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Icelandic (Íslenska)

Icelandic is a Northern Germanic language with about 300,000 speakers in Iceland (Ísland), Canada (Kanada) and the USA (Bandaríki Norður-Ameríku). Icelandic is the closest of the Northern Germanic languages to Old Norse and it is possible for Icelandic speakers to read the Old Norse sagas in the original without too much difficulty.

The first permanent settlement in Iceland was established by Vikings from Norway and Celts from the British Isles in 870 AD. The main language of the settlers was Old Norse or the Dǫnsk tunga (Danish tongue). A number of great literary works - the sagas - were written by Icelanders during the 12th and 13th centuries. These sagas, many of which were the work of unknown authors, were written in a language very much like Old Norse. The greatest known authors from this period were Ari the Learned (1068-1148) and Snorri Sturlson (1179-1241).

From 1262 until the 15th century, Iceland was governed by Norway, then the Danes took over. During the periods of Norwegian and Danish rule, Norwegian and Danish were used in Iceland, to some extent.

In 1944 Iceland gained its independence and Icelandic was revived as an official and literary language. Today there is a flourishing publishing industry in Iceland and Icelanders are probably the keenest readers and writers in the world.

Icelandic alphabet (íslenska stafrófið)

A a Á á B b D d Ð ð E e É é F f G g H h I i
a á e eff ge i
Í í J j K k L l M m N n O o Ó ó P p R r S s
í joð ell emm enn o ó err ess
T t U u Ú ú V v X x Y y Ý ý Þ þ Æ æ Ö ö  
u ú vaff ex ufsilon y ufsilon ý þorn æ ö  

The letters C (se), Q (kú) and W (tvöfalt vaff) are also used but only in foreign loanwords. The letter Z (seta) is no longer used in Icelandic, except in the newspaper Morgunblaðið

Icelandic Pronunciation

Icelandic pronunciation


Sample text in Icelandic

Hver maður er borinn frjáls og jafn öðrum að virðingu og réttindum. Menn eru gæddir vitsmunum og samvisku, og ber þeim að breyta bróðurlega hverjum við annan.

A recording of this text by Marc Volhardt

A recording of this text by Alexander Jarl

A recording of this text by Stefan Steinsson


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.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about Icelandic | Icelandic phrases | Icelandic kinship terms | Tower of Babel in Icelandic | Icelandic learning materials


Information about the Icelandic language and pronunciation

Online Icelandic lessons

Learn Icelandic with Glossika Mass Sentences

Icelandic Grammar

Icelandic phrases

Online Icelandic dictionaries

Online Icelandic radio

Online Icelandic newspapers

Germanic languages

Afrikaans, Alsatian, Bavarian, Cimbrian, Danish, Dutch, Elfdalian, English, Faroese, Flemish, German, Gothic, Icelandic, Low German / Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, Norn, North Frisian, Norwegian, Old English, Old Norse, Pennsylvania German, Saterland Frisian, Scots, Shetland(ic), Swedish, Swiss German, West Frisian, Yiddish

Other languages written with the Latin alphabet