Umbrian language

Umbrian is an extinct Italic language formerly spoken by the Umbri in the ancient Italian region of Umbria. Within the Italic languages it is closely related to the Oscan group and is therefore associated with it in the group of Osco-Umbrian languages. Since that classification was first formulated a number of other languages in ancient Italy were discovered to be more closely related to Umbrian. Therefore, a group, the Umbrian languages, was devised to contain them.

Native toUmbria
Regioncentral Italy
Eraattested 7th–1st century BC[1]
Umbrian and Old Italic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3xum
Approximate distribution of languages in Iron Age Italy during the 6th century BC


Umbrian is known from about 30 inscriptions dated from the 7th through 1st centuries BC. The largest cache by far is the Iguvine Tablets, nine inscribed bronze tablets found in 1444 in an underground chamber at Gubbio (ancient Iguvium). Two have since disappeared. The remaining seven contain notes on the ceremonies and statutes for priests of the ancient religion in the region. Sometimes they are called the Eugubian tablets after the medieval name of Iguvium/Eugubium.[3] The tablets contain 4000-5000 words.

Other minor inscriptions are from Todi, Assisi and Spoleto.


The Iguvine tablets were written in two alphabets. The older, the Umbrian alphabet, like other Old Italic script, was derived from the Etruscan alphabet, and was written right-to-left. The newer was written in the Latin script. The texts are sometimes called Old Umbrian and New Umbrian. The differences are mainly orthographic.[4]

Sample text

Taken from the Iguvine Tablets, tablet VIa, lines 27-31:

(27)...dei.crabouie.persei.tuer.perscler.uaseto.est.pesetomest.peretomest (28) frosetomest.daetomest.tuer.perscler.uirseto.auirseto.uas.est.di.grabouie.persei.mersei.esu.bue (29) peracrei.pihaclu.pihafei.di.grabouie.pihatu.ocre.fisei.pihatu.tota.iouina.di.grabouie.pihatu.ocrer (30) fisier.totar.iouinar.nome.nerf.arsmo.ueiro pequo.castruo.fri.pihatu.futu.fos.pacer.pase.tua.ocre fisi (31) tote.iiouine.erer.nomne.erar.nomne.di.grabouie.saluo.seritu.ocre.fisi.salua.seritu.tota.iiouina.

"(27)...Jupiter Grabovius, if in your sacrifice (anything) has been done wrongly, mistaken, transgressed, (28) deceived, left out, (if) in your ritual there is a seen or unseen flaw, Jupiter Grabovius, if it be right for this (29) yearling ox as purificatory offering to be purified, Jupiter Grabovius, purify the Fisian Mount, purify the Iguvine state. Jupiter Grabovius, purify the name of the Fisian Mount (and) of the Iguvine state, purify the magistrates (and) formulations, men (and) cattle, heads (of grain) (and) fruits, Be favorable (and) propitious in your peace to the Fisian Mount, (31) to the Iguvine state, to the name of that, to the name of this. Jupiter Grabovius, keep safe the Fisian Mount, keep safe the Iguvine state."[5]


  1. Umbrian at MultiTree on the Linguist List
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Umbrian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Colby, Frank Moore; Williams, Talcott, eds. (1922). "Italic languages". The New International Encyclopedia. Volume 12. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 459.
  4. Buck 1904, p. 7
  5. Fortson, Benjamin W. (2010). Indo-European Language and Culture. An Introduction. Second edition, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, p.299.


Further reading

  • Buck, Carl Darling. 1979. A Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian: With a Collection of Inscriptions and a Glossary. Hildesheim: Olms.
  • ————. 2001. A Vocabulary of Umbrian: Including the Umbrian Glosses. Bristol, PA: Evolution Publishing.
  • Clackson, James. 2015. "Subgrouping in the Sabellian Branch of Indo‐European." Transactions of the Philological Society 113 (1): 4–37.
  • Poultney, James. 1959. The bronze tables of Iguvium. Philological Monographs 18. Baltimore: American Philological Association.
  • Weiss, Michael L. 2010. Language and Ritual In Sabellic Italy: The Ritual Complex of the Third and the Fourth Tabulae Iguvinae. Leiden: Brill.
  • Hare, JB (2005). "Umbrian". Wordgumbo. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
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