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Native to Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Germany
Region Central Europe
Native speakers c. 400,000  (2010)
Language family
Writing system Latin (Luxembourgish alphabet)
Luxembourgish Braille
Official status
Official language in  Luxembourg
Recognised minority language in Belgium (recognised by the French Community of Belgium)
Regulated by Conseil Permanent de la Langue Luxembourgeoise (CPLL)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 lb
ISO 639-2 ltz
ISO 639-3 ltz
Linguist List
Moselle Franconian is spoken (solid).
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch) is a High German language that is spoken mainly in Luxembourg. About 400,000 people worldwide speak Luxembourgish.

Language family

Luxembourgish belongs to the West Central German group of High German languages and is the primary example of a Moselle Franconian language.


Luxembourgish is the national language of Luxembourg and one of three administrative languages, alongside French and German.[2]

Luxembourgish is also spoken in the Arelerland region of Belgium (part of the Province of Luxembourg) and in small parts of Lorraine in France.

In the German Eifel and Hunsrück regions, and in Lorraine, similar local Moselle Franconian dialects of German are spoken. Furthermore, the language is spoken by a few descendants of Luxembourg immigrants in the United States, and another similar Moselle Franconian dialect is spoken by ethnic Germans long settled in Transylvania, Romania (Siebenbürgen).

Moselle Franconian dialects outside the Luxembourg state border tend to have far fewer French loan words, and these mostly remain from the French revolution.


There are several distinct dialect forms of Luxembourgish including Areler (from Arlon), Eechternoacher (Echternach), Kliärrwer (Clervaux), Miseler (Moselle), Stater (Luxembourg), Veiner (Vianden), Minetter (Southern Luxembourg) and Weelzer (Wiltz). Further small vocabulary differences may be seen even between small villages.

Increasing mobility of the population and the dissemination of the language through mass media such as radio and television are leading to a gradual standardisation towards a "Standard Luxembourgish" through the process of koineization.

Surrounding languages

There is no distinct geographic boundary between the use of Luxembourgish and the use of other closely related High German dialects (for example Lorraine Franconian); it instead forms a dialect continuum of gradual change.

Spoken Luxembourgish is relatively hard to understand for speakers of German who are generally not familiar with Moselle Franconian dialects (or at least other West Central German dialects). However, they can usually read the language to some degree. For those Germans familiar with Moselle Franconian dialects, it is relatively easy to understand Luxembourgish, but more difficult to speak it properly because of the French influence. Even literary German, as it is written in Luxembourg, tends to include many French words and phrases.

There is limited intelligibility between Luxembourgish and French or any of the Romance dialects spoken in the adjacent parts of Belgium and France.

Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, President of the Christian Social People's Party of Luxembourg 1995-2003, was active in promoting the language beyond Luxembourg's borders.

Written Luxembourgish


A number of proposals for standardising the orthography of Luxembourgish can be documented, going back to the middle of the 19th century. There was no officially recognised system, however, until the adoption of the "OLO" (ofizjel lezebuurjer ortografi) on 5 June 1946.[3] This orthography provided a system for speakers of all varieties of Luxembourgish to transcribe words the way they pronounced them, rather than imposing a single, standard spelling for the words of the language. The rules explicitly rejected certain elements of German orthography (e.g., the use of "ä" and "ö",[4] the capitalisation of nouns). Similarly, new principles were adopted for the spelling of French loanwords.

  • fiireje, rééjelen, shwèzt, veinejer (cf. German vorigen, Regeln, schwätzt, weniger)
  • bültê, âprê, Shaarel, ssistém (cf. French bulletin, emprunt, Charles, système)

This proposed orthography, so different from existing "foreign" standards that people were already familiar with, did not enjoy widespread approval.

A more successful standard eventually emerged from the work of the committee of specialists charged with the task of creating the Luxemburger Wörterbuch, published in 5 volumes between 1950 and 1977. The orthographic conventions adopted in this decades-long project, set out in Bruch (1955), provided the basis of the standard orthography that became official on 10 October 1975.[5] Modifications to this standard were proposed by the Conseil permanent de la langue luxembourgeoise and adopted officially in the spelling reform of 30 July 1999.[6] A detailed explanation of current practice for Luxembourgish can be found in Schanen & Lulling (2003).


The Luxembourgish alphabet consists of the 26 Latin letters plus three modified letters: "é", "ä", and "ë". In loanwords from French and High German, other diacritics are usually preserved:

  • French: Boîte, Enquête, Piqûre, etc.
  • German: blöd, Bühn (but German Bühne), etc.

Eifeler Regel

Main article: Eifeler Regel

Like many other varieties of Western High German, Luxembourgish has a rule of final n-deletion in certain contexts. The effects of this rule (known as the "Eifel Rule") are indicated in writing, and therefore must be taken into account when spelling words and morphemes ending in ‹n› or ‹nn›. For example:

  • wann ech ginn "when I go", but wa mer ginn "when we go"
  • fënnefandrësseg "thirty-five", but fënnefavéierzeg "forty-five".


This section aims to briefly describe the phonology and phonetics of central Luxembourgish, which is regarded as the emerging standard.


The consonant inventory of Luxembourgish is quite similar to that of Standard German.[7]

Consonant phonemes[7]
Labial Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Fricative () ()
Approximant ()

Fortis /p t k/ are aspirated in most positions, and lenis /b d ɡ/ are often voiceless. Luxembourgish features final-obstruent devoicing; voiced stops are devoiced in coda position,[8] unless resyllabified. In addition, resyllabified fortis stops are subject to voicing if followed by a vowel, e.g. eng interessant Iddi [eŋ intʀæˈsɑnd‿ˈidi] "an interesting idea".[9]

/ʀ/ may be [ʁ] for some speakers. It is vocalised to ] or ] word-finally. It is [ʁ] before short vowels and voiced consonants, and [χ] before voiceless consonants.[8]

[ɕ] and [ʑ] are allophones of /χ/ and /ʁ/, respectively; /χ ʁ/ occur before back vowels, and the allophones in all other positions.[8] Speakers increasingly do not distinguish between postalveolar and alveolo-palatal fricatives.[10]

[w] is an allophone of /v/ after /k t͡s ʃ/, e.g. zwee [t͡sweː] "two". [ʒ] may replace /j/ in some instances, e.g. Juni [ˈjuːniː] or [ˈʒuːniː] "June".[11]

In external sandhi, syllable-final /n/ is deleted unless followed by [n t d t͡s h], with few exceptions. Furthermore, some unusual consonant clusters may arise post-lexically after cliticisation of the definite article d' (for feminine, neuter and plural forms), e.g. d'Land [dlɑnt] "the country" or d'Kräiz [tkʀæːɪ̯t͡s] "the cross".[9]


Luxembourgish has fourteen vowel monophthongs, [iː i eː e ə ɛː æ aː ɑ ɐ oː o uː u], and eight diphthongs, [iə ɜɪ æːɪ ɑɪ uə əʊ æːʊ ɑʊ]. [e ə] are allophones of a single phoneme /e/, and appear in complementary distribution; [e] before velar consonants, and [ə] in all other positions. [e] may also be pronounced [ɛ]. [ə ɐ] appear frequently in unstressed position. [ə] may be pronounced with slight lip rounding. Long vowels in diphthongs may be pronounced short in fast speech and in unstressed position. Additional diphthongs arise after vocalisation of /ʀ/ (described above). /eː/ before /ʀ/ is pronounced [ɛː].[12]


Nominal syntax

Luxembourgish has three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and has three cases (nominative, accusative, and dative). These are marked morphologically on determiners and pronouns. As in German, there is no morphological gender distinction in the plural.

The forms of the articles and of some selected determiners are given below:

singular plural
masculine feminine neuter
definite den d' d' d'
def. emphatic deen déi dat déi
demonstrative dësen dës dëst dës
indefinite en eng en
negative keen keng keen keng
"his" säin seng säin seng
"her/their" hieren hier hiert hier
singular plural
masculine feminine neuter
definite dem der dem den
def. emphatic deem där deem deenen
demonstrative dësem dëser dësem dësen
indefinite engem enger engem
negative kengem kenger kengem kengen
"his" sengem senger sengem sengen
"her/their" hirem hirer hirem hiren

Distinct nominative forms survive in a few nominal phrases such as der Däiwel ("the devil") and eiser Herrgott ("our Lord"). Rare examples of the genitive are also found: Enn des Mounts ("end of the month"), Ufanks der Woch ("at the beginning of the week"). The functions of the genitive are normally expressed using a combination of the dative and a possessive determiner: e.g. dem Mann säi Buch (lit. "to the man his book", i.e. "the man's book"). This is known as a periphrastic genitive, and is a phenomenon also commonly seen in dialectal and colloquial German, and in Dutch.

The forms of the personal pronouns are given in the following table (unstressed forms appear in parentheses):

nominative accusative dative
1sg ech mech mir (mer)
2sg du (de) dech dir (der)
3sgm hien (en) hien (en) him (em)
3sgf si (se) si (se) hir (er)
3sgn hatt (et) hatt (et) him (em)
1pl mir (mer) äis/eis äis/eis
2pl dir (der) iech iech
3pl si (se) si (se) hinnen (en)

The 2pl form is also used as a polite singular (like French vous, see T-V distinction); the forms are capitalised in writing. Women and girls can be referred to with forms of the neuter pronoun hatt:

Dat ass d'Nathalie. Hatt ass midd, well et vill a séngem Gaart geschafft huet. ("That's Nathalie. She is tired because she has worked a lot in her garden.")


Luxembourgish morphology distinguishes two types of adjective: attributive and predicative. Predicative adjectives appear with verbs like sinn ("to be"), and receive no extra ending:

  • De Mann ass grouss. (masculine, "The man is tall.")
  • D'Fra ass grouss. (feminine, "The woman is tall.")
  • D'Meedchen ass grouss. (neuter, "The girl is tall.")
  • D'Kanner si grouss. (plural, "The children are tall.")

Attributive adjectives are placed before the noun they describe, and change their ending according to the grammatical gender, number, and case:

  • de grousse Mann (masculine)
  • déi grouss Fra (feminine)
  • dat grousst Meedchen (neuter)
  • déi grouss Kanner (plural)

Interesting to note is how the definite article changes with the use of an attributive adjective: feminine d goes to déi (or di), neuter d' goes to dat, and plural d' changes to déi.

The comparative in Luxembourgish is formed analytically, i.e. the adjective itself is not altered (compare the use of -er in German and English; talltaller, kleinkleiner). Instead it is formed using the adverb méi: e.g. schéinméi schéin

  • Lëtzebuerg ass méi schéi wéi Esch. ("Luxembourg is prettier than Esch.")

The superlative involves a synthetic form consisting of the adjective and the suffix -st: e.g. schéinschéinst (compare German schönst, English prettiest). Attributive modification requires the emphatic definite article and the inflected superlative adjective:

  • dee schéinste Mann ("the most handsome man")
  • déi schéinst Fra ("the prettiest woman")

Predicative modification uses either the same adjectival structure or the adverbial structure am+ -sten: e.g. schéinam schéinsten:

  • Lëtzebuerg ass dee schéinsten / deen allerschéinsten / am schéinsten. ("Luxembourg is the most beautiful (of all).")

Some common adjectives have exceptional comparative and superlative forms:

  • gutt, besser, am beschten ("good, better, best")
  • vill, méi, am meeschten ("much, more, most")
  • wéineg, manner, am mannsten ("few, fewer, fewest")


Luxembourgish exhibits "verb second" word order in clauses. More specifically, Luxembourgish is a V2-SOV language, like German and Dutch. In other words, we find the following finite clausal structures:

  • the finite verb in second position in declarative clauses and wh-questions
Ech kafen en Hutt. Muer kafen ech en Hutt. (lit. "I buy a hat. Tomorrow buy I a hat.)
Wat kafen ech haut? (lit. "What buy I today?")
  • the finite verb in first position in yes/no questions and finite imperatives
Bass de midd? ("Are you tired?")
Gëff mer deng Hand! ("Give me your hand!")
  • the finite verb in final position in subordinate clauses
Du weess, datt ech midd sinn. (lit. "You know, that I tired am.")

Non-finite verbs (infinitives and participles) generally appear in final position:

  • compound past tenses
Ech hunn en Hutt kaaft. (lit. "I have a hat bought.")
  • infinitival complements
Du solls net esou vill Kaffi drénken. (lit. "You should not so much coffee drink.")
  • infinitival clauses (e.g., used as imperatives)
Nëmme Lëtzebuergesch schwätzen! (lit. "Only Luxembourgish speak!")

These rules interact so that in subordinate clauses, the finite verb and any non-finite verbs must all cluster at the end. Luxembourgish allows different word orders in these cases:

Hie freet, ob ech komme kann. (cf. German Er fragt, ob ich kommen kann.)
Hie freet, ob ech ka kommen. (cf. Dutch Hij vraagt of ik kan komen.)

This is also the case when two non-finite verb forms occur together:

Ech hunn net kënne kommen. (cf. Dutch Ik heb niet kunnen komen.)
Ech hunn net komme kënnen. (cf. German Ich habe nicht kommen können.)

Luxembourgish (like Dutch and German) allows prepositional phrases to appear after the verb cluster in subordinate clauses:

alles, wat Der ëmmer wollt wëssen iwwer Lëtzebuerg
(lit. "everything what you always wanted know about Luxembourg")


Luxembourgish has borrowed many French words. For example, the name for a bus driver is Buschauffeur (also Dutch), which would be Busfahrer in German and Chauffeur de bus in French.

Some words are different from High German but have equivalents in German dialects. An example is gromperen (potatoes - German: Kartoffeln). Other words are exclusive to Luxembourgish.

Selected common phrases

) Note: Words spoken in sound clip do not reflect all words on this list.

  • Jo. Yes.
  • Neen. No.
  • Vläicht. Maybe.
  • Moien. Hello.
  • Gudde Moien. Good Morning.
  • Gudde Mëtteg. Good Afternoon.
  • Gudden Owend. Good Evening.
  • Äddi. Goodbye.
  • Merci. Thank you.
  • Firwat? Why
  • Ech weess net. I don't know.
  • Ech verstinn net. I don't understand.
  • Watgelift? or Entschëllegt? Excuse me?
  • Metzleschjong. Butcher's son.
  • Schwätzt dir Däitsch/Franséisch/Englesch? Do you speak German/French/English?
  • Wéi heeschs du? What is your name?
  • Wéi geet et? How are you?
  • Politeschen Anstand. Political Decency
  • Sou. So.
  • Fräi. Free.
  • Heem. Home.
  • Ech. I.
  • An. and/in.
  • Mäin. my.
  • Iesel. donkey.
  • Mat. With.
  • Kand. Kid/Child.
  • Wee. Way.
  • Gromper. Potato.
  • Brout. Bread.


Neologisms in Luxembourgish include both entirely new words, and the attachment of new meanings to old words in everyday speech. The most recent neologisms come from the English language in the fields of telecommunications, computer science, and the Internet.

Recent neologisms in Luxembourgish include:[13]

  • direct loans from English: Browser, Spam, CD, Fitness, Come-back, Terminal, hip, cool, tip-top
  • also found in German: Sichmaschinn (search engine, German: Suchmaschine), schwaarzt Lach (black hole, German: Schwarzes Loch), Handy (mobile phone), Websäit (webpage, German: Webseite)
  • native Luxembourgish
    • déck as an emphatic like ganz and vill, e.g. Dëse Kuch ass déck gutt! ("This cake is really good!")
    • recent expressions, used mainly by teenagers: oh mëllen! ("oh crazy"), en décke gelénkt ("you've been tricked") or cassé (French for "(you've been) owned")

Academic projects

Between 2000 and 2002, the Luxembourgish linguist, Jérôme Lulling, compiled a lexical database of 125,000 word forms as the basis for the very first Luxembourgish spellchecker (Projet C.ORT.IN.A).

The LaF (Lëtzebuergesch als Friemsprooch – Luxembourgish as a Foreign Language) is a set of four language proficiency certifications for Luxembourgish and follows the ALTE framework of language examination standards. The tests are administered by the Institut National des Langues Luxembourg.[14]

The "Centre for Luxembourg Studies" at the University of Sheffield was founded in 1995 on the initiative of Professor Gerald Newton. It is supported by the government of Luxembourg which funds an endowed chair in Luxembourg Studies at the university.[15] The first class of students to study the language outside of the country as undergraduate students began their studies at the 'Centre for Luxembourg Studies' at Sheffield in the academic year 2011-2012.

See also



  • Bruch, Robert. (1955) Précis de grammaire luxembourgeoise. Bulletin Linguistique et Ethnologique de l'Institut Grand-Ducal, Luxembourg, Linden. (2nd edition of 1968)
  • Schanen, François and Lulling, Jérôme. (2003) Introduction à l'orthographe luxembourgeoise. (text available in French and Luxembourgish)

Further reading

In English

  • NEWTON, Gerald (ed.), Luxembourg and Lëtzebuergesch: Language and Communication at the Crossroads of Europe, Oxford, 1996, ISBN 0-19-824016-3

In French

  • BRAUN, Josy, et al. (en coll. avec Projet Moien), Grammaire de la langue luxembourgeoise. Luxembourg, Ministère de l'Éducation nationale et de la Formation professionnelle 2005. ISBN 2-495-00025-8
  • SCHANEN, François, Parlons Luxembourgeois, Langue et culture linguistique d'un petit pays au coeur de l'Europe. Paris, L'Harmattan 2004, ISBN 2-7475-6289-1
  • SCHANEN, François / ZIMMER, Jacqui, 1,2,3 Lëtzebuergesch Grammaire. Band 1: Le groupe verbal. Band 2: Le groupe nominal. Band 3:L'orthographe. Esch-sur-Alzette, éditions Schortgen, 2005 et 2006
  • SCHANEN, François / ZIMMER, Jacqui, Lëtzebuergesch Grammaire luxembourgeoise. En un volume. Esch-sur-Alzette, éditions Schortgen, 2012. ISBN 978-2-87953-146-5

In Luxembourgish

  • SCHANEN, François, Lëtzebuergesch Sproocherubriken. Esch-sur-Alzette, éditions Schortgen, 2013.ISBN 978-2-87953-174-8

In German

  • BRUCH, Robert, Grundlegung einer Geschichte des Luxemburgischen, Luxembourg, Publications scientifiques et littéraires du Ministère de l'Éducation nationale, 1953, vol. I; Das Luxemburgische im westfränkischen Kreis, Luxembourg, Publications scientifiques et littéraires du Ministère de l'Éducation nationale, 1954, vol. II
  • MOULIN, Claudine and Nübling, Damaris (publisher): Perspektiven einer linguistischen Luxemburgistik. Studien zu Diachronie und Synchronie., Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg, 2006. This book has been published with the support of the Fonds National de la Recherche
  • BERG, Guy, Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin: Soziolinguistische und sprachtypologische Betrachtungen zur luxemburgischen Mehrsprachigkeit., Tübingen, 1993 (Reihe Germanistische Linguistik 140). ISBN 3-484-31140-1
  • (phrasebook) REMUS, Joscha, Lëtzebuergesch Wort für Wort. Kauderwelsch Band 104. Bielefeld, Reise Know-How Verlag 1997. ISBN 3-89416-310-0
  • WELSCHBILLIG Myriam, SCHANEN François, Luxdico Deutsch

External links

  • Radio-Télé Lëtzebuerg
  • Gefahr oder Chance für das Luxemburgische?
  • 'Hover & Hear' Luxemburgish pronunciations, and compare with equivalents in English and other Germanic languages.
  • Centre for Luxembourg Studies at the University of Sheffield (UK)
  • The Centre de Langues Luxembourg page at the ALTE site
  • Conseil Permanent de la Langue Luxembourgeoise
  • video)

Spellcheckers and dictionaries

  • World Heritage Encyclopedia article about Luxembourgish Spellcheckers (this resource is in Luxembourgish)
  • Spellcheckers for Luxembourgish: Cortina
  • Luxdico online dictionary (24.000 words)
  • Lëtzebuerger Online Dictionnaire (Luxembourgish Online Dictionary) with German, French and Portuguese translations created by the CPLL, the official regulator of the Luxembourgish language
  • - Dictionnaire Luxembourgeois//Français
  • Luxembourgish Dictionary with pronunciation, translation to and from English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian
  • Luxogramm - Information system for the Luxembourgish grammar (University of Luxembourg, LU)
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