Languages of Honduras

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Languages of Honduras
Official Spanish
Indigenous Amerindian languages
Minority Garifuna
Foreign English

There are a number of languages spoken in Honduras though the official language is Spanish.



Several studies have been carried out on the languages spoken in Honduras, including the following:

- Honduran Dictionary (Catracho), in 1899, Alberto de Jesús Membreño, published the first Honduran Dictionary with the title of "Honduranisms Vocabulary of the Provinces of Honduras", nourished with great part of the words and expressions collected in La Botica del pueblo of Doctor Francisco Cruz Castro.

In the twenty-second edition of the Spanish Royal Academy Dictionary, 2001, AHL made a valuable contribution to the Spanish-speaking world: 1,950 Hondurans were incorporated. In the twenty-first edition, in 1992, there were 302. Thus, there are about 2,702, including 400 Honduran gentilices, which makes Honduran Spanish speakers one of the greatest contributors of new lexical elements in that edition of the dictionary.

Dictionary: I know you, mosco

Likewise, "I know you, Mosco - Dictionary of Honduran popular thought" (Juan Carlos I Spanish King of the Spanish Cultural Cooperation in Honduras), by Juan Ramón Saravia, compiled more than 2,700 words.

Dictionary of Languages of Honduras DLH

In 2013, and after 4 years of work coordinated by Dr. Victor Manuel Ramos, the Honduran Academy of the Language AHL presents the "Dictionary of the Languages of Honduras", filled in by the portal dedicated to linguistic diversity of Honduras [ permanent dead link ], with access to the dictionaries of 'Honduranisms' and of the 'Languages of Honduras DLH'.

Languages spoken in Honduras

In Honduras, dozens of languages were spoken before the Spanish conquest. The language most spoken was the Lenca language; after the conquest, the most spoken language became Castilian.


By far the most widely spoken language in the country, spoken natively by the vast majority of citizens regardless of ethnicity. Honduran Spanish is considered a variety of Central American Spanish.

Honduran Sign Language


The language of the Honduran Lencas is considered an extinct language. Because it is already in danger of extinction, it has a population of 300 to 594 semi-speakers. Its geographical location is between the western departments of Honduras, as they are: Lempira, Intibucá, La Paz, also they are in smaller quantity in the central departments of Santa Barbara, Comayagua Department, Francisco Morazán Department and Valley.

Ch’orti’ language

The Chʼortiʼ people speak a Mayan language in the Ch'olan group. They have lost their language and have adopted the Spanish language.

Garifuna language

They are the result of the mixture of African slaves (that shipwrecked in two ships in 1655 and another one that shipwrecked in 1675) with the Caribbean Indians (Amerindians, who had diverse languages called Caribbean languages), thus originated the black Caribs who dominated the Island of San Vicente until 1797, when they were expelled by the English towards Roatán and Trujillo.

Bay Islands English

The Bay Islands are composed of larger islands called Utila, Roatan and Guanaja and their smaller islands or islets called Morat, Barbareta, Santa Elena and Cayos Cochinos. They are located on the northern coast of Honduras.

Their language is Creole English. Imported from England and Ireland, when the pirates and corsairs possessed these lands, when they attacked the ships of the Spanish Empire.

Tawahka or sumo language

Diego Cardona represents the Tawahka in a congress in the National Autonomous University of Honduras AurelioMartinezACALing 01.JPG
Diego Cardona represents the Tawahka in a congress in the National Autonomous University of Honduras

According to studies consulted, the Tawahka language and the Misquita are quite similar in their morphological and syntactic structure, although they do not have much lexicon in common. Both languages belong to the group macro-chibcha, linguistic group of South American origin. It is assumed that in very distant dates the ancestors of the Tawahkas, Misquitos and the branches (another related group), emigrated from what is now Colombia passing through the isthmus of Panama. The Tawahkas call their language Twanka, which shows a similarity to the name that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Spaniards gave the Indians of the Guayape-Guayambre area: tahuajcas. The mother tongue of this town is Tawahka, but they also speak Miskito and Spanish, although they still have some difficulty speaking Spanish.

Tolupan language

Paya language

They call themselves "pech" which means "people," a term that is used to refer only to them; for the rest of the population they use the terms pech-akuá (the other people) or bulá that means ladino. Lehmann and Greenberg consider that the pech language comes from the chibcha, although some linguists consider it an isolated league.

Miskitu ethnicity

It is a Mesoamerican ethnic group that has its own language, which occupied part of the territory of Honduras and El Salvador since pre-Columbian times.

In the time of the Spanish conquest only three lencas are named in the documents of that time: Mota, Entepica and Léppira.

Matagalpa language

It is an extinct language of the Misumalpan languages that was the main language of the central highlands of the republic of Nicaragua and of the department of El Paraíso in The Republic of Honduras.

In El Paraíso, it was called the language of the "Chatos" and "Sules" of that Honduran department.


Hondurans, as mentioned, are usually classified into six language families. Some of the languages are poorly documented, however, it seems that all languages documented in Honduras can be classified with reasonable certainty. Some of the languages are currently extinct (and here they are marked with the sign †). The table indicates the territories where the different languages were spoken, although in the actulidad the languages have disappeared of many of the indicated departments. The following list contains 12 languages between living languages and extinct languages:

The classification of the languages of Honduras
Indo-European languages
Eurasian family to which the languages of European settlers belong.
Romance Iberorromance Spanish Honduras (The whole country)
Germanic Criollo EnglishCriollo garifuna Bay islands

Family originating from Aridoamerica, some of whose groups moved as far south as Nicaragua.

Nahua (aztecoide) (†) Pipil (Nawat) Ocotepeque
Mayan languages

Family originating from Mesoamerica.

Mayense OccidentalCholano Chortí
(<10 speakers)
Tolatecan languages

Family that might have its origin probably in Mesoamerica and some of whose groups migrated further south

Jicaque-tol Jicaque El Palmar
Tolupán Montaña del Flor
Lencan languages
Language family that encompasses languages of the intermediate area and the north of South America, its origin is not clear.
Lenca Lenca hondureño Valle, Comayagua, Intibucá, La Paz, Morazán
Misumalpa Sumalpa Sumo Olancho, Gracias a Dios
Matagalpa-Cacaopera Matagalpa
Miskito Miskito Olancho, Gracias a Dios
Chibchense Paya Pech Colón, Olancho
Lenguas arawak

The Arawak languages are native to South America and their presence in Central America is due to the establishment of groups during the colonial period.

Arawak caribeño Iñeri Garífuna Cortés, Atlántida, Colón, Gracias a Dios
Village sign language Bay Islands Sign Language

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chibchan languages</span> Language family of Central and South America

The Chibchan languages make up a language family indigenous to the Isthmo-Colombian Area, which extends from eastern Honduras to northern Colombia and includes populations of these countries as well as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The name is derived from the name of an extinct language called Chibcha or Muysccubun, once spoken by the people who lived on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense of which the city of Bogotá was the southern capital at the time of the Spanish Conquista. However, genetic and linguistic data now indicate that the original heart of Chibchan languages and Chibchan-speaking peoples might not have been in Colombia, but in the area of the Costa Rica-Panama border, where the greatest variety of Chibchan languages has been identified.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bay Islands Department</span> Department of Honduras

The Bay Islands is a group of islands off the coast of Honduras. Collectively, the islands form one of the 18 departments of Honduras. The departmental capital is Coxen Hole, on the island of Roatán.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Culture of Honduras</span> Overview of the culture of Honduras

The wealth of cultural expression in Honduras owes its origins primarily to being a part of Latin America but also to the multi-ethnic nature of the country. The population comprises 90% Mestizo, 7% Amerindian, 2% Black, and 1% Caucasian. This influences all facets of the culture: customs, practices, ways of dressing, religion, rituals, codes of behavior and belief systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roatán</span> Largest of Honduras Bay Islands

Roatán is an island in the Caribbean, about 65 kilometres (40 mi) off the northern coast of Honduras. It is located between the islands of Utila and Guanaja, and is the largest of the Bay Islands of Honduras. The island was formerly known in English as Ruatan and Rattan.

The Pech people, previously known as the Paya, are an indigenous ethnic group in north-eastern Honduras. According to a 2007 census conducted by indigenous organisations, 6,024 people self-identified as being of Pech descent. This indigenous group primarily speak in their native tongue, the Pech language, which is a member of the Macro-Chibchan languages. Although, in recent developments, the language is mainly spoken by older generations and is in danger of being extinct in the relative near future. The Pech people reside in the north-eastern territories of Honduras, particularly in the areas of Colon, Gracias a Dios and Olancho. Since their migration to these areas, believed to have migrated from the southern areas of modern-day Colombia, the Pech people have undergone reduction to their land ownership and rights. The regions where the Pech people live were originally densely forested, however, has recently undergone deforestation. Many of the Pech's agricultural practices had to undergo reform, although, some traditional practices are still in place today. The Pech leaders continue to struggle to preserve their culture and language, putting the Pech people in danger of becoming extinct.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Misumalpan languages</span> Language family of Nicaragua and Honduras

The Misumalpan languages are a small family of languages spoken by indigenous peoples on the east coast of Nicaragua and nearby areas. The name "Misumalpan" was devised by John Alden Mason and is composed of syllables from the names of the family's three members Miskito, Sumo languages and Matagalpan. It was first recognized by Walter Lehmann in 1920. While all the languages of the Matagalpan branch are now extinct, the Miskito and Sumu languages are alive and well: Miskito has almost 200,000 speakers and serves as a second language for speakers of other indigenous languages in the Mosquito Coast. According to Hale, most speakers of Sumu also speak Miskito.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guanaja</span> Island in Central America

Guanaja is one of the Bay Islands of Honduras and is in the Caribbean. It is about 70 kilometres (43 mi) off the north coast of Honduras, and 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) from the island of Roatan. One of the cays off Guanaja, also called Guanaja or Bonacca or Low Cay, is near the main island, and contains most of the approximately 5,538 people who live in Guanaja. The densely populated cay has been described as the Venice of Honduras because of the waterways that run through it. The other two main settlements on Guanaja are Mangrove Bight and Savannah Bight. Smaller settlements includes Pelican Reef, East End and North East Bight.

The Chʼortiʼ language is a Mayan language, spoken by the indigenous Maya people who are also known as the Chʼortiʼ or Chʼortiʼ Maya. Chʼortiʼ is a direct descendant of the Classic Maya language in which many of the pre-Columbian inscriptions using the Maya script were written. Chʼortiʼ is the modern version of the ancient Mayan language Chʼolan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lenca</span> Honduran-Salvadoran native group

The Lenca are from present day southwest Honduras and eastern El Salvador in Central America. They once spoke many dialects such as Chilanga, Putun, Kotik etc. Although there were different dialects, they understood and coexisted with each other. These dialects are now nearly extinct. In Honduras, the Lenca are the largest tribal group, with an estimated population of more than 450,000.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miskito language</span> Misumalpan language spoken in Honduras and Nicaragua

Miskito is a Misumalpan language spoken by the Miskito people in northeastern Nicaragua, especially in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, and in eastern Honduras.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lempira (Lenca ruler)</span> Lenca leader of western Honduras (1499–1537)

Lempira was a warrior chieftain of the Lencas of western Honduras in Central America during the 1530s, when he led resistance to Francisco de Montejo's attempts to conquer and incorporate the region into the province of Honduras. Mentioned as Lempira in documents written during the Spanish conquest, he is regarded by the people as a warrior hero whom the conquistadors feared, since they couldn’t kill him. The Spaniards sent a messenger to tell him they wanted “peace” but when he showed up they captured him, dismembered his body, and buried him in undisclosed locations so no one could pay him respects.

Lencan is a small family of nearly extinct indigenous Mesoamerican languages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spanish conquest of the Chibchan nations</span> Part of the Spanish conquest of Colombia

The Spanish conquest of the Chibchan nations refers to the conquest by the Spanish monarchy of the Chibcha language-speaking nations, mainly the Muisca and Tairona that inhabited present-day Colombia, beginning the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Salvadorans</span> Citizens or residents of El Salvador

Salvadorans, also known as Salvadorians, are citizens of El Salvador, a country in Central America. Most Salvadorans live in El Salvador, although there is also a significant Salvadoran diaspora, particularly in the United States, with smaller communities in other countries around the world.

The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish; however, Nicaraguans on the Caribbean coast speak indigenous languages and also English. The communities located on the Caribbean coast also have access to education in their native languages. Additionally, Nicaragua has four extinct indigenous languages.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hondurans</span> Citizens or natives of Honduras

Hondurans are the citizens of Honduras. Most Hondurans live in Honduras, although there is also a significant Honduran diaspora, particularly in the United States, Spain, and many smaller communities in other countries around the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Afro-Hondurans</span> Ethnic group

Afro-Hondurans or Black Hondurans are Hondurans of Sub-Saharan African descent. Research by Henry Louis Gates and other sources regards their population to be around 1-2%. They descended from: enslaved Africans by the Spanish, as well as those who were enslaved from the West Indies and identify as Creole peoples, and the Garifuna who descend from exiled zambo Maroons from Saint Vincent. The Creole people were originally from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, while the Garifuna people were originally from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Garifunas arrived in the late seventeen hundreds and the Creole peoples arrived during the eighteen hundreds. About 600,000 Hondurans are from Garífuna descent that are a mix of African and indigenous as of Afro Latin Americans. Honduras has one of the largest African community in Latin America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pre-Columbian Honduras</span>

The territory of current Honduras was inhabited by two culturally distinct peoples: the Maya civilization and the Nahua. Although the Mesoamerican influence was the one that remained as the dominant influence in the territory.

Honduras has rich folk traditions that derive from the fusion of four different cultural groups: indigenous, European, African and Creole. Each department or region, municipality, village and even hamlet contributes its own traditions including costumes, music, beliefs, stories, and all the elements that derive from and are transformed by peoples in a population. In sum, these define Honduran Folklore as expressed by crafts, tales, legends, music and dances.