What Languages Are Similar to Icelandic?

Icelandic, an Indo-European language, belongs to the North Germanic languages group, which shares close ties with several other languages. Of these, Norwegian and Faroese, spoken primarily in the Faroe Islands, are considered the most closely related to Icelandic, allowing for some degree of mutual intelligibility between speakers of these languages.

These linguistic connections have rich historical roots, with the Old West Norse language serving as the foundation of both Icelandic and Faroese. This language was used by Viking settlers in the Faroe Islands between 800 and 1000 AD. While Icelandic also shares its ancestry with English as both languages are derived from Germanic origins, Icelandic has maintained a closer relationship with the Faroese language, both in written form and spoken communication.

Icelandic Language Overview

The Icelandic language is an Indo-European language, belonging to the group of North Germanic languages. This group also includes Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Faroese. Norwegian and Faroese, spoken in the Faroe Islands, are considered the closest languages to Icelandic in terms of linguistic similarity.

Icelandic has remained relatively unchanged since the 9th and 10th centuries when Iceland was first settled. Due to its insular nature, Icelandic has been influenced minimally by other languages. In the past, it borrowed words from Celtic, Danish, Latin, and Romance languages but has since replaced most of these words with Icelandic forms during a puristic movement in the 19th century.

Throughout history, trade routes brought German, English, Dutch, French, and Basque languages into contact with Icelandic. However, the impact of these languages primarily left a mark on trade, nautical, and religious terms, rather than significantly changing the language as a whole.

North Germanic Languages

Icelandic belongs to the group of North Germanic languages. Other languages in this group include Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. Each of these languages has its own unique features, but they also share many similarities with Icelandic, as they are part of the same language family.


Norwegian is one of the closest languages to Icelandic. It shares many similarities in terms of grammar and vocabulary, making it easier for native Icelandic speakers to learn and understand. However, it should be noted that there are two official written forms of Norwegian, Bokmål and Nynorsk, which can make learning the language more challenging for some. Norwegian is spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language.


Another language similar to Icelandic is Swedish, which is spoken mainly in Sweden and parts of Finland. Although it shares some common vocabulary with Icelandic, Swedish has its own unique pronunciation rules and grammatical structures. Despite these differences, there is still some mutual intelligibility between Swedish and Icelandic, allowing speakers of one language to understand some aspects of the other.


Danish is also a North Germanic language that shares similarities with Icelandic. Danish is spoken mainly in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. It has its own unique pronunciation rules and grammatical structures, but it also shares many words with Icelandic. Like Swedish, there is some mutual intelligibility between Danish and Icelandic, although not as high as between Icelandic and Norwegian.

Factors Influencing Linguistic Similarities

Various factors influence linguistic similarities between languages. Some of the key aspects impacting the relationships between languages such as Icelandic and others are historical context, geographical proximity, and sociolinguistic influences.

Historical Context

Historical context plays a significant role in shaping linguistic dynamics. Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic language group, which also includes Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Faroese. Norwegian and Faroese are the most closely related to Icelandic. Known for its complex grammar and syntax, the Icelandic language shares a common ancestry with other North Germanic languages.

Geographical Proximity

Geographical proximity often results in shared linguistic traits between neighboring regions. In the case of Icelandic, its similarity to Faroese can be attributed to the close geographical proximity of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Despite the geographical isolation of Iceland, the language has maintained its connections with its roots in the North Germanic language family. However, isolation has allowed Icelandic to remain less influenced by other languages compared to its Scandinavian counterparts.

Sociolinguistic Influences

Sociolinguistic factors also play an essential role in shaping linguistic similarities. Faroese, for instance, has been influenced by both Norwegian and Scottish Gaelic. Additionally, the use of modern media and the internet has facilitated the linguistic exchange between Iceland and other countries, thus influencing similarities and differences between Icelandic and other languages.


In summary, Icelandic is closely related to several other North Germanic languages, such as Norwegian and Faroese. These languages share many similarities in vocabulary and, to a lesser extent, grammar. Additionally, Icelandic shares some common ground with Danish, as Icelanders can often understand spoken Danish without much difficulty.

While Icelandic is less similar to modern Norwegian, their shared history is evident in the vocabulary they share. The differences in grammar, however, signify the distinct evolutionary paths these languages have taken over the years. As part of the diverse Indo-European language family, Icelandic also bears some influence from French, Low German, and other languages.

Understanding the similarities and differences between Icelandic and its related languages can provide valuable insights into the rich linguistic heritage of this North Germanic language, as well as help in learning and communicating with speakers of these languages.