The European occupation of Uruguay lasted for centuries. Uruguay was constantly subjected to foreign influences until the late 20th century, which inherently left a lasting influence on the culture and languages of Uruguay observed today.

Spanish is the official language of Uruguay. However, there are a number of different languages which are also recognized as important in this South American country. The majority of the residents of Uruguay are of European descent, which is a result of the native inhabitants of the country having been largely displaced by the invading European powers throughout the centuries. Nearly 88% of the population claims to have European ancestry, primarily of Spanish or Italian descent. Furthermore, descendants of England, France, Germany and Argentina make up a small section of the total population of Uruguay. Africans, who were mostly brought in the country as European slaves, make up an even smaller proportion of the country’s population. This varied ethnic composition is reflected in the languages spoken inside the country.

Spanish in Uruguay is spoken by approximately 99% of the population which numbers around 3.42 million people, making it the most widely spoken and represented language in the country. It is used in educational institutions, for government communication, and for media publics. Uruguayan Spanish has been influenced by other migrant languages in the country, primarily Italian. The Gauchos of Uruguay have also influenced the language and modified many words used in the daily communication.

The second most widely used language in this country is Uruguayan Portuguese or Fronteirico, spoken by around 15% of the country’s total population. Its use is mainly concentrated in the northern parts of the country, close to the border with Brazil. Portuñol, a local dialect which is a combination of Portuguese and Spanish, can often be heard in roughly the same area, called Brazilero.

The variant of Spanish spoken in Uruguay is recognized as a special dialect, also known as Rioplatense. This dialect is similar to the one used in Argentina. In addition to this dialect, Uruguayans also use certain quirky phrases which are unique for this variant of the Spanish language.

Aside from Spanish, Portuguese, and Portuñol, English is also spoken in Uruguay, and is primarily used for business purposes. Other minority and foreign languages that can be found in Uruguay include Catalan, Italian, Lithuanian, Corsican, Plautdietsch, Russian, and Galician. These minority languages are primarily spoken by immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and the total number of speakers of all of these languages is estimated at around 165,000 individuals, combined.


Unlocking Language Excellence: Empowering Your Communication and Business Growth