Ranked: The 100 Most Spoken Languages Worldwide
Even though you’re reading this article in English, there’s a good chance it might not be your mother tongue. Of the billion-strong English speakers in the world, only 33% consider it their native language.
The popularity of a language depends greatly on utility and geographic location. Additionally, how we measure the spread of world languages can vary greatly depending on whether you look at total speakers or native speakers.
Today’s detailed visualization from WordTips illustrates the 100 most spoken languages in the world, the number of native speakers for each language, and the origin tree that each language has branched out from.
How Do You Define A Language?
The data comes from the 22nd edition of Ethnologue, a database covering a majority of the world’s population, detailing approximately 7,111 living languages in existence today.
The definitions of languages are often dynamic, blurring the lines around a singular understanding of what makes a language:
- Linguistic: focused on lexical and grammatical differences, or on variations within speech communities
- Social: focused on cultural or political factors, as well as heritage and identity
For the purposes of measurement, the researchers use the ISO 693-3 set of criteria, which accounts for related varieties and dialects—ensuring that linguistics are not the only factor considered in this count of languages.
Here are the language origins of the 100 most spoken languages:
Indo-European languages have the widest spread worldwide. According to Ethnologue, the language family contains over 3 billion speakers in total. Interestingly, there are actually 1,526 Niger-Congo languages altogether, though only 12 are represented here.
Let’s now dive into the top 10 most spoken languages overall.
Which Languages Have the Most Speakers?
It comes as no surprise that English reigns supreme, with over 1.1 billion total speakers—or roughly 15% of the global population. Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and French round out the top five.
|Rank||Language||Total Speakers||Language Origin|
|2||Mandarin Chinese||1,117 million||Sino-Tibetan|
|6||Standard Arabic||274 million||Afro-Asiatic|
However, this is only one piece in the full fabric of languages.
The metrics for native speakers tell a slightly different tale, as Mandarin Chinese shoots up to 918 million—almost 2.5x that of English native speakers.
|Rank||Language||Native Speakers||Language Origin|
|1||Mandarin Chinese||918 million||Sino-Tibetan|
|9||Western Punjabi||93 million||Indo-European|
Note: No native speaker data was available for Filipino, Standard Arabic, Nigerian Pidgin, or Cameroonian Pidgin.
Here, Spanish comes in strong second for native speakers with 460 million, considering it’s well-used across Latin America. The Indian languages of Hindi and Bengali cap off the top five by native speakers as well.
These are the biggest languages people learn growing up, but what about the ones they pick up later in life?
What About Second (L2) Languages?
Nearly 43% of the world’s population is bilingual, with the ability to switch between two languages with ease.
From the data, second language (L2) speakers can be calculated by looking at the difference between native and total speakers, as a proportion of the total. For example, 66% of English speakers learned it as a second language.
Swahili surprisingly has the highest ratio of L2 speakers to total speakers—although it only has 16 million native speakers, this shoots up to 98 million total speakers. Overall, 82% of Swahili speakers know it as a second language.
Swahili is listed as a national or official language in several African countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s likely that the movement of people from rural areas into big cities in search of better economic opportunities, is what’s boosting the adoption of Swahili as a second language.
Indonesian is another similar example. With a 78% proportion of L2 speakers compared to total speakers, this variation on the Malay language has been used as the lingua franca across the islands for a long time. In contrast, only 17% of Mandarin speakers know it as a second language, perhaps because it is one of the most challenging languages to learn.
Keeping Language Traditions Alive
Languages are fluid, and constantly evolving—altogether, the 100 most spoken languages paint a unique picture across centuries of a changing world. Here’s the full list of these languages, by types of speakers and language origin.
|Rank||Language||Total Speakers||Native Speakers||Origin|
|26||Egyptian Spoken Arabic||65M||65M||Afro-Asiatic|
|33||Southern Min Chinese||50M||50M||Sino-Tibetan|
|45||Moroccan Spoken Arabic||33M||27M||Afro-Asiatic|
|48||Algerian Spoken Arabic||32M||29M||Afro-Asiatic|
|49||Sudanese Spoken Arabic||32M||32M||Afro-Asiatic|
|56||North Levantine Spoken Arabic||25M||25M||Afro-Asiatic|
|61||Sa'idi Spoken Arabic||22M||22M||Afro-Asiatic|
|74||Mesopotamian Spoken Arabic||16M||16M||Afro-Asiatic|
|78||Hijazi Spoken Arabic||15M||15M||Afro-Asiatic|
|98||South Levantine Spoken Arabic||12M||12M||Afro-Asiatic|
|99||Tunisian Spoken Arabic||12M||12M||Afro-Asiatic|
|100||Sanaani Spoken Arabic||11M||11M||Afro-Asiatic|
One reason these languages are popular is that they are actively and consistently used. Unfortunately, nearly 3,000 (about 40%) of all languages are at risk of being lost, or are already in the process of dying out today.
Languages play a crucial role in our daily lives. … [Their] losses have huge negative impacts indigenous peoples’ most basic human rights.
—UN, IYoIL statement
As a result, the United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYoIL), with a resolution to continue fostering these languages and pass on their knowledge for future generations.
A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail
This unique map provides an in-depth snapshot of the state of the world wide web, highlighting the most popular websites on the internet.
A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail
The internet is intangible, and because you can’t see it, it can be hard to comprehend its sheer vastness. As well, it’s difficult to gauge the relative size of different web properties. However, this map of the internet by Halcyon Maps offers a unique solution to these problems.
Inspired by the look and design of historical maps, this graphic provides a snapshot of the current state of the World Wide Web, as of April 2021. Let’s take a closer look!
But First, Methodology
Before diving into an analysis, it’s worth touching on the methodology behind this graphic’s design.
This map highlights thousands of the world’s most popular websites by visualizing them as “countries.” These “countries” are organized into clusters that are grouped by their content type (whether it’s a news website, search engine, e-commerce platform, etc).
Editor’s fun fact: Can you spot Visual Capitalist? We’re right in between TechCrunch and The Guardian above.
The colored borders represent a website’s logo or user interface. In terms of scale, each website’s territory size is based on its average Alexa web traffic ranking. The data is a yearly average, measured from January 2020 to January 2021.
Along the borders of the map, you can find additional information, from ranked lists of social media consumption to a mini-map of average download speeds across the globe.
According to the designer Martin Vargic, this map took about a year to complete.
Top 50 Most Popular Websites
Google and YouTube take up a lot of space, which is unsurprising—they’re the two highest-ranked websites on the list:
|28||Google.com.hk||🇭🇰 Hong Kong|
|36||Naver.com||🇰🇷 South Korea|
Google has held the title as the internet’s most popular website since 2010. While Google’s popularity is well understood, the company’s dominance might be even more widespread than you’d think—across all Google-owned platforms (including YouTube) the company accounts for 90% of all internet searches.
The third highest ranked website is Tmall. For those who don’t know, Tmall is a Chinese e-commerce platform, owned by Alibaba Group. It focuses on Business-to-Consumer (B2C) transactions, and has established itself as the most popular e-commerce website in China—in Q1 2021, Tmall accounted for more than 50% of China’s B2C online transactions.
A High Level Look
When it comes to the top 50 websites overall, a majority are either social networking platforms, search engines, or online marketplaces—while this may not come as a surprise, it’s still powerful to see visualized. For instance, even a huge, well-known website like the New York Times is just a tiny country on this map.
And of course, a map of the internet isn’t complete without mention of the dark web.
While it’s challenging to determine its true size, research indicates that the dark web accounts for a large portion of the internet’s true size. And apparently, it’s growing steadily, with the help of anonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
For the most part, it’s believed that the dark web is used for unsavory reasons—however, it’s not all bad. Because of its anonymous nature, it can be used as a safe space for whistleblowing or activism.
Overall, this map, and the internet as a whole, has many places for us to explore. When you dive in, what “countries” catch your eye?
Timeline: The World’s Biggest Passenger Ships from 1831-Present
This giant infographic explores the biggest passenger ships on the open seas, over a period of almost 200 years.
Breaking Records: The Biggest Passenger Ships since 1831
The Titanic lives large in our minds, but it’s probably not surprising that the world record for biggest passenger ship has been broken many times since its era. In fact, today’s largest passenger ship can now hold over 6,000 people—more than double the Titanic’s capacity.
This graphic by HMY Yachts looks at which vessels held the title of the world’s largest passenger ship over time, and how these vessels have evolved since the early 19th century.
Different Types of Passenger Ships
Before diving into the ranking, it’s worth explaining what constitutes a passenger ship.
Passenger ships are vessels whose main purpose is to transport people rather than goods. In modern times, there are three types of passenger ships:
- Cruise ships: Used for vacationing, with a priority on amenities and luxury
- Ferries: Typically used for shorter day trips, or overnight transport
- Ocean liners: The traditional mode of maritime transport, with a priority on speed
Traditional ocean liners are becoming obsolete, largely because of advancements in other modes of transportation such as rail, automobile, and air travel. In other words, the main priority for passenger ships has changed over the years, shifting from transportation to recreation.
Now, luxury is the central focus, meaning extravagance is part of the whole cruise ship experience. For example, the Navigator of the Seas (which was the largest passenger ship from 2002-2003) has $8.5 million worth of artwork displayed throughout the ship.
A Full Breakdown: Biggest Passenger Ships By Tonnage
Now that we’ve touched on the definition of a passenger ship and how they’ve evolved over the years, let’s take a look at some of the largest passenger ships in history.
The first vessel on the list is the SS Royal William. Built in Eastern Canada in the early 1800s, this ship was originally built for domestic travel within Canada.
In addition to being the largest passenger ship of its time, it’s often credited as being the first ship to travel across the Atlantic Ocean almost fully by steam engine. However, some sources claim the Dutch-owned vessel Curaçao completed a steam-powered journey in 1827—six years before the SS Royal William.
In 1837, The SS Royal William was dethroned by the SS Great Western, only to change hands dozens of times before 1912, when the Titanic entered the scene.
|SS Royal William||1831 – 1837||1,370 GRT||155 passengers|
|SS Great Western||1837 – 1839||1,340 GRT||128 passengers, 20 servants, 60 crew|
|SS British Queen||1839 – 1840||1,850 GRT||207 passengers|
|SS President||1840 – 1841||2,366 GRT||110 passengers, 44 servants|
|SS British Queen||1841 – 1843||1,850 GRT||207 passengers|
|SS Great Britain||1843 – 1853||3,270 GRT||360 passengers, 120 crew|
|SS Atrato||1853 – 1858||3,466 GRT||762+ passengers|
|SS Great Eastern||1858 – 1888||18,915 GRT||4,000 passengers, 418 crew|
|SS City of New York||1888 – 1893||10,499 GRT||1,740 passengers, 362 crew|
|RMS Campania and RMS Lucania||1893 – 1897||12,950 GRT||2,000 passengers, 424 crew|
|SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse||1897 – 1899||14,349 GRT||1,506 passengers, 488 crew|
|RMS Oceanic||1899 – 1901||17,272 GRT||1,710 passengers, 349 crew|
|RMS Celtic||1901 – 1903||20,904 GRT||2,857 passengers|
|RMS Cedric||1903 – 1904||21,035 GRT||1,223 passengers, 486 crew|
|RMS Baltic||1904 – 1906||23,876 GRT||2,875 passengers|
|SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria||1906 – 1907||24,581 GRT||2,466 passengers|
|RMS Lusitania||1907||31,550 GRT||2,198 passengers, 850 crew|
|RMS Mauretania||1907 – 1911||31,938 GRT||2,165 passengers, 802 crew|
|RMS Olympic||1911 – 1912||45,324 GRT||2,435 passengers, 950 crew|
|RMS Titanic||1912||46,328 GRT||2,435 passengers, 892 crew|
|SS Imperator||1913 – 1914||52,117 GRT||4,234 passengers, 1,180 crew|
|SS Vaterland||1914 – 1922||54,282 GRT||1,165 passengers|
|RMS Majestic||1922 – 1935||56,551 GRT||2,145 passengers|
|SS Normandie||1935 – 1936||79,280 GRT||1,972 passengers, 1,345 crew|
|RMS Queen Mary||1936||80,774 GRT||2,139 passengers, 1,101 crew|
|SS Normandie||1936 – 1946||83,404 GRT||1,972 passengers, 1,345 crew|
|RMS Queen Elizabeth||1946 – 1972||83,673 GRT||2,283 passengers, 1000+ crew|
|SS France and SS Norway (1962-1980)||1972 – 1987||66,343 GRT||2,044 passengers, 1,253 crew|
|MS Sovereign of the Seas||1987 – 1990||73,529 GT||2,850 passengers|
|SS Norway||1990 – 1995||76,049 GT||2,565 passengers, 875 crew|
|Sun Princess||1995 – 1996||77,499 GT||2,010 passengers, 924 crew|
|Carnival Destiny||1996 – 1998||101,353 GT||2,642 passengers, 1,150 crew|
|Grand Princess||1998 – 1999||109,000 GT||2,590 passengers, 1,110 crew|
|Voyager of the Seas||1999 – 2000||137,276 GT||3,138 passengers, 1,181 crew|
|Explorer of the Seas||2000 – 2002||137,308 GT||3,114 passengers, 1,180 crew|
|Navigator of the Seas||2002 – 2003||139,999 GT||4,000 passengers, 1,200 crew|
|RMS Queen Mary 2||2003 – 2006||148,528 GT||2,640 passengers, 1,256 crew|
|MS Freedom of the Seas||2006 – 2007||154,407 GT||4,515 passengers, 1,300 crew|
|Liberty of the Seas||2007 – 2009||155,889 GT||4,960 passengers, 1,300 crew|
|Oasis of the Seas||2009 – 2016||225,282 GT||6,780 passengers, 2,165 crew|
|Harmony of the Seas||2016 – 2018||226,963 GT||6,780 passengers, 2,300 crew|
|Symphony of the Seas||2018 – present||228,081 GT||6,680 passengers, 2,200 crew|
The Titanic was one of three ships in the Olympic-class line. Of the three, two of them sank—the Titanic in 1912, and the HMHS Britannic in 1916, during World War I. Some historians believe these ships sank as a result of their faulty bulkhead design.
Fast forward to today, and the Symphony of the Seas is now the world’s largest passenger ship. While it boasts 228,081 in gross tonnage, it uses 25% less fuel than its sister ships (which are slightly smaller).
COVID-19’s Impact on Cruise Ships
2020 was a tough year for the cruise ship industry, as travel restrictions and onboard outbreaks halted the $150 billion industry. As a result, some operations were forced to downsize—for instance, the notable cruise operation Carnival removed 13 ships from its fleet in July 2020.
That being said, restrictions are slowly beginning to loosen, and industry experts remain hopeful that things will look different in 2021 as more people begin to come back on board.
“[There] is quite a bit of pent-up demand and we’re already seeing strong interest in 2021 and 2022 across the board, with Europe, the Mediterranean, and Alaska all seeing significant interest next year.”
-Josh Leibowitz, president of luxury cruise line Seabourn
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