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Lietuvių kalba
Spoken in Lithuania, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, Uruguay, USA, Spain, France [1]
Region Europe
Total speakers 3.5 million (Lithuania)
500,000 (Abroad)
4 million (Worldwide)[1]
Ranking 144th
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin (Lithuanian variant)
Official status
Official language in  Lithuania
 European Union
Regulated by Commission of the Lithuanian Language
Language codes
ISO 639-1 lt
ISO 639-2 lit
ISO 639-3 lit

Lithuanian (lietuvių kalba) is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they are not mutually intelligible. It is written in an adapted version of the Roman script.



Area of the Lithuanian language in the 16th century
The oldest surviving manuscript in Lithuanian (around 1503), rewritten from 15th century original text
First Lithuanian book (1547) The Simple Words of Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas
A map of European languages (1741) with the first verse of the Lord's Prayer in Lithuanian
Anyone wishing to hear how Indo-Europeans spoke should come and listen to a Lithuanian peasant.

Lithuanian still retains many of the original features of the nominal morphology found in the common ancestors of the Indo-European languages like Sanskrit and Latin, and has therefore been the focus of much study in the area of Indo-European linguistics. Studies in the field of comparative linguistics have shown it to be the most conservative living Indo-European language.[2][3]

Lithuanian and other Baltic languages passed through Proto-Balto-Slavic stage, during which Baltic languages developed numerous exclusive and non-exclusive lexical, morphological, phonological and accentual isoglosses with Slavic languages, which represent their closest living Indo-European relative. Moreover, with Lithuanian being so archaic in phonology, Slavic words can often be deduced from Lithuanian by regular sound laws.

According to some glottochronological speculations the Eastern Baltic languages split from the Western Baltic ones between AD 400 and AD 600. The differentiation between Lithuanian and Latvian started after AD 800; for a long period they could be considered dialects of a single language. At a minimum, transitional dialects existed until the 14th or 15th century, and perhaps as late as the 17th century. Also, the 13th- and 14th-century occupation of the western part of the Daugava basin (closely coinciding with the territory of modern Latvia) by the German Sword Brethren had a significant influence on the languages' independent development.

The earliest surviving written Lithuanian text is a translation dating from about 1503–1525 of the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed written in the Southern Aukštaitijan dialect. Printed books existed after 1547, but the level of literacy among Lithuanians was low through the 18th century and books were not commonly available. In 1864, following the January Uprising, Mikhail Muravyov, the Russian Governor General of Lithuania, banned the language in education and publishing, and barred use of the Latin alphabet altogether, although books printed in Lithuanian continued to be printed across the border in East Prussia and in the United States. Brought into the country by book smugglers despite the threat of stiff prison sentences, they helped fuel a growing nationalist sentiment that finally led to the lifting of the ban in 1904.

Jonas Jablonskis (1860–1930) made significant contributions to the formation of the standard Lithuanian language. The conventions of written Lithuanian had been evolving during the 19th century, but Jablonskis, in the introduction to his Lietuviškos kalbos gramatika, was the first to formulate and expound the essential principles that were so indispensable to its later development. His proposal for Standard Lithuanian was based on his native Western Aukštaitijan dialect with some features of the eastern Prussian Lithuanians' dialect spoken in Lithuania Minor. These dialects had preserved archaic phonetics mostly intact due to the influence of the neighbouring Old Prussian language, while the other dialects had experienced different phonetic shifts. However, the most archaic features are found in the South Aukštaitija dialect, such as: -tau, -tai usage instead of -čiau, -tum; in instead of į; and the endings -on, -un instead of -ą, -ų. Lithuanian has been the official language of Lithuania since 1918. During the Soviet occupation (see History of Lithuania), it was used in official discourse along with Russian which, as the official language of the USSR, took precedence over Lithuanian.


Lithuanian is one of two living Baltic languages, along with Latvian. An earlier Old Prussian Baltic language was extinct by the 19th century; the other Western Baltic languages, Curonian and Sudovian, went extinct earlier. The Baltic languages form their own distinct branch of the Indo-European languages.

Geographic distribution

Lithuanian is spoken mainly in Lithuania. It is also spoken by ethnic Lithuanians living in today's Belarus, Latvia, Poland, and the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, as well by sizable emigrant communities in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Russia proper, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, and Spain.

2,955,200 people in Lithuania (including 3,460 Tatars), or about 80% of the 1998 population, are native Lithuanian speakers; most Lithuanian inhabitants of other nationalities also speak Lithuanian to some extent. The total worldwide Lithuanian-speaking population is about 4,000,000 (1993 UBS).


Official status

Lithuanian is the state language of Lithuania and an official language of the European Union.


The Lithuanian language has two dialects (tarmės): Aukštaičių (Aukštaitian, Highland Lithuanian), Žemaičių/Žemaitiu (Samogitian, Lowland Lithuanian), See maps at [2]. There are significant differences between standard Lithuanian and Samogitian. The modern Samogitian dialect formed in the 13th-16th centuries under the influence of the Curonian language. Lithuanian dialects are closely connected with ethnographical regions of Lithuania

Dialects are divided into subdialects (patarmės). Both dialects have 3 subdialects. Samogitian is divided into West, North and South; Aukštaitian into West (Soduviečiai), Dainavian and East (South and East dielects form Dzūkian dialect due to intense usage of dz sound instead of dzh). Each subdialect is divided into smaller units - speeches (šnektos).

Standard Lithuanian is derived mostly from Western Aukštaitian dialects, including the Eastern dialect of Lithuania Minor. Influence of other dialects is more significant in the vocabulary of standard Lithuanian.


Lithuanian uses the Latin alphabet supplemented with diacritics. It is composed of 32 letters. The collation order presents one surprise: "Y" occurs between "Į" (I nosinė) and "J" because "Y" represents a long vowel /iː/.

a ą b c č d e ę ė f g h i į y j k l m n o p r s š t u ų ū v z ž

The Lithuanian writing system is largely phonemic, i.e., one letter usually corresponds to a single phoneme. Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions, for example, the letter i represents either the vowel [ɪ] of English lit or palatalizes the preceding consonant.

A macron can be used to mark vowel length, and acute, grave, and tilde diacritics are used for pitch accent. However, these are generally not written, except in dictionaries, grammars, and where needed for clarity. In addition, the following digraphs are used, but are treated as sequences of two letters for collation purposes. It should be noted that the "Ch" digraph represents a velar fricative, while the others are straightforward combinations of their component letters.

Dz dz [dz](dzė), Dž dž [dʒ](džė), Ch ch [x](cha).


This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Lithuanian has 12 written vowels. In addition to the standard Roman letters, nosinė ('little tail') accent (conventionally known as the caudata) is used to indicate long vowels, and is a historical relic of a time when these vowels were nasalized (as ogonek vowels are in modern Polish), and at an even earlier time had made diphthongs with an 'n' sound (now done only in South Aukštaitijan dialects).

Historically, 'y' has been treated as a variant of 'i', hence its unusual position in the Lithuanian alphabet.

Majuscule A Ą E Ę Ė I Į Y O U Ų Ū
Minuscule a ą e ę ė i į y o u ų ū
æː ɪ ɔ


Lithuanian uses 20 consonant characters, drawn from the Roman alphabet. In addition, the digraph "Ch" represents a voiceless velar fricative (IPA [x]); the pronunciation of other digraphs can be deduced from their component elements.

Majuscule B C Č D F G H J K L M N P R S Š T V Z Ž
Minuscule b c č d f g h j k l m n p r s š t v z ž
IPA b ts d f ɡ ɣ j k l m n p r s ʃ t ʋ z ʒ



  Labial Dental Denti-
Alveolar (Alveolo-)
Stops and
voiceless p t ts   k
voiced b d dz   ɡ
Fricatives voiceless (f)   s   ʃ (x)
voiced     z   ʒ (ɣ)
Nasals m n        
Approximants lateral   l        
glide ʋ       j
Rhotic trill       r    

Each consonant listed above except /j/ is actually two: palatalized and non-palatalized (/bʲ/ - /b/, /dʲ/ - /d/, /ɡʲ/ - /ɡ/ and so on). The consonants /f x ɣ/ and their palatalized homologues are only found in loanwords. Consonants preceding vowels /i/ and /e/ are always moderately palatalized, a feature common to East Slavic languages and not present in the Latvian language.

Stops are commonly unreleased in the Lithuanian language over released plosives.

(Adapted from with necessary changes according to Lithuanian Language Encyclopedia[4])


Lithuanian has six long vowels and five short ones. Length has traditionally been considered the distinctive feature, though short vowels are also more centralized and long vowels more peripheral:

  Front Central Back
Long Short Long Short
Low-mid æː æ̠      
Low   ɐ̟ ɐː    

(Adapted from and .)

Lithuanian is traditionally described as having eight diphthongs, ai au ei eu oi ui ie uo. However, some approaches (i.e. Schmalstieg 1982) treat them as vowel sequences rather than diphthongs; indeed, the longer component depends on the type of stress, whereas in diphthongs the longer segment is fixed.

When not stressed, as in ai /ai/, it is the second element of the sequence which is longer, [æ̠iˑ]. This is also the case with the stress written with a tilde, /aˈi/. However, with the "acute" stress, it is the first element which is longer, in addition to the falling pitch: ái /ˈai/, [ɐ̂ˑi]. The full set is as follows:

or tilde
acute stress
ai æ̠iˑ ɐ̂ˑi
ei æ̂ˑi
au æ̠uˑ ɐ̂ˑu
eu æ̂ˑu
ie ɨeˑ îˑe
oi ɵiˑ ôˑi
ui ʉiˑ ûˑi
uo ʉoˑ ûˑo

Pitch accent

Lithuanian prosodic system is characterized by free accent and distinctive quantity. Its accentuation is sometimes described as simple tone system, often called pitch accent.[5] In lexical words, one syllable will be tonically prominent. A heavy syllable—that is, a syllable containing a long vowel, diphthong, or a sonorant coda—may have one of two tones, falling tone (or acute tone) or rising tone (or circumflex tone). Light syllables (syllables with short vowels and optionally also obstruent codas), do not have the two-way contrast of heavy syllables.

Common Lithuanian lexicographical practice uses three diacritic marks to indicate word accent, i.e. the tone and quantity of the accented syllable. They are used in the following way:

  • The first (or the only) segment of a heavy syllable with a falling tone is indicated with an acute accent mark (e.g. á, ár), unless the first element is i or u followed by a tautosyllabic resonant, in which case it is marked with a grave accent mark (e.g. ìr, ùr).
  • The second (or the only) segment of a heavy syllable with a rising tone are indicate with a circumflex accent (e.g. ã, ar̃)
  • Short accented syllables are indicated with a grave accent mark (e.g. ì, ù).

As said, Lithuanian has a free accent which means that its position and type is not phonologically predictable and has to be learned by heart. This is the state of affairs inherited from Proto-Balto-Slavic and, to a lesser extent, from Proto-Indo-European; Lithuanian circumflex and acute syllables directly reflect Proto-Balto-Slavic acute and circumflex tone opposition.

In a word-final position the tonal distinction in heavy syllables is almost neutralized, with a few minimal pairs remaining such as šáuk "shoot!" vs. šaũk "shout!". In other syllables the two-way contrast can be illustrated with pairs such as: kóšė "porridge" vs. kõšė "to sour"; áušta "to cool" vs. aũšta "to dawn"; drímba "lout" vs. drĩmba "to fall"; káltas "guilty" vs. kãltas "chisel", týrė "(he/she) explored" vs. tỹrė "mush".

kóšė is perceived as having a falling pitch ([kôːʃæ] or [kóòʃæ]), and indeed acoustic measurement strongly supports this. However, while kõšė is perceived as having a rising pitch ([kǒːʃæ] or [kòóʃæ]), this is not supported acoustically; measurements do not find a consistent tone associated with such syllables that distinguish them from unaccented heavy syllables. The distinguishing feature appears to be a negative one, that they do not have a falling tone.[5]

If diphthongs (and truly long vowels) are treated as sequences of vowels, then a single stress mark is sufficient for transcription: áušta /ˈauʃta/ = [ˈâˑʊʃtɐ] "to cool" vs. aũšta /aˈuʃta/ = [ɐˈuˑʃtɐ] "to dawn"; kóšė /ˈkooʃe/ = [ˈkôːʃæ] "porridge" vs. kõšė /koˈoʃe/ = [koˈoˑʃæ] "to sour".

Lithuanian accentual system inherited another very important aspect from Proto-Balto-Slavic period, and that is the accentual mobility. Accents can alternate throughout the inflection of word by both the syllable position and type. Parallels can be drown with some modern Slavic languages, namely Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovene. Accentual mobility is prominent in nominal stems, while verbal stems mostly demonstrate phonologically predictable patterns.

Lithuanian nominal stems are commonly divided into four accentual classes, usually referred to by their numbers:

  • Accent paradigm 1: Fixed (columnar) accent on a non-desinential syllable. If the accent is on a pre-desinential syllable, it carries the acute tone.
  • Accent paradigm 2: Alternation of accent on a short or circumflex pre-desinential syllable with desinential accentuation.
  • Accent paradigm 3: Alternation of accent on a non-desinential syllable with desinential accentuation. If the accent is on a pre-desinential syllable, it caries the acute tone.
  • Accent paradigm 4: Alternation of accent on short or circumflex pre-desinential syllable with desinential accentuation.
number case Accent paradigm 1 Accent paradigm 2 Accent paradigm 3 Accent paradigm 4
sg N výras rankà galvà diẽvas
V výre rañka gálva diẽve
A výrą rañką gálvą diẽvą
G výro rañkos galvõs diẽvo
D výrui rañkai gálvai diẽvui
L výre rañkoje galvojè dievè
I výru rankà gálva dievù
pl NV výrai rañkos gálvos dievaĩ
A výrus rankàs gálvas dievùs
G výrų rañkų galvų̃ dievų̃
D výrams rañkoms galvóms dieváms
L výruose rañkose galvosè dievuosè
I výrais rañkomis galvomìs dievaĩs

It should be noted that the previously described accentual system primarily applies to the Aukštaitian dialect on which the standard Lithuanian literary language is based. The speakers of other group of Lithuanian dialects - Žemaitian - have a very different accentual system, and they do not adopt standard accentuation when speaking the standard idiom. Speakers of the major cities such as Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda with mixed populations generally do not have intonational oppositions in spoken language, even when they speak the standard idiom.

Change and variation

The changes and variation in Lithuanian phonetics include diachronic changes of a quality of a phoneme, alternations, dialectal variation, variation between corresponding sounds of individual inflectional morphemes of the same grammatical category, which is at the same time qualitative and quantitative, diachronic and synchronic.

  • The diachronic qualitative phonemic changes include o /oː/ ← ā (a narrowing of a more open vowel), uo ← ō turnings.
  • Among examples of the variation between sounds of different inflectional morphemes of a certain grammatical category there is historical shortening of a declensional ending a in some positions: motina (nom. sg.-instr. sg.) 'mother' ← *mātina ← *mātinā, *mātinās → motinos (gen. sg.). Synchronous variation between shorter (more recent) and longer (more archaic) personal endings in verbs, depending on final position: keliu 'I am lifting; I lift (something)' – keliuosi 'I get up; I am getting up' (reflexive); keli 'you are lifting' – keliesi 'you get up'; keliame 'we are lifting' – kelias 'we get up'.
  • Examples of alternation include variation between d, t and palatalized dž, č respectively: nom. sg. pat-s 'myself; himself; itself' (masculine gender), gen. sg. pat-ies, dat. sg. pač-iam; jaučiu 'I feel', jauti 'you feel'; giriu 'I hear', girdi 'you hear'. Variation between a lengthened, uttered in a falling, lengthened tone and a short a and e alike (only if these sounds end a syllable), variation between a long, uttered in a falling, lengthened tone and a short i at an ending of a word, depending on accentual position: vãkaras [ˈʋaːkɐrɐs] nominative 'an evening', vakarè [ʋɐkɐˈrɛ] locative 'in the evening'; radinỹs [rɐdɪˈniːs] nom. 'a finding, a find', rãdinio [ˈraːdɪnʲoː] genitive (from ràsti [ˈrɐstɪ] 'to find'); pãtiekalas 'a dish, course', patiekalaĩ nom. plural. (from patiẽkti 'to serve (a dish)'); vèsti 'to lead; to marry' vedìmas (a noun for an action) vẽdamas (participle) 'who is being led; married'; baltinỹs 'cloth which is being whitened', baltìnis 'white; (dial.) white of the egg' (derivatives from baltas 'white').

Variation in sounds takes place in word formation. Some examples:

infinitive present tense,
I person,
past tense,
I person,
a noun of
an action
other noun related short
related short
meaning (for an infinitive)
rasti randu
I am finding;
I find
I found
a finding
to find
busti bundu budau budimas budrus vigilant to wake
pulti puolu puoliau puolimas pulkas a regiment to begin (on); to attack
pilti pilu pyliau pylimas pylimas a mound,
an embankment
pilis a castle
pilvas a belly
pilnas full to pour (any non solid material)
kilti kylu kilau kilimas kelias a road
kelis a knee
kalva a hill
kalnas a mountain
kilnus noble to arise, lift (for oneself)

keliu kėliau kėlimas to raise, lift (something)
svirti svyru svirau svirimas to slope
sverti sveriu svėriau svėrimas svoris a weight to weigh
gerti geriu gėriau gėrimas gėrimas a drink,
a beverage
to drink
durti duriu dūriau dūrimas to prickle, job
vyti veju vijau vijimas vytis a chaser
pavojus a danger, alert
to chase; to strand, wind
visti vysta (III p.) viso (III p.) visimas visas all, entire to breed (for oneself)
veisti veisiu veisiau veisimas vaisius a fruit
vaistas a drug
to rear, to breed (something)
vysti vysta (III p.) vyto (III p.) vytimas to fade, wither, languish

The examples in the table are given as an overview, the word formation comprises many words not given here, for example, any verb can have an adjective made by the same pattern: sverti – svarus 'valid; ponderous'; svirti – svarùs 'slopable'; vyti – vajùs 'for whom it is characteristic to chase or to be chased'; pilti – pilùs 'poury'; but for example visti – vislùs 'prolific' (not visus, which could conflict with an adjective of a similar form visas 'all, entire'). Many verbs, besides a noun derivative with the ending -ìmas, can have different derivatives of the same meaning: pilti – pylìmas, pylà, pỹlis (they mean the act of the verb: a pouring (of any non solid material)); the first two have meanings that look almost identical but are drawn apart from a direct link with the verb: pylimas 'a bank, an embankment', pylà 'pelting; spanking, whipping'; the word svõris 'a weight', for example, does not have the meaning of an act of weighing. There are also many other derivatives and patterns of derivation.


The Lithuanian language is a highly inflected language in which the relationships between parts of speech and their roles in a sentence are expressed by numerous inflections.

There are two grammatical genders in Lithuanian - feminine and masculine. There is no neuter gender per se, but there are some forms which are derived from the historical neuter gender, notably attributive adjectives. There are five noun and three adjective declensions.

Nouns and other parts of nominal morphology are declined in seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, and vocative. In older Lithuanian texts three additional varieties of the locative case are found: illative, adessive and allative. The most common are the illative, which still is used, mostly in spoken language, and the allative, which survives in the standard language in some idiomatic usages. The adessive is nearly extinct. These additional cases are probably due to the influence of Finno-Ugric languages with which Baltic languages have had a long-standing contact (Finno-Ugric languages have a great variety of noun cases a number of which are specialised locative cases).

Lithuanian has a free, mobile stress, and is also characterized by pitch accent.

The Lithuanian verbal morphology shows a number of innovations. Namely, the loss of synthetic passive (which is hypothesized based on the more archaic though long-extinct Indo-European languages), synthetic perfect (formed via the means of reduplication) and aorist; forming subjunctive and imperative with the use of suffixes plus flexions as opposed to solely flections in , e. g., Ancient Greek; loss of the optative mood; merging and disappearing of the -t- and -nt- markers for third person singular and plural, respectively (this, however, occurs in Latvian and Old Prussian as well and may indicate a collective feature of all Baltic languages).

On the other hand, the Lithuanian verbal morphology retains a number of archaic features absent from most modern Indo-European languages (but shared with Latvian). This includes the synthetic formation of the future tense with the help of the -s- suffix; three principal verbal forms with the present tense stem employing the -n- and -st- infixes.

There are three verbal conjugations. All verbs have present, past, past iterative and future tenses of the indicative mood, subjunctive (or conditional) and imperative moods (both without distinction of tenses) and infinitive. These forms, except the infinitive, are conjugative, having two singular, two plural persons and the third person form common both for plural and singular. Lithuanian has the richest participle system of all Indo-European languages, having participles derived from all tenses with distinct active and passive forms, and several gerund forms.

In practical terms, the rich overall inflectional system renders word order less important than in more isolating languages such as English. A Lithuanian speaker may word the English phrase "a car is coming" as either "atvažiuoja automobilis" or "automobilis atvažiuoja".

Lithuanian also has a very rich word derivation system and an array of diminutive suffixes.

The first prescriptive grammar book of Lithuanian was commissioned by the Duke of Prussia, Frederick William, for use in the Lithuanian-speaking parishes of East-Prussia. It was written in Latin and German by Daniel Klein and published in Königsberg in 1653/1654. The first scientific Compendium of Lithuanian language was published in German in 1856/57 by August Schleicher, a professor at Prague University. In it he describes Prussian-Lithuanian which later is to become the "skeleton" (Buga) of modern Lithuanian.

Today there are two definitive books on Lithuanian grammar: one in English, the "Introduction to Modern Lithuanian" (called "Beginner's Lithuanian" in its newer editions) by Leonardas Dambriūnas, Antanas Klimas and William R. Schmalstieg, and another in Russian, Vytautas Ambrazas' "Грамматика литовского языка" ("The Grammar of the Lithuanian Language"). Another recent book on Lithuanian grammar is the second edition of "Review of Modern Lithuanian Grammar" by Edmund Remys, published by Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, Chicago, 2003.


The Grand Dictionary of the Lithuanian language, consisting of 20 tomes containing more than half a million headwords

Indo-European vocabulary

Lithuanian is considered one of the most conservative modern Indo-European languages.[6] This conservativism becomes especially apparent when Lithuanian is compared to a Germanic or a Romance language, as languages of these groups have greatly simplified their inflectional systems or levelled out declension altogether. Slavic languages are, on the other hand, more similar to Lithuanian.

Lithuanian retains cognates to many words found in classical languages, such as Sanskrit and Latin. These words are descended from Proto-Indo-European. A few examples are the following:

  • Lith. and Skt. sūnus (son)
  • Lith. and Skt. avis and Lat. ovis (sheep)
  • Lith. dūmas and Skt. dhumas and Lat. fumus (smoke)
  • Lith. antras and Skt. antaras (second, the other)
  • Lith. vilkas and Skt. vrkas and Lat. lupus (wolf)
  • Lith. ratas and Lat. rota (wheel) and Skt. rathah (carriage).
  • Lith. senis and Lat. senex (an old man) and Skt. sanah (old).
  • Lith. vyras and Lat. vir (a man) and Skt. vira (man, hero).
  • Lith. angis and Lat. anguis (a snake in Latin, a species of snakes in Lithuanian)
  • Lith. linas and Lat. linum (flax, compare with English 'linen')
  • Lith. ariu and Lat. aro (I plow)
  • Lith. jungiu and Lat. iungeo (I join)
  • Lith. gentys and Lat. gentes (tribes) and Skt. jánas (genus, race).
  • Lith. mėnesis and Lat. mensis and Skt masa (month)
  • Lith. dantys and Lat. dentes and Skt dantas (teeth)
  • Lith. naktys and Lat. noctes and Skt. nakt (night)
  • Lith. sėdime and Lat. sedemus (we sit) and Skt. siedati (sits).

This even extends to grammar, where for example Latin noun declensions ending in -um often correspond to Lithuanian . Many of the words from this list share similarities with other Indo-European languages, including English.

On the other hand, the numerous lexical and grammatical similarities between Baltic and Slavic languages suggest an affinity between these two language groups. However, there exist a number of Baltic (particularly Lithuanian) words, notably those that are similar to Sanskrit or Latin, which lack counterparts in Slavic languages. This fact was puzzling to many linguists prior to the middle of the 19th century, but was later influential in the re-creation of the Proto Indo-European language. In any event, the history of the earlier relations between Baltic and Slavic languages and a more exact genesis of the affinity between the two groups remains in dispute.

Loan words

In a 1934 book entitled Die Germanismen des Litauischen. Teil I: Die deutschen Lehnwörter im Litauischen, K. Alminauskis found 2,770 loan words, of which about 130 were of uncertain origin. The majority of the loan words were found to have been derived from the Polish, Belarussian, and German languages, with some evidence that these languages all acquired the words from contacts and trade with Prussia during the era of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[7] Loan words comprised about 20% of the vocabulary used in the first book printed in the Lithuanian language in 1547, Martynas Mažvydas's Catechism.[8] The majority of loan words in the 20th century arrived from the Russian language.[9] Towards the end of the 20th century a number of English language words and expressions entered the spoken vernacular of city dwellers, especially the younger ones.[10]

The Lithuanian government has an established language policy which encourages the development of equivalent vocabulary to replace loan words.[11] However, despite the government's best efforts to avoid the use of loan words in the Lithuanian language, many English words have become accepted and are now included in Lithuanian language dictionaries.[12][13] In particular, words having to do with new technologies have permeated the Lithuanian vernacular, including such words as:

    • monitorius (vaizduoklis) (computer monitor)
    • faksas (fax)
    • kompiuteris (computer)
    • failas (rinkmena) (electronic file)

It is estimated that the number of foreign words, particularly of a technical nature, that have been adapted to the Lithuanian language might reach 70% or more.

Other common foreign words have also been adopted by the Lithuanian language. Some of these include:

    • taksi (taksis) (taxi)
    • pica (pizza)
    • alkoholis (alcohol)

These words have been modified to suit the grammatical and phonetic requirements of the Lithuanian language, but their foreign roots are obvious.


  • Lithuanian: lietuviškai
(language) lietuvių
(nationality) lietuvis (masculine), lietuvė (feminine)
  • Hello (informally): labas, (formally): laba diena
  • Goodbye (informally): iki!, (formally): viso gero
  • Please: prašau
  • Thank you: ačiū
  • That one: tas (masculine), ta (feminine)
  • How much (does it cost)?: kiek kainuoja?
  • Yes: taip
  • No: ne
  • Sorry: atsiprašau
  • I don't understand: nesuprantu
  • Do you speak English?: Ar kalbate angliškai?
  • Where is ...?: Kur yra ...?
  • Shop: parduotuvė
  • Tea: arbata
  • Coffee: kava
  • Milk: pienas
  • How much? : Kiek?
  • Example : pavyzdys
  • Examples : pavyzdžiai
  • Photo: nuotrauka

See also



  1. ^ a b Ethnologue report for language code:lit
  2. ^ Zinkevičius, Z. (1993). Rytų Lietuva praeityje ir dabar. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidykla. pp. 9. ISBN 5-420-01085-2. "…linguist generally accepted that Lithuanian language is the most archaic among live Indo-European languages…" 
  3. ^ Lithuanian Language. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  4. ^ Lithuanian Language Encyclopedia (in Lithuanian), Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos inst., 1999. pp. 497 - 498. ISBN 5-420-01433-5
  5. ^ a b Phonetic invariance and phonological stability: Lithuanian pitch accents Grzegorz Dogil & Gregor Möhler, 1998[1]
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ways of Germanisms into Lithuanian. N. Cepiene, Acta Baltico-Slavica, 2006
  8. ^ Martynas Mažvydas' Language. Zigmas Zinkevičius, 1996. Accessed October 26, 2007.
  9. ^ Slavic loanwords in the northern sub-dialect of the southern part of west high Lithuanian. V. Sakalauskiene, Acta Baltico-Slavica 2006. Accessed October 26, 2007.
  10. ^ The Anglicization of Lithuanian. Antanas Kilmas, Lituanus, Summer 1994. Accessed October 26, 2007.
  11. ^ State Language Policy Guidelines 2003–2008. Seimas of Lithuania, 2003. Accessed October 26, 2007.
  12. ^ English to Lithuanian online dictionary
  13. ^ LingvoSoft-Online-English-Lithuanian-Dictionary|Linvozone English to Lithuanian online dictionary
  • Leonardas Dambriūnas, Antanas Klimas, William R. Schmalstieg, Beginner's Lithuanian, Hippocrene Books, 1999, ISBN 0-7818-0678-X. Older editions (copyright 1966) called "Introduction to modern Lithuanian".
  • Remys, Edmund, Review of Modern Lithuanian Grammar, Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, Chicago, 2nd revised edition, 2003.
  • Klimas, Antanas. "Baltic and Slavic revisited". Lituanus vol. 19, no. 1, Spring 1973 . Retrieved October 23, 2007. 
  • Zigmas Zinkevičius, "Lietuvių kalbos istorija" ("History of Lithuanian Language") Vol.1, Vilnius: Mokslas, 1984, ISBN 5-420-00102-0.
  • Remys, Edmund, General distinguishing features of various Indo-European languages and their relationship to Lithuanian, Indogermanische Forschungen, Berlin, New York, 2007.

External links

Lithuanian language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simple English

Lietuvių kalba
Spoken in Lithuania, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, Uruguay, USA
Region Europe
Total speakers 2.96 million (Lithuania)
170,000 (Abroad)
3.13 million (Worldwide)[1]
Ranking 144th
Language family Indo-European
  • Baltic
    • Eastern
      • Lithuanian
Writing system Roman script
Official status
Official language in Lithuania, European Union
Regulated by Commission of the Lithuanian Language
Language codes
ISO 639-1 lt
ISO 639-2 lit
ISO 639-3 lit

The Lithuanian language is a Baltic language. It is from Lithuania, spoken in a few countries in Europe, as well as in the Americas and Australia.

Lithuanian language along with Latvian are the only remained Baltic languages. Both languages have many things in common. Lithuanian, however, adopted less words and phrases from German and other languages. However, long ago Lithuanian was affected by the Slavic languages, so the main barbarisms were replaced with Lithuanian words only in 1920, by Lithuanian philologist Jonas Jablonskis and others.

The front cover of the Katekizmas, published in East Prussia in 1547.

There are two main dialects of Lithuanian. Samogitian is the dialect mostly used in West Lithuania, the other, widely used in the whole country is Aukštaitian (High-landers' dialect). The standard Lithuanian comes from West-Aukštaitian.

The first book written in Lithuanian is Katekizmas by Martynas Mažvydas. It was published in East Prussia in 1547.


  1. Ethnologue report for language code:lit


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