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Flag of Esperanto.svg
Created byL. L. Zamenhof
Setting and usageInternational auxiliary language
UsersNative: 200 to 1,000  (1996)
L2 users: 10,000 to 2,000,000
Early forms:
  • Esperanto
Writing systemLatin (Esperanto alphabet)
SourcesVocabulary from Romance and Germanic languages; phonology from Slavic languages
Official status
Regulated byAkademio de Esperanto
Language codes
ISO 639-1eo
ISO 639-2epo
ISO 639-3epo
Linguist Listepo

Esperanto is a constructed language that was designed to make international communication easier, and to be easy to learn. It was created in the nineteenth century by Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish eye doctor.

At first, Zamenhof called the language "La Internacia Lingvo," which means "The International Language" in Esperanto. Soon, people began calling it the simpler name "Esperanto," which means "the hopeful person." That name comes from "Doktoro Esperanto" ("Doctor Hopeful"), which is what Zamenhof called himself in his first book about Esperanto.

A minority of people now speak Esperanto in many countries and in all the major continents. No one knows exactly how many people now speak Esperanto in the world. Most sources say that there are between several hundred thousand and two million Esperanto speakers.[1] A few people are alive who grew up speaking Esperanto as their first language. There may perhaps be around 1000 of these people.

Esperanto culture

A person who speaks Esperanto is often called an "Esperantist".

Many people use Esperanto to communicate by mail, email, blogs or chat rooms with Esperantists in other countries. Some travel to other countries to meet and talk in Esperanto with other Esperantists.

There are many annual meetings of Esperantists. The largest is the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto ("Universal Congress of Esperanto"), which is held in a different country each year. In recent years it has had around 2000 people, from 60 or more countries.

There are bands that sing in Esperanto, perform live concerts and sell recordings of their music.


There are books and magazines written in Esperanto. Much literature has been translated into Esperanto from other languages, including famous works, like the Bible (first time in 1926) and plays by Shakespeare. Works that are less famous have also been translated into Esperanto, and some of these do not have English translations.

Important Esperanto writers are for example: Trevor Steele (Australia), István Nemere (Hungary) and Mao Zifu (China). William Auld was a British writer of poetry in Esperanto and honorary president of the Esperanto PEN Centre (Esperanto part of International PEN). People recommended him for the job because of his works for Nobel Prize in Literature.[2]


There is music of different genres in Esperanto, including folk songs, rock music, cabaret, songs for solo singers, choirs and opera. Among active Esperanto musicians such as for example Swedish socio-critical (make people think about bad things in the society) music group La Perdita Generacio, Occitan (from the south of France) singer JoMo, the Finnish group Dolchamar, Brazilian group Supernova, Frisian group Kajto or Polish singer-songwriter Georgo Handzlik. Also some popular music writers and artists, including Elvis Costello and American singer Michael Jackson recorded songs in Esperanto, composed songs inspired by the language or used it in their promotional materials. Some songs from the album Esperanto from Warner Bros., which released - all in Esperanto - in Spain, in November 1996, reached a high position in the Spanish record charts; similarly, in 1999, in Germany, hip-hop music group Freundeskreis became famous with their single Esperanto. Classical works for orchestra and choir with texts in Esperanto are La Koro Sutro by Lou Harrison and the First Symphony by David Gaines (both USA). In Toulouse, France, exists Vinilkosmo - music publisher which specialization is Esperanto music. Main Internet Esperanto song book KantarViki has got 3,000 songs in May 2013, both original and translated.[3]

Theater and film

They play dramas of different writers such as Carlo Goldoni, Eugène Ionesco and William Shakespeare also in Esperanto. Sometimes filmmakers use Esperanto in the background of films, for example in The Great Dictator by Charlie Chaplin, in the action film Blade: Trinity or in comedy sci-fi television series Red Dwarf. Feature films in Esperanto are not so common, but there are about 15 feature films, which are Esperanto-thematic.

The 1966 film Incubus is notable because its dialogues are only in Esperanto. Today some people translate subtitles of different films to Esperanto. The Webstite Verda Filmejo collects these Esperanto subtitles.[4]

Goals of the Esperanto movement

Zamenhof wanted to make an easy language to increase international understanding. He wanted Esperanto to be a universal second language. In other words, although he did not want Esperanto to replace national languages, he wanted a majority of people around the world to speak Esperanto. Many Esperantists initially shared this goal. UNESCO recognized Esperanto in 1954. However, Esperanto was never chosen by the United Nations or other international organizations. Esperanto has not become a widely accepted second language.

Some Esperanto speakers appreciate Esperanto for reasons other than its use as a universal second language. Some like the Esperanto community. Some like the Esperanto culture (see above). Developing the Esperanto culture is a goal of some people. This may be why there are bands that perform in Esperanto.

People who care more about Esperanto's current value than about its potential for universal use are sometimes called raŭmistoj in Esperanto. The ideas of these people can together be called raŭmismo, or "Raumism". The names come from the name of the town of Rauma, in Finland. Rauma is where the International Youth Congress of Esperanto met in 1980 and made a big statement. The Congress's statement said that making Esperanto a universal second language was not their main goal.

People who have goals for Esperanto that are more similar to Zamenhof's are sometimes called finvenkistoj in Esperanto. The name comes from fina venko, an Esperanto phrase which means "final victory." "Final victory" refers to a theoretical future in which nearly everyone on Earth speaks Esperanto as a second language.

The Prague Manifesto (1996) states the ideas of the ordinary people of the Esperanto movement and of its main organization, the World Esperanto Association (UEA).

The language

Esperanto uses grammar and words from natural languages, such as Latin, Russian, and French.


Printed and handwrited letters of alphabet of Esperanto.

The Esperanto alphabet has 28 letters. These letters are:

Letter: a b c ĉ d e f g ĝ h ĥ i j ĵ k l m n o p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z
IPA: a b t͡s t͡ʃ d e f g d͡ʒ h x i j ʒ k l m n o p r s ʃ t u w v z
  • A in Esperanto is like a in father
  • B is like b in book
  • C is like ts in lets
  • Ĉ is like ch in chocolate
  • D is like d in dog
  • E is like e in met
  • F is like f in flower
  • G is like g in go
  • Ĝ is like j and dg in judge
  • H is like h in honey
  • Ĥ makes a sound that vibrates the throat (the sound does not exist in English; it is often written in English as kh or ch in foreign names and words, in Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Russian... ח خ χ х )
  • I is like ee in speed
  • J is like y in you
  • Ĵ is like s in pleasure
  • K is like c and k in cook
  • L is like l in look
  • M is like m in moon
  • N is like n in can
  • O is like o in note
  • P is like p in pie
  • R is like r as in road but is rolled (trilled, as in Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Russian)
  • S is like s in simple
  • Ŝ is like sh in short
  • T is like t in tire
  • U is like oo in boot
  • Ŭ is like w in cow
  • V is like v in cave
  • Z is like z in zipper.

There is no Q, W, X, or Y in the Esperanto alphabet, although they do have names.

Examples of words


Grammar means the rules of a language. Esperanto's grammar is intended to be simple. Most rules in Esperanto never change and can always be applied in the same way.

Nouns and adjectives

Nominative Accusative
Singular -o -on
Plural -oj -ojn

Nouns end in -o. For example, patro means father. To make a noun plural add -j. For example: patroj means fathers.

Nominative Accusative
Singular -a -an
Plural -aj -ajn

Adjectives end in -a, adverbs end in -e, for example granda means big, bona means good, bone means well.

The -n ending is the "mark" of the direct object (the Accusative case) in nouns and adjectives. For example:

  • Mi vidas vin. - I see you.
  • Li amas ŝin. - He loves she.
  • Ili havas belan domon. - They have got a nice house.

In adjectives and adverbs is comparison made by words pli (more) and plej (most). For example:

  • pli granda - bigger
  • plej granda - biggest
  • pli rapide - faster
  • plej rapide - fastest


Singular Plural
First person mi (I) ni (we)
Second person vi (you)
Masculine li (he) ili (they)
Feminine ŝi (she)
Neuter ĝi (it)
Uncertain oni („someone“)
Reflexive si (self)
  • Personal pronouns are: mi - I, vi - you, li - he, ŝi - she, ĝi - it, ni - we, ili - they, oni - someone/they, si (self). The pronoun oni is used for uncertain subject (like man in German). Pronoun ci means thou and people do not frequently use it.
  • Possessive pronouns are made by adding of ending -a to a personal pronoun: mia - my, via - your, lia - his, ŝia - her, ĝia - its, nia - our, ilia - their. People use possessive pronouns like adjectives.
  • Accusative case (the -n ending) is used in pronouns as well: min - me, vin - you, lin - him, ŝin - her, ĝin - it, nin - us, ilin - them.

So, to say how old is somebody in Esperanto, just say:

  • Lia aĝo estas dudek = He is twenty (20) years old. (word for word: His age is twenty (20).)


Esperanto has got regular endings for these grammatical tenses:
-ispast tense
-aspresent tense
-osfuture tense
Indicative mood Active participle Passive participle Infinitive Jussive mood Conditional mood
Past tense -is -int- -it- -i -u -us
Present tense -as -ant- -at-
Future tense -os -ont- -ot-

Verbs end in -as when they are in present tense. English uses I am, you are, he is. But in Esperanto, there is just one word for am, are, is - estas. Similarly, kuras can mean run or runs. Infinitives end in -i. For example, esti means to be, povi means can. It is easy to make past tense - always add -is ending. To make future tense, add -os. For example:

  • kuri - to run
  • mi kuras - I run
  • vi kuras - you run
  • li kuris - he ran
  • ĝi kuros - it will run

Many words can be made opposite by adding mal at the beginning.

  • bona = good. malbona = bad
  • bone = well, malbone = poorly
  • granda = big, malgranda = small
  • peza = heavy, malpeza = light

Examples of sentences which show the rules:

  • Mi povas kuri rapide. = I can run fast.
  • Vi ne povas kuri rapide. = You cannot run fast.
  • Mi estas knabo. = I am a boy.
  • Mi estas malbona Esperantisto. = I am a bad Esperantist.

Yes/No questions

To make a yes-or-no question, add Ĉu at the beginning. For example:

  • Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton? = Do you speak Esperanto?
  • Jes, mi parolas Esperanton tre bone. = Yes, I speak Esperanto very well.
  • Ne, mi estas komencanto. = No, I am a beginner.


The numbers are:

0 nul
1 unu
2 du
3 tri
4 kvar
5 kvin
6 ses
7 sep
8 ok
9 naŭ
10 dek
100 cent
1000 mil

Numbers like twenty-one (21) are made by their compounding by order of magnitude. For example: dek tri means thirteen (13), dudek tri means twenty-three (23), sescent okdek tri means six hundred eighty-three (683), mil naŭcent okdek tri means (one) thousand nine hundred and eighty-three (1983).

Prefixes and suffixes

Esperanto has over 20 special words which can change meaning of another word. People put them before or after the root of a word.

These words combined can make a very long words, such as malmultekosta (cheap), vendredviandmanĝmalpermeso (that meat cannot be eaten on Friday).


Prefixes are added before the root of the word.

  • bo- – makes the word "in-law". Patro means father, and bopatro means father-in-law.
  • ek- – means "start" of something. Kuri means to run, and ekkuri means to start running.[5]
  • eks- – makes the word "former". Amiko means friend, and eksamiko means former friend.[6]
  • fi- – makes the word worse. Knabo means boy, and fiknabo means bad boy; odoro means smell, and fiodoro means bad smell.
  • ge- – changes meaning of a word to "both gender". Frato means brother, and gefratoj means brother(s) and sister(s).[7]
  • mal- – makes the word opposite. Bona means good, and malbona means bad.[8]
  • mis- – means "wrong". Kompreni means to understand, and miskompreni means to understand wrong.[9]
  • pra- – means "prehistoric" or "very old" or "primitive". Homo menas human, and prahomo means prehistoric human.[10]
  • re- – means again. Vidi means to see, and revidi means to see again.


Suffixes are added after the root of the word, but before the ending.

  • -aĉ- – makes the word uglier. Domo means house, domaĉo means ugly house.
  • -ad- – means continuous doing of something. Fari means to do, and Faradi means to do continuously.[11]
  • -an- – means member of something. Klubo means club, and klubano means a member of the club.[12]
  • -ar- – means many things of the same kind. Arbo means tree, and arbaro means forest.
  • -ĉj- – makes male diminutives. Patro means father, and paĉjo means daddy.[13]
  • -ec- – means quality. Granda means big, and grandeco means size.[14]
  • -eg- – makes the word bigger. Domo means house, and domego means big house.
  • -ej- – means place. Lerni means to learn, and lernejo means school (place for learning).[15]
  • -er- – means a bit of bigger group. Neĝo' means snow, and neĝero means snowflake.
  • -et- – makes the word smaller. Domo means house, and dometo means small house.
  • -il- – means instrument. Ŝlosi mens to lock, and ŝlosilo means key (an instrument for locking).
  • -in- – changes the gender of a word into female. Patro means father, and patrino means mother.[16]
  • -ism- – means an ideology or movement. Nacio means nation, naciismo means nationalism.[17]
  • -ist- – means somebody who does something (perhaps as a job). Baki means to bake and bakisto means baker; scienco means science, and sciencisto means scientist. Esperantisto means Esperanto speaker.[18]
  • -nj- – makes female diminutives. Patrino means mother, and panjo means mummy.[19]
  • -obl- – means times. Tri means three, and trioble means three times.
  • -on- – makes fractions. Kvar means four (4), and kvarono means quarter (one fourth of something).
  • -ul- – means person of some quality. Juna means young, and junulo means young man.[20]
  • -um- is suffix for cases when is not able to do a word from other existing suffixes, preffixes or roots.

Technical problems

The letters ĉ ĝ ĥ ĵ ŝ ŭ have diacritics, or accent marks. Because of this, they are hard to type on most keyboards. Since x is not used in Esperanto, those letters can be written as: cx gx hx jx sx ux. Below is a sample of Esperanto that uses accented letters, and a sample with those letters replaced:

Normal sample: Ĉiuj homoj estas denaske liberaj kaj egalaj laŭ digno kaj rajtoj. Ili posedas racion kaj konsciencon, kaj devus konduti unu la alian en spirito de frateco.

Version without diacritics: Cxiuj homoj estas denaske liberaj kaj egalaj laux digno kaj rajtoj. Ili posedas racion kaj konsciencon, kaj devus konduti unu la alian en spirito de frateco.

(Simple English translation: All people are free and equal in dignity and rights. They are reasonable and moral, and should act kindly to each other.)


  1. Lewis, M. Paul; Gary F. Simons and Charles D. Fennig (eds.) (2014). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World". Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Retrieved 2014-09-06.
  2. Telepraph (2006-09-22). "William Auld". Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2014-09-03.
  3. Kuznecov, Aleksej (2013-05-26). "Laste" (in Esperanto). Retrieved 2014-11-07. "Nia kantaro superis ciferon 3000!"
  4. REJM (c2009-2010). "Filmoj en Esperanto" (in Esperanto). Retrieved 2014-09-03.
  5. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: EK" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  6. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: EKS" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  7. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-17). "PMEG: GE" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  8. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: MAL" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  9. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: MIS" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  10. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: PRA" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  11. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: AD" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  12. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: AN" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  13. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: ĈJ" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  14. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: EC" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2014-08-16. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  15. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: EJ" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  16. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: IN" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  17. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: ISM" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  18. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: IST" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  19. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: NJ" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  20. Wennergren, Bertilo (2013-06-14). "PMEG: UL" (in Esperanto). Archived from the original on 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2014-09-07.

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