Amharic (አማርኛ)

travel photo for inspiring language students
Simien Mountains, Kingdom Of Gondar. Photo by Rod Waddington, CC BY-SA 2.0


Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, is a unique and captivating language for several reasons. One of its most distinctive features is its script, the Ge'ez or Fidel script, which sets it apart from many other African languages that use the Latin alphabet. This ancient script, with its beautiful and intricate characters, offers a fascinating challenge for linguists and language learners alike. Additionally, Amharic is a Semitic language, sharing linguistic roots with languages like Arabic and Hebrew, which means it employs a triconsonantal root system and complex verb conjugations. These linguistic characteristics make Amharic not only interesting to study but also provide valuable insights into the broader family of Semitic languages.

Amharic's cultural significance is profound, deeply intertwined with the rich history and traditions of Ethiopia. It is spoken by over 30 million people, primarily in Ethiopia, and serves as a lingua franca in a country with over 80 different ethnic groups and languages. Beyond Ethiopia, Amharic holds a special place within the Rastafarian movement. Rastafarians, who revere Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I and see Ethiopia as their spiritual homeland, often use Amharic in religious contexts, prayers, and songs. This connection highlights the language's spiritual and cultural reach beyond its native borders, making it a symbol of identity and faith for this global community. Amharic's unique script, linguistic complexity, and cultural significance combine to make it a truly fascinating language to learn and explore.

Why Learn Amharic?

International travel is made easier and more pleasant when you know Amharic. You are at a distinct advantage in the global market if you are bilingual. Communication skills developed while learning Amharic can improve your interpersonal skills in your native language as well. You can participate more effectively and responsibly in a multi-cultural world if you know Amharic

Learning Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, offers several benefits:
  • Cultural Understanding
    • Cultural Enrichment: Amharic is deeply intertwined with Ethiopian culture, history, and traditions. Learning it provides insights into one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
    • Literature and Music: Access to Ethiopian literature, music, and cinema in their original language, enhancing the appreciation of these cultural products.
  • Professional Opportunities
    • Business and Trade: Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Proficiency in Amharic can be advantageous for business and trade opportunities.
    • International Relations: For those in international development, diplomacy, or NGOs, Amharic is valuable for working in Ethiopia and with Ethiopian communities.
  • Personal Growth
    • Cognitive Benefits: Learning a new language can improve cognitive functions, enhance memory, and boost problem-solving skills.
    • Communication: Connect with over 30 million native speakers and additional millions who use it as a second language, expanding social and professional networks.
  • Travel and Living Abroad
    • Travel: Makes traveling in Ethiopia more enjoyable and convenient, allowing for deeper interactions with locals
    • Living Abroad: For expatriates or those planning to live in Ethiopia, speaking Amharic facilitates daily life and integration into the community.
  • Academic Research Advantages
    • Linguistic Research: For linguists, Amharic offers an interesting study due to its unique features and its use of the Ge'ez script.
    • Historical Research: Understanding Amharic is crucial for studying Ethiopian historical documents and texts.
  • Social and Community Engagement
    • Community Involvement: In areas with significant Ethiopian diaspora communities, speaking Amharic can enhance community involvement and support initiatives.
  • Unique Language Features
    • Language Diversity: Amharic has a unique script and phonetic system, providing an enriching challenge for language enthusiasts.

Learning Amharic not only opens up numerous personal and professional opportunities but also offers a gateway to understanding a rich and ancient culture.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Amharic?

The time it takes to learn Amharic varies depending on several factors, including the learner's prior language experience, the amount of time dedicated to study, and the learning methods used. However, here are some general guidelines:

  • Factors Influencing Learning Time
    • Prior Language Experience: Knowledge of other Semitic languages (like Arabic or Hebrew) can provide a head start due to structural similarities.
    • Learning Intensity: Immersive study, such as living in an Amharic-speaking environment or intensive language courses, can speed up the learning process.
    • Learning Methods: A combination of formal classes, self-study, language exchange, and practice with native speakers is most effective.
    • Language Aptitude: Individual aptitude for learning languages can significantly influence the learning duration.
  • General Time Estimates
    • Basic Proficiency: Achieving basic conversational skills may take around 6-12 months with consistent study (approximately 5-10 hours per week).
    • Intermediate Proficiency: Reaching an intermediate level, where you can hold more complex conversations and understand a wider range of topics, might take 1-2 years of dedicated study.
    • Advanced Proficiency: Attaining advanced proficiency, including reading and writing complex texts, understanding nuanced speech, and engaging in professional or academic discussions, could take 2-5 years or more, depending on the intensity of study and immersion.
  • Structured Learning Programs
    • Formal Language Courses: Universities and language institutes may offer structured programs that can range from a few months to several years.
    • Self-Study Programs: Online courses, textbooks, and language learning apps can provide flexible but less structured learning paths.
  • Immersion and Practice
    • Living in Ethiopia: Immersion in an Amharic-speaking environment accelerates learning significantly.
    • Language Exchange: Regular practice with native speakers through language exchange programs or conversation partners enhances proficiency.

The journey to learning Amharic is unique for each individual. While basic conversational skills can be achieved within a year, reaching higher levels of proficiency requires sustained effort and practice over several years.

Amharic Alphabet & Pronunciation

Amharic is written left-to-right using a system that grew out of the Ge'ez script. It is an abugida: Each character represents a consonant+vowel sequence. The basic shape of each character is determined by the consonant, which is modified for the vowel.



































Basic Phrases in Amharic

Helloሰላም (selami)
Goodbyeበህና ሁን (behina huni)
Yesአዎ (āwo)
Noአይ (āyi)
Excuse meይቅርታ (yik’irita)
Pleaseአባክሽን (ābakishini)
Thank youአመሰግናለሁ (āmeseginalehu)
You are welcomeምንም አይደለም (minimi āyidelemi)
Do you speak englishእንግሊዝኛ ይናገራሉ? (inigilīzinya yinageralu?)
Do you understandይገባሃል? (yigebahali?)
I understandገባኝ (gebanyi)
I do not understandአልገባኝም (āligebanyimi)
How are youእንዴት ነህ? (inidēti nehi?)
Fine thanksደህና ይመስገን! (dehina yimesigeni!)
What is your nameስምህ ማን ይባላል? (simihi mani yibalali?)
My name isስሜ ነው (simē newi)
Pleased to meet youስላገኘሁህ ደስ ብሎኛል (silagenyehuhi desi bilonyali)

Amharic Grammar

Amharic Nouns

Manሰው (sewi)
Womanሴት (sēti)
Boyወንድ ልጅ (wenidi liji)
Girlሴት ልጅ (sēti liji)
Catድመት (dimeti)
Dogውሻ (wisha)
Fishዓሳ (‘asa)
Waterውሃ (wiha)
Milkወተት (weteti)
Eggእንቁላል (inik’ulali)
Houseቤት (bēti)
Flowerአበባ (ābeba)
Treeዛፍ (zafi)
Shirtሸሚዝ (shemīzi)
Pantsሱሪ (surī)

Amharic Adjectives

Colors in Amharic

Blackጥቁር (t’ik’uri)
Whiteነጭ (nech’i)
Redቀይ (k’eyi)
Orangeብርቱካናማ (biritukanama)
Yellowቢጫ (bīch’a)
Greenአረንጓዴ (ārenigwadē)
Blueሰማያዊ (semayawī)
Purpleሐምራዊ (ḥāmirawī)
Pinkሐምራዊ (ḥāmirawī)
Grayግራጫ (girach’a)
Brownብናማ (binama)

Numbers in Amharic

Zeroዜሮ (zēro)
Oneአንድ (ānidi)
Twoሁለት (huleti)
Threeሶስት (sositi)
Fourአራት (ārati)
Fiveአምስት (āmisiti)
Sixስድስት (sidisiti)
Sevenሰባት (sebati)
Eightስምንት (siminiti)
Nineዘጠኝ (zet’enyi)
Tenአለኝ (ālenyi)
Elevenአሥራ አንድ (āšira ānidi)
Twelveአስራ ሁለት (āsira huleti)
Twentyሃያ (haya)
Thirtyሰላሳ (selasa)
Fortyአርባ (āriba)
Fiftyሃምሳ (hamisa)
Sixtyስልሳ (silisa)
Seventyሰባ (seba)
Eightyሰማንያ (semaniya)
Ninetyዘጠና (zet’ena)
Hundredመቶ (meto)
Thousandሺህ (shīhi)

Amharic Verbs

To beመ ሆ ን (me ho ni)
To haveመያዝ (meyazi)
To wantመፈለግ (mefelegi)
To needከ .... ፍላጎት (ke .... filagoti)
To helpለመርዳት (lemeridati)
To goመሄድ (mehēdi)
To comeለመምጣት (lememit’ati)
To eatመብላት (mebilati)
To drinkመጠጣት (met’et’ati)
To speakመናገር (menageri)

Building Simple Sentences

More Complex Amharic Sentences

Andእና (ina)
Orወይም (weyimi)
Butግን (gini)
Becauseምክንያቱም (mikiniyatumi)
Withጋር (gari)
Alsoደግሞ (degimo)
Howeverሆኖም (honomi)
Neitherአይደለም (āyidelemi)
Norወይም (weyimi)
Ifከሆነ (kehone)
Thenከዚያ (kezīya)

Useful Amharic Vocabulary

Amharic Questions

Whoማን (mani)
Whatምንድን (minidini)
Whenመቼ (mechē)
Whereየት (yeti)
Whyለምን (lemini)
Howእንዴት (inidēti)
How manyስንት (siniti)
How muchስንት (siniti)

Days of the Week in Amharic

Mondayሰኞ (senyo)
Tuesdayማክሰኞ (makisenyo)
Wednesdayእሮብ (irobi)
Thursdayሐሙስ (ḥāmusi)
Fridayአርብ (āribi)
Saturdayቅዳሜ (k’idamē)
Sundayእሁድ (ihudi)
Yesterdayትናንት (tinaniti)
Todayዛሬ (zarē)
Tomorrowነገ (nege)

Months in Amharic

Januaryጥር (t’iri)
Februaryየካቲት (yekatīti)
Marchመጋቢት (megabīti)
Aprilኤፕሪል (ēpirīli)
Mayግንቦት (giniboti)
Juneሰኔ (senē)
Julyሀምሌ (hāmilē)
Augustነሐሴ (neḥāsē)
Septemberመስከረም (mesikeremi)
Octoberጥቅምት (t’ik’imiti)
Novemberህዳር (hidari)
Decemberታህሳስ (tahisasi)

Seasons in Amharic

Winterክረምት (kiremiti)
Springፀደይ (t͟s’edeyi)
Summerክረምት (kiremiti)
Autumnበልግ (beligi)

Telling Time in Amharic

What time is itስንት ሰዓት ነው? (siniti se‘ati newi?)
Hoursሰዓታት (se‘atati)
Minutesደቂቃዎች (dek’īk’awochi)
Secondsሰከንዶች (sekenidochi)
O clockሰዓት (se‘ati)
Halfግማሽ (gimashi)
Quarter pastሩብ አለፈ (rubi ālefe)
Beforeከዚህ በፊት (kezīhi befīti)
Afterበኋላ (beḫwala)