Archived 15th edition
Ethnologue.com home
Ethnologue > Web version > Country index > Asia > Israel

Languages of Israel

State of Israel, Medinat Israel. 6,199,008. Population includes 4,700,000 Jewish (1997), 805,000 Muslim, 160,000 Christian, 95,000 Druze, 300 Samaritan (1995 Central Statistics Dept., Israel). National or official languages: Hebrew, Standard Arabic, English. About half the Jewish people are Sephardi and half Ashkenazi. Literacy rate: 88% to 92% (Jewish), 70% (Arab). Also includes Bulgarian, Czech, Egyptian Spoken Arabic (25,000), French (40,000), Italian (7,249), Levantine Bedawi Spoken Arabic (50,000), Malayalam (8,000), Marathi (8,000), North Levantine Spoken Arabic (100,000), Northern Uzbek, Samaritan, Samaritan Aramaic, Spanish (60,000), Standard German (200,000), Turkish (30,000), Western Farsi, Western Yiddish, many other languages. Information mainly from D. Gold 1974; H. Kloss and G. McConnell 1974; H. Paper 1978; W. Fischer and O. Jastrow 1980; T. K. Harris 1994; J. Fishman 1985, 1991; J. Chetrit 1985; D. Cohen 1985; B. Comrie 1987; A. Saenz-Badillos 1993; P. E. Miller 1993; Y. Mutzafi 1992–2004. Blind population: 5,285. Deaf population: 4,500 to 306,242 (1998). Deaf institutions: 31. The number of languages listed for Israel is 34. Of those, 33 are living languages and 1 is extinct.

Living languages

Adyghe

[ady] 3,000 in Israel (1987). Kafr Kama and Rehaniya, small border villages. Alternate names: West Circassian, Adygey.  Classification: North Caucasian, West Caucasian, Circassian 
More information.

Amharic

[amh] 40,000 in Israel (1994 H. Mutzafi).  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, South, Transversal, Amharic-Argobba 
More information.

Arabic, Judeo-Iraqi

[yhd] 100,000 in Israel (1994). Population total all countries: 100,100. Originally from Iraq. Also spoken in India, Iraq, United Kingdom. Alternate names: Iraqi Judeo-Arabic, Jewish Iraqi-Baghdadi Arabic, Arabi, Yahudic.  Dialects: Not intelligible with Judeo-Tripolitanian Arabic, Judeo-Tunisian Arabic, or Judeo-Moroccan Arabic. Close to Baghdadi Arabic and North Mesopotamian Arabic.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic 
More information.

Arabic, Judeo-Moroccan

[aju] 250,000 in Israel (1992 H. Mutzafi). Population total all countries: 258,925. Also spoken in Canada, France, Morocco. Dialects: Many dialects. Much intelligibility with Tunisian Judeo-Arabic, some with Judeo-Tripolitanian Arabic, but none with Judeo-Iraqi Arabic. May be inherently intelligible with Moroccan Arabic.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic 
More information.

Arabic, Judeo-Tripolitanian

[yud] 30,000 in Israel (1994 H. Mutzafi). Population total all countries: 35,000. Originally from Tripolitania, Libya. None left in Libya. Also spoken in Italy. Alternate names: Tripolitanian Judeo-Arabic, Jewish Tripolitanian-Libyan Arabic, Tripolita'it, Yudi.  Dialects: Not intelligible with Judeo-Iraqi Arabic. Medium intelligibility with Judeo-Tunisian Arabic and Judeo-Morocco Arabic.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic 
More information.

Arabic, Judeo-Tunisian

[ajt] 45,000 in Israel (1995 H. Mutzafi). Population total all countries: 45,500. Also spoken in France, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, USA. Dialects: Medium intelligibility with Judeo-Moroccan Arabic and Judeo-Tripolitanian Arabic, but none with Judeo-Iraqi Arabic. A lexicon of 5,000 words in 1950 had 79% words of Arabic origin, 15% Romance loanwords, 4.4% Hebrew loanwords, 1.6% others (D. Cohen 1985:254).  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic 
More information.

Arabic, Judeo-Yemeni

[jye] 50,000 in Israel (1995 Y. Kara). Population total all countries: 51,000. Also spoken in Yemen. Alternate names: Judeo-Yemeni, Yemenite Judeo-Arabic.  Dialects: San`a, `Aden, Be:da, Habban. Language varieties are all markedly different from their coterritorial Muslim ones.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic 
More information.

Arabic, South Levantine Spoken

[ajp] 910,000 in Israel.  Alternate names: Levantine, Palestanian-Jordanian Arabic.  Dialects: Madani, Fellahi.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic 
More information.

Arabic, Standard

[arb]  Middle East, North Africa. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Arabic 
More information.

Armenian

[hye] 3,000 in Israel (1971 The Armenian Review). Jerusalem. Alternate names: Haieren, Somkhuri, Ermenice, Armjanski.  Dialects: Western Armenian.  Classification: Indo-European, Armenian 
More information.

Barzani Jewish Neo-Aramaic

[bjf] 20 (2004 Mutzafi). In Israel since 1951. Alternate names: Lishan Didan, Lishan Dideni, Bijil Neo-Aramaic.  Dialects: Barzan, Shahe, Bijil. Sandu is a Jewish Neo-Aramaic dialect closely related to Barzani, but evinces several isoglosses binding it with Lishana Deni.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, Aramaic, Eastern, Central, Northeastern  Nearly extinct.
More information.

Bukharic

[bhh] 50,000 in Israel (1995 H. Mutzafi). Population total all countries: 110,000. Also spoken in USA, Uzbekistan. Alternate names: Bokharic, Bukharian, Bokharan, Bukharan, Judeo-Tajik.  Dialects: Related to Tajiki Persian. May be easily intelligible with Tajiki or Farsi. Also close to Judeo-Persian.  Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Persian 
More information.

Domari

[rmt] 2,000 in Israel (1997 Yaron Matras). Population includes Palestinian West Bank and Gaza. Mainly Jerusalem (Old City), Bir Zeit near Ramallah, and Gaza. Alternate names: Nawari, Dom, Near-Eastern Gypsy.  Dialects: Nawari.  Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Central zone, Dom 
More information.

Dzhidi

[jpr] 60,000 in Israel (1995). Also spoken in Iran. Alternate names: Judeo-Persian.  Dialects: Close to Bukharic, Western Farsi.  Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Persian 
More information.

English

[eng] 100,000 in Israel (1993).  Alternate names: Anglit.  Classification: Indo-European, Germanic, West, English 
More information.

Hebrew

[heb] 4,847,000 in Israel (1998). Population total all countries: 5,055,000. Also spoken in Australia, Canada, Germany, Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, Panama, United Kingdom, USA. Alternate names: Ivrit.  Dialects: Standard Hebrew (General Israeli, Europeanized Hebrew), Oriental Hebrew (Arabized Hebrew, Yemenite Hebrew). Not a direct offspring from Biblical or other varieties of Ancient Hebrew, but an amalgamation of different Hebrew strata plus intrinsic evolution within the living speech.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Canaanite 
More information.

Hulaulá

[huy] 10,000 in Israel (1999 H. Mutzafi). Population total all countries: 10,300. Also spoken in Iran, USA. Alternate names: Judeo-Aramaic, Lishana Noshan, Lishana Axni, Jabali, Kurdit, Galiglu, 'Aramit, Hula Hula.  Dialects: Saqiz, Kerend, Sanandaj, Suleimaniya. Very different and not intelligible with the Christian Aramaic languages or Lishana Deni. 60% to 70% intelligibility of Lishanan and Lishanid Noshan.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, Aramaic, Eastern, Central, Northeastern 
More information.

Hungarian

[hun] 70,000 in Israel (1998 H. Mutzafi).  Classification: Uralic, Finno-Ugric, Ugric, Hungarian 
More information.

Israeli Sign Language

[isr] 5,000 users including some hearing persons (1986 Gallaudet Univ.).  Alternate names: ISL.  Dialects: Not derived from and relatively little influence from other sign languages. No special signs have been introduced from outside by educators. Minor dialect variation.  Classification: Deaf sign language 
More information.

Judeo-Berber

[jbe] 2,000 (1992 Podolsky). Formerly High Atlas range, Tifnut, and other communities. Speakers went to Israel from 1950 to 1960. Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Berber, Northern, Atlas 
More information.

Judeo-Georgian

[jge] 59,800 in Israel (2000 WCD). Population total all countries: 79,800. Some have gone elsewhere in the former USSR and to other countries. Also spoken in Georgia. Dialects: Oriental and Ashkenazic Jews in Georgia live separately. Judeo-Georgian speakers live separately from non-Jewish Georgian speakers. May not be a separate language from Georgian, but a dialect using various Hebrew loanwords.  Classification: Kartvelian, Georgian 
More information.

Judeo-Tat

[jdt] 70,000 in Israel (1998). Population total all countries: 101,000. Sderot, Haderah, and Or Akiva, Israel. None in Iran. They are emigrating from the Caucasus Mountains to Israel at the rate of 2,000 a year. Also spoken in Azerbaijan, Russia (Europe). Alternate names: Judeo-Tatic, Jewish Tat, Bik, Dzhuhuric, Juwri, Juhuri.  Dialects: Derbend. Several dialects. Difficult intelligibility of Mussulman Tat. There may also be a Christian dialect.  Classification: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Iranian, Western, Southwestern, Tat 
More information.

Ladino

[lad] 100,000 in Israel (1985). Population total all countries: 110,000. Ethnic group members also in Salonica, Greece; Sofia, Bulgaria. Formerly also in Morocco. Also spoken in Greece, Puerto Rico, Turkey (Europe), USA. Alternate names: Judeo Spanish, Sefardi, Dzhudezmo, Judezmo, Spanyol, Haquetiya.  Dialects: Judezmo (Judyo, Jidyo), Ladino, Haquetiya (Haketia, Haketiya, Hakitia). The Balkan dialect is more influenced by Turkish and Greek. The North African dialect is more influenced by Arabic and French.  Classification: Indo-European, Italic, Romance, Italo-Western, Western, Gallo-Iberian, Ibero-Romance, West Iberian, Castilian 
More information.

Lishán Didán

[trg] 4,228 in Israel (2001 WCD). Population total all countries: 4,378. Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv area mainly. Originally Iranian Azerbaijan and southeast Turkey. Also spoken in Azerbaijan, Georgia. Alternate names: Lishanán, Lishanid Nash Didán, Persian Azerbaijan Jewish Aramaic, Lakhlokhi, Galihalu.  Dialects: Northern Cluster Lishán Didán, Southern Cluster Lishán Didán. 60% to 70% intelligibility of Hulaulá and Lishanid Noshan, but not of other Aramaic languages. Northern cluster subdialects are Urmi, Salmas, Anatolia; southern cluster dialects are Naghada, Ushno, Mahabad. The Urmi subdialect of Lishán Didán is different from the Urmi subdialect of Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, Aramaic, Eastern, Central, Northeastern 
More information.

Lishana Deni

[lsd] 7,000 to 8,000 (1999 H. Mutzafi). Ethnic population: 9,061 (2000 WCD). Jerusalem and vicinity, including Maoz Tsiyon. Originally from northwest Iraqi Kurdistan. Alternate names: Judeo-Aramaic, Lishan Hudaye, Lishan Hozaye, Kurdit.  Dialects: Zakho, Amadiya, Barashe, Shukho, Nerwa, Dohuk, Atrush, Bétanure. Resembles Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, but there are differences in morphology and other features. Inherent intelligibility is high between them. Low intelligibility of Ashirat dialects of Assyrian New-Aramaic; not intelligible with other Neo-Aramaic varieties.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, Aramaic, Eastern, Central, Northeastern 
More information.

Lishanid Noshan

[aij] 2,000 to 2,500 (1994 H. Mutzafi). Originally eastern and southern Iraqi Kurdistan. Alternate names: Lishana Didán, Hulani, Kurdit, Galigalu, Jbeli, Hula'ula.  Dialects: Arbel (Arbil), Dobe, Koy Sanjaq, Rwanduz, Rustaqa, Shaqlawa, Ranye, Qaladze. 60% to 70% inherent intelligibility of Lishanan and Hulaulá. Very different and not inherently intelligible with the Christian Aramaic languages and Lishana Deni. Western cluster subdialects are Arbil, Dobe. Eastern cluster subdialects are Southeastern varieties: Koy Sanjaq, Qaladze. Northeastern varieties: Rwanduz, Rustaqa.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, Aramaic, Eastern, Central, Northeastern 
More information.

Polish

[pol] 100,000 in Israel (1992 H. Mutzafi).  Alternate names: Polski.  Classification: Indo-European, Slavic, West, Lechitic 
More information.

Romanian

[ron] 250,000 in Israel (1993 Statistical Abstract of Israel).  Classification: Indo-European, Italic, Romance, Eastern 
More information.

Russian

[rus] 750,000 in Israel (1999 H. Mutzafi).  Alternate names: Russit, Russki.  Classification: Indo-European, Slavic, East 
More information.

Tigrigna

[tir] 10,000 in Israel (1994 H. Mutzafi).  Alternate names: Tigrinya.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, South, Ethiopian, North 
More information.

Yevanic

[yej] 35 in Israel. There were a few semispeakers left in 1987 and may be none now. Population total all countries: 50. There may be a handful of older adult speakers still in Turkey. Also spoken in USA. Alternate names: Judeo-Greek, Yevanitika.  Classification: Indo-European, Greek, Attic  Nearly extinct.
More information.

Yiddish Sign Language

[yds]   Classification: Deaf sign language 
More information.

Yiddish, Eastern

[ydd] 215,000 in Israel (1986). Population total all countries: 3,142,560. Southeastern dialect in Ukraine and Romania, Mideastern dialect in Poland and Hungary, Northeastern dialect in Lithuania and Belarus. Also spoken in Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Panama, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia (Europe), South Africa, Ukraine, Uruguay, USA. Alternate names: Judeo-German, Yiddish.  Dialects: Southeastern Yiddish, Mideastern Yiddish, Northeastern Yiddish. Has many loans from Hebrew and local languages where spoken. Eastern Yiddish originated east of the Oder River through Poland, extending into Belarus, Russia (to Smolensk), Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Rumania, Ukraine, and pre-state British-Mandate Palestine (Jerusalem and Safed). Western Yiddish originated in Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Alsace (France), Czechoslovakia, western Hungary, and is nearing extinction. It branched off medieval High German (mainly Rhenish dialects) and received Modern German influences during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Eastern and Western Yiddish have difficult inherent intelligibility because of differing histories and influences from other languages. There are some Western Yiddish speakers in Israel (M. Herzog 1977).  Classification: Indo-European, Germanic, West, High German, Yiddish 
More information.

Extinct languages

Hebrew, Ancient

[hbo] Extinct.  Alternate names: Old Hebrew.  Classification: Afro-Asiatic, Semitic, Central, South, Canaanite 
More information.