HIGH BLUE SKY TRICOLOUR FLAG
GEMINI PRO STUDIO/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Sofia Fantauzzo

Published: February 24, 2024

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India is the seventh largest country in the world, home to over 1.4 billion people. The country has 22 “official” languages due to its large population, but there are over 60 spoken languages total! While English is one of the official languages, only about 6% of people in India speak it, and it is not widely spoken as a first language. There are many more commonly spoken languages found in India. Below you’ll find the 10 most common languages in the country and where they are primarily spoken.

10. Malayalam

Indian Giant Squirrel or Ratufa indica in a forest in Thattekkad, Kerala, India.

Kerala is home to many unique animals, including the

Indian giant squirrel

.

Another Dravidian language, Malayalam is not as common as many other languages but still 34 million people speak this language in India. It is similar to Tamil and is the official language of India’s southernmost state, Kerala. The Malayalis are the native people of the Kerala state.

Though Malayalam is not a language common outside of India, some Persian Gulf countries do speak it due to the populations of Malayali immigrants.

9. Odia

Nandankanan Zoological Park

The Nandankana Zoo in Odisha houses many rare plants and animals.

As the name of the language suggests, Odia is the primary language in the Indian state Odisha. It is another language from Prakish roots though there are elements of Dravidian languages that can be seen influencing the language. About 3% of India’s population speaks Odia (37 million people) and worldwide, 50 million people speak it.

8. Kannada

Ancient stone chariot with archaeological ruins in the courtyard of Vittala Temple at Hampi, Karnataka India

Karnataka has beautiful heritage destinations such as the Shree Vijaya Vitthala Temple.

Kannada is another Dravidian language with approximately 20 different dialects. There are 44 million native speakers of Kannada or 3.7% of India’s population. Most speakers of Kannada are from Karnataka. There are differences in the language from regions and also for informal and formal usage.

7. Urdu

The Urdu language is spoken throughout India and in other Asian countries, like Pakistan.

Urdu is a common language in India and is also the official language of the neighboring country, Pakistan. Around 7% of India’s population speaks Urdu as their primary language. It is most common in states such as West Bengal, Bihar, and Kashmir. It is very similar to Hindi and is a “sister language” in some ways.

6. Gujarati

Kalupur Swaminarayan Mandir, a hindu temple in the old city of Ahmedabad - Gujarat, India

India is home to many ornate temples, such as the Kalupur Swaminarayan Mandir in Gujarat.

Gujarat is a northwestern Indian state where Gujarati is the official language. Over 62 million people in India speak this language. Like other common languages in India, Gujarati is a language that comes from Sanskrit. While there are similarities amongst Gujarat and other Sanskrit-based languages, they are still each their own language Gujarat has more Persian and Arabic influences.

5. Tamil

entrance in Hindu Temple dedicated to Shiva, ancient Gangaikonda

This temple to Shiva is in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil is the language of over 69 million people in India. Most Tamil speakers are from the southern part of the country, including Tamil Nadu. Tamil is also a language common in Sri Lanka. It is also one of the world’s oldest surviving languages. Like Telugu, Tamil is a Dravidian language.

4. Telugu

Pile of raw Basmati rice with a spoon

Andhra Pradesh is one of India’s leading rice-producing states.

This language is the primary language in Andhra Pradesh. Telugu is a Dravidian language, unlike the other three most common languages. In fact, Telugu is presently the most widely spoken of the Dravidian languages. There are over 75 million people who speak Telugu in India and over 96 million speakers throughout the world.

3. Marathi

Aerial Cityscape with buildings, Pune, Maharashtra

Maharashtra is the second-largest state in India.

Marathi is a more common language in the Western part of the country. It is the official language of Maharashtra. Interestingly, there are over 40 dialects of Marathi. Over 84 million people in India call Marathi their mother tongue. This language came from Prakrit, a later development of Sanskrit.

2. Bengali (or Bangla)

Portrait of a Royal Bengal Tiger alert and Staring at the Camera. National Animal of Bangladesh

Bengal tigers are the national animal of India. You can find them in their

national parks

.

Although it is not an official language of India, Bengali is the second most common language in India. West Bengali has the most people who speak Bengali with about 85 million speakers in India alone! That amounts to 8.03% of the country’s population.

1. Hindi

Hindi is the most common language in the country.

One of the official languages of India is Hindi. It is a common tongue throughout the country and is the language on most official forms and exams. Hindi has roots in the Sanskrit language but has taken some influence from other languages, like Portuguese and English, over the years.

Over 500 million people worldwide speak Hindi. Just under half the population (43%) of India speaks Hindi according to a 2011 census. Most of the Hindi speakers are in the northern half of India.


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About the Author

Sofia is a lover of all things nature, and has completed a B.S. in Botany at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). Professionally, interests include everything plant and animal related, with a penchant for writing and bringing science topics to a wider audience. On the off-occasion she is not writing or playing with her cats or crested gecko, she can be found outside pointing out native and invasive plants while playing Pokemon Go.

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