Picture Spanish

Spanish speaking countries

Spanish is an official language in 21 countries and is partly spoken as a mother tongue in 13 other countries. The Spanish language (native name: Español) has its roots in the Indo-European language family.

With 116.70 million native speakers, Spanish has the highest prevalence in Mexico. As a percentage of the total population, the largest share of around 100 percent is in Cuba. A total of about 456.0 million people worldwide speak Spanish as their mother tongue.

Spanish and Castilian

The designations Spanish and Castilian both apply to the same language. The geographical origin is in the region in and around Castile. Internationally, the names "Spanish" and "Español" are in common use. Within the Spanish-speaking countries, both terms are used simultaneously. In many South American countries, the name "Castellano" is predominantly used and is even anchored in the national constitutions.

Distribution Spanish

Origin and spread of the Spanish language

Picture Spanish As the name "Castilian" already indicates, the language comes from Castile — a region in what is now central Spain. It is based on, among other things, Westernaragonese and other languages of the then Iberian Peninsula. The first Castilian or Spanish documents date back to the year 964 C.E. But the Spanish language (Old Spanish) did not really develop until the 13th century, when Latin, which was predominant in Europe, was separated. Over the course of the centuries, the language changed through many influences from Basque, Celtic and Germanic. The Portuguese language is also closely related to the Spanish language. Both languages are based on the same origins.

Until the late 15th century, Spanish was only spoken on the Iberian Peninsula, i.e., mainly in today's Spain. There was a significant expansion of the language with the voyages of discovery and conquest in the 15th and 16th centuries. Christopher Columbus was certainly the most famous — he is today credited with the discovery of America when he sailed on behalf of the Spanish crown. By the way, he himself was not Spanish, but came from Genoa. Other sailors commissioned by the Spanish Crown with important conquests included Hernán Córtez (Mexico), Franzisco Pizarro (Inca Empire) and Ferdinand Magellan (South America, Philippines). Through the partly violent conquests, Christianity and the Spanish language were imposed on the new territories. Many of those areas are still predominantly Christian today and have retained the Spanish language.

CountryRegionOfficial languageDistributionTotal
MexicoCentral Americayes92.1 %116,695,000
ColombiaSouth Americayes99.0 %51,001,000
ArgentinaSouth Americayes96.8 %44,343,000
United States of AmericaNorth Americano10.7 %35,513,000
SpainSouthern Europeyes74.0 %35,088,000
PeruSouth Americayes84.1 %28,355,000
VenezuelaSouth Americayes96.9 %27,326,000
ChileSouth Americayes89.7 %17,485,000
EcuadorSouth Americayes93.0 %16,552,000
CubaCaribbeanyes100.0 %11,256,000
GuatemalaCentral Americayes64.7 %11,070,000
Dominican RepublicCaribbeanyes98.0 %10,896,000
HondurasCentral Americayes97.2 %9,991,000
BoliviaSouth Americayes60.7 %7,332,000
NicaraguaCentral Americayes95.3 %6,529,000
El SalvadorCentral Americayes99.0 %6,251,000
Costa RicaCentral Americayes97.5 %5,025,000
ParaguaySouth Americayes55.1 %3,694,000
UruguaySouth Americayes95.7 %3,279,000
Puerto RicoCaribbeanyes94.3 %3,078,000
PanamaCentral Americayes69.2 %3,011,000
Equatorial GuineaCentral Africayes61.6 %1,007,000
CanadaNorth Americano1.3 %497,000
FranceWestern Europeno0.4 %271,000
BelizeCentral Americano46.0 %184,000
SwitzerlandWestern Europeno1.1 %96,000
SwedenNorthern Europeno0.6 %62,000
AndorraSouthern Europeno44.6 %35,000
Virgin IslandsCaribbeanno16.8 %18,000
ArubaCaribbeanno13.7 %15,000
CuracaoCaribbeanno4.0 %6,000
Caribbean NetherlandsCaribbeanno11.8 %3,000
Cayman IslandsCaribbeanno4.0 %3,000
Falkland IslandsSouth Americano7.7 %300

Unless otherwise described in the text, this page is about native speakers — not the total number of speakers. How many people understand or speak Spanish as a subsequently learned language is not the subject of this page. Countries where native speakers make up only a few thousand, or even a few hundred people, or countries with a percentage well below 1% are unlikely to be listed here.