Danish (dansk)

Danish is a North Germanic language with around 5.5 million speakers mainly in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. There are also Danish speakers in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, and in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the USA, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

Danish is the official language in Denmark and the Faroe Islands, and is recognised as a minority language in Greenland and Germany. It was the official language of Norway until about 1830, and of Iceland until 1944. Danish is also the first foreign language learnt in Iceland.

During the Middle Ages Danish was heavily influenced by Low German dialects. In the 17th century Danish absorbed many French loanwords, and from the 19th century onwards, many English words have been taken into Danish.

Danish at a glance

  • Native name: dansk [ˈdanˀsɡ]
  • Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Germanic, North Germanic, East Scandinavian, Continental Scandinavian
  • Number of speakers: c. 5.5 million (2012)
  • Spoken in: Denmark, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Germany
  • First written: 9th century AD
  • Writing system: Runic script (9th-11th centuries) then the Latin alphabet
  • Status: official language in Denmark and the Faroe Islands. Recognised as a minority language in Greenland and Germany

The first written work of Danish literature was Gesta Danorum (History of the Danes) written in Latin in about 1200 by Saxo Grammaticus. This recounts the history of Denmark up to 1186 and includes Danish versions (in a somewhat Christianized form) of Scandinavian myths and sagas, including the earliest version of the Hamlet story.

You can see an online version of Gesta Danorum in the original Latin at: http://www.kb.dk/elib/lit/dan/saxo/lat/or.dsr/

Danish began to be used a literary languge during the 16th century. In 1514 Christian Pedersen published a Danish version of Gesta Danorum, which was highly influential on subsequent Danish literature. Pedersen also published the first Danish translation of the New Testament in 1531.

Danish alphabet (dansk alfabet)

Danish alphabet (dansk alfabet)

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_and_Norwegian_alphabet

The letters C, Q, W, X and Z are only used in foreign loanwords. Before 1948, the sound written å was written aa, which can still be seen in some place names, such as Aalborg and Aabenraa.

A recording of the Danish alphabet by Marc D. S. Volhardt


Danish pronunciation


Details of Danish pronunciation provided by Marc Volhardt

Download an alphabet chart for Danish (Excel)

Sample text

Alle mennesker er født frie og lige i værdighed og rettigheder. De er udstyret med fornuft og samvittighed, og de bør handle mod hverandre i en broderskabets ånd.

A recording of this text


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 videos in Danish

Information about Danish | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Terms of endearment | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials


Information about the Danish language

Online Danish lessons

Learn Danish online with DanishClass101

Learn a Language - Easy, Fast & Fun. As Seen on TV!

Danish Grammar

Danish phrases

Online Danish dictionaries

Dansk for Alle - information about the Danish language and culture (in Danish)

Online Danish radio

Online Danish news

Project Runeberg - a volunteer effort to create free electronic editions of classic Nordic (Scandinavian) literature: http://runeberg.org

Germanic languages

Afrikaans, Alsatian, Bavarian, Cimbrian, Danish, Dutch, Elfdalian, English, Faroese, Flemish, Frisian (North), Frisian (Saterland), Frisian (West), German, Gothic, Gottscheerish, Hunsrik, Icelandic, Limburgish, Low German, Luxembourgish, Mòcheno, Norn, Norwegian, Old English, Old Norse, Pennsylvania German, Ripuarian, Scots, Shetland(ic), Stellingwarfs, Swedish, Swiss German, Transylvanian Saxon, Värmlandic, Wymysorys, Yiddish, Zeelandic

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

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