Czech (čeština)

Czech is a Western Slavic language spoken mainly in Czechia (Česko), which is also known as the Czech Republic (Česká republika), and was formerly part of Czechoslovakia (Československo). In 2012 there were aout 10.5 million speakers of Czech in Czechia.

There are Czech speakers in a number of other countries, including Slovakia - 2.5 million in 2012, the USA - 47,400 in 2015, Serbia - 37,700 in 2009, and Austria - 17,700 in 2003, and smaller numbers of speakers in Croatia, Poland and Romania.

Czech is closely related to Slovak, and more or less mutually intelligible with it. However, since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, Czechs have less exposure to Slovak, and vice versa. As a result, they may not understand each other as well as before. Dialects spoken in Moravia are closer to Slovak.

Czech at a glance

  • Native name: čeština [ˈt͡ʃɛʃcɪna]; český jazyk [ˈt͡ʃɛskiː jɛzɪk]
  • Language family: Indo-European, Balto-Slavic, Slavic, West Slavic
  • Number of speakers: c. 13.3 million
  • Spoken in: Czechia, Slovakia, USA, Serbia, Austria, Croatia, Poland, Romania
  • First written: 12th century
  • Writing system: Latin alphabet
  • Status: official language in the Czech Republic. Recognised minority language in Slovakia and Poland

The region where Czech is spoken is traditionally called Bohemia (Čechy). It was named after the Boii tribe, who, according to Roman sources, have inhabited the area since at least the 1st century AD. The dialects spoken in Moravia (Morava) are also considered forms of Czech. The language of Bohemia was known as Bohemian until the early 20th century, when it became known as Czech.

Written Czech

Czech first started appearing in writing in the form of glosses and short notes in texts during the 12th and 13th centuries. Czech literature started to appear in the 13th century. The first printed book in Czech, the story of the Trojan war (Příběh o Trójské válce), was published at Pilsen (Plzeň) in 1468. After many years of Austrian rule, during which German was the main language of literature and government, there was a revival of Czech literature at the end of the 18th century.

The most prominent writer during the early period of Czech literature was Jan Hus (1369-1415), a religious reformer who also reformed Czech spelling (české hláskování). He created the system of having one grapheme (letter) for every phoneme (sound) in the language by adding accents (čárka) to some of the letters. As a result, written Czech looks very different from written Polish. For example, in Czech the sound ch, as in church, is written č, but the same sound is written cz in Polish.

Czech alphabet (česká abeceda) & pronunciation

Czech alphabet

Download an alphabet chart for Czech (Excel)

A recording of the Czech alphabet by Zbyněk Bambušek


Recordings in the text by Jan Jurčík

Sample text in Czech

Všichni lidé se rodí svobodní a sobě rovní co do důstojnosti a práv. Jsou nadáni rozumem a svědomím a mají spolu jednat v duchu bratrství.

A recording of this text by Vaclav Dekanovsky


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)

Sample video in Czech

Information about Czech | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Family words | Colours | Weather | Idioms | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Information about the Czech language

Online Czech lessons and other resources for learners

Learn Czech online with CzechClass101
Learn Czech with Glossika
Learn Czech with Ling

Online Czech dictionaries

Tlumočení a české překlady cizích jazyků

Online Czech language radio

Online Czech news and magazines

Slavic languages

Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Goral, Kashubian, Knaanic, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Old Church Slavonic, Polish, Russian, Rusyn, Serbian, Silesian, Slovak, Slovenian, Sorbian, Ukrainian, West Polesian

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 26.09.21


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