Tigre language

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ትግረ (Tigre) / ትግራይት (Tigrayit)
ኻሳ (Xasa) [1]
Native to Eritrea, Sudan [2]
Region Anseba Region, Gash-Barka Region, Northern Red Sea Region, Red Sea State
Ethnicity Tigre
Native speakers
890,000 (2022) [3]
DialectsMansa (Mensa), Habab, Beni-Amir, Semhar, Algeden, Senhit (Ad-Tekleis, Ad-Temariam, Bet-Juk, Marya Kayah)
Tigre alphabet (Geʽez script), Arabic script
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Flag of Eritrea.svg  Eritrea
Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan
Language codes
ISO 639-2 tig
ISO 639-3 tig
Glottolog tigr1270
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Tigre (ትግረ), also spelled Tigré (ትግሬ, tigrē) or additionally known in Eritrea by its autonym Tigrayit (ትግራይት), is an Ethiopian Semitic language spoken in the Horn of Africa, primarily by the Tigre people of Eritrea. [4] Along with Tigrinya, it is believed to be the most closely related living language to Ge'ez, which is still in use as the liturgical language of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Tigre has a lexical similarity of 71% with Ge’ez and of 64% with Tigrinya. [2] As of 1997, Tigre was spoken by approximately 800,000 Tigre people in Eritrea. [5] The Tigre mainly inhabit western Eritrea, though they also reside in the northern highlands of Eritrea and its extension into the adjacent parts of Sudan, as well as Eritrea's Red Sea coast north of Zula. There is a small number of Tigre speakers in Sudan, as well as communities of speakers found in the diaspora. [3]


The Tigre people are not to be confused with their neighbors to the south, the Tigrinya people of Eritrea and the Tigrayans of Ethiopia, who speak Tigrinya. Tigrinya is also derived from the parent Geʽez tongue[ citation needed ], but is quite distinct from Tigre despite the similarity in name.


There are several dialects of Tigre, some of them are; Mansa’ (Mensa), Habab, Barka, Semhar, Algeden, Senhit (Ad-Tekleis, Ad-Temariam, Bet-Juk, Marya Kayah) and Dahalik, which is spoken in Dahlak archipelago. Intelligibility between the dialects is above 91% (except Dahalik), where intelligibility between Dahalik and the other dialects is between 24% and 51%. [2]


Cardinal Numbers

Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers have both feminine and masculine form. The gender-neutral ordinal numbers are described in the section below. To describe the masculine form –“ay” is added and respective -ayt to describe the feminine form.


Tigre has preserved the two pharyngeal consonants of Ge'ez. The Ge'ez vowel inventory has almost been preserved except that the two vowels which are phonetically close to [ɐ] and [a] seem to have evolved into a pair of phonemes which have the same quality (the same articulation) but differ in length; [a] vs. [aː]. The original phonemic distinction according to quality survives in Tigrinya. The vowel [ɐ], traditionally named "first order vowel", is most commonly transcribed ä in Semitic linguistics.

The phonemes of Tigre are displayed below in both International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols (indicated by the IPA brackets) and the symbols common (though not universal) among linguists who work on Ethiopian Semitic languages. For the long vowel /aː/, the symbol 'ā' is used per Raz (1983). Three consonants, /p, p', x/, occur only in a small number of loanwords, hence they are written in parentheses.

As in other Ethiopian Semitic languages, the phonemic status of /ə/ is questionable; it may be possible to treat it as an epenthetic vowel that is introduced to break up consonant clusters.

Labial Dental Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless ( p ) t č k ʔ
voiced b d ǧ ɡ
ejective ( ) tʃʼ č'
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ š( x ) ħ h
voiced z ʒ ž ʕ
Approximant l j y w
Rhotic r
Front Central Back
Close i ɨ ə u
Mid e o
Open a , ā

Consonant length

Consonant length is phonemic in Tigre (that is, a pair of words can be distinct by consonant length alone), although there are few such minimal pairs. Some consonants do not occur long; these include the pharyngeal consonants, the glottal consonants, /w/, and /j/. In this language, long consonants arise almost solely by gemination as a morphological process; there are few, if any, long consonants in word roots. Gemination is especially prominent in verb morphology.


These notes use the spelling adopted by Camperio (1936 – see bibliography) which seems to approximate to Italian rules.

Nouns are of two genders, masculine and feminine.

As we might expect from a Semitic language, specifically feminine forms, where they exist, are often formed of an element with t:

In a similar way, sound-changes can also mark the difference between singular and plural:

Personal pronouns distinguish "you, masculine" and "you, feminine" in both singular and plural:

The possessive pronouns appear (a) suffixed to the noun, (b) as separate words:

The verb "to be":

The verb "to be", past tense:

The verb "to have":

and so on, with the last word in each case:

The verb "to have": past tense, using a feminine noun as an example:

and so on, with the last word in each case:


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: [6]

Tigre textEnglish text
ክሎም ውላድ ሚንኣደም ምን አምዕል ተውሊደቶም እንዴ አንበተው ሑር ወአክልሕድቶም። አክልሕድ ላቱ ሕቁቅ ወሕሽመት ቦም። ደሚር ወእህትማም ለትሀየበው ኽሉቃም ሰበት ቶም ኖስ-ኖሶም አድሕድ እግል ለሐሽሞ ወልርሐሞ ወጅቦም።All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
kəlom wəlad minəʼadäm mən ʼäməʻəl täwəlidätom ʼənədē ʼänəbätäw ḥur waʼäkələḥədətom. ʼäkələḥəd latu ḥəquq waḥəšəmät bom. dämir waʼəhətəmam lätəhäyäbäw xəluqam säbät tom nosə-nosom ʼädəḥəd ʼəgəl läḥäšəmo walərəḥämo waǧəbom.

Basic sentences:

Tigre textTranslation
ሐየት እት ልርእው፣ እብ አሰሩ ሐዙውWhen they see a lion, they seek it through its tracks.
ህኩይ ድራሩ ንኩይLazy's dinner is less
ህግየ ፍ’ደት ምን ገብእ። አዚም ደሀብ ቱWhen speaking is an obligation, silence is golden
ምህሮ ኖርቱ ወቅዌት ጽልመት፣Knowledge is brightness and ignorance darkness.

Other samples:

Tigre text
ሐል ክም እም ኢትገብእ ወጸሓይ ወርሕ ክም አምዕል
ለኢልትሐሜ ኢልትሐመድ፣
ለቤለ ለአሰምዕ ወለዘብጠ ለአደምዕ፣
ሐሊብ መ ውላዱ ሔሰዩ፣
ሐምቅ ሐምቁ ምን ረክብ ዜነት ለአፈግር፣
ምስል ብርድ አከይ ፍርድ

Writing system

Since around 1889, the Ge'ez script (Ethiopic script) has been used to write the Tigre language. Tigre speakers formerly used Arabic more widely as a lingua franca. [7] The Bible has been translated into the Tigre language. [8]

Ge'ez script

Ge'ez script is an abugida, with each character representing a consonant+vowel combination. Ge'ez and its script are also called Ethiopic. The script has been modified slightly to write Tigre.

Tigre Ge'ez Script

See also

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  1. "Tigre alphabet and pronunciation". Omniglot. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  2. 1 2 3
  3. 1 2 Tigre at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed Access logo transparent.svg
  4. "Tigre language". Bratannica Encyclopaedia.
  5. "Languages of Eritrea". Ethnologue. Retrieved 1 November 2023.
  6. B. Abraham, Dessale (2 December 2016). "Universal Declaration of Human Rights' articles translated into Tigre language". Asmarino . Archived from the original on 24 March 2023. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  7. "Tigré". Ethnologue. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  8. Senai W. Andemariam. 2012. The Story of the Translation of the Bible into Tǝgre. Ityopis 2:62–88. Web access