How many languages in Nigeria: List, states, and details

How many languages in Nigeria: List, states, and details

Did you know Nigeria has a population of over 206 million people who speak different dialects? This nation has numerous ethnic communities with different cultures and traditions. Many people wonder how many languages are in Nigeria. The list is pretty long, but they are divided into a few broad linguistic groups.

how many languages do we have in nigeria
A man and a woman in colourful clothes having a conversation. Photo:, @Askar Abayev (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Nigeria is among the countries with rich traditions. It is inhabited by people from multiple communities. If you wish to know how many languages are in Nigeria, read on.

List of languages in Nigeria and their states

Nigeria is one of the most linguistically diverse countries on planet Earth. The country's official language is English, but it is not most people's mother tongue.

Classification of languages in Nigeria

There are over 250 languages in Nigeria, but they are divided into three main groups, as shown in the table below.

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Main groupSub-groups
Niger-Congo Mande, Kordofanian, Atlantic, Ijoid, Kru, Gur, Adamawa-Ubangi, Kwa, and Benue-Congo
Nilo-Saharan Kanuri, Bagirmi and Zerma
Afro-AsiaticHausa, Margi, and Bade, among others

Major languages in Nigeria

The list of languages in Nigeria is quite long. Some are more widely spoken than others. Below are the most commonly spoken ones and their states.


Hausa is the most commonly spoken dialect in the country and is the largest ethnic group. Hausa people are predominantly Muslim.

About a fifth of the total population in teh country speaks Hausa as the mother tongue. A significant part of the population speaks it as the second tongue.

Hausa people predominantly occupy the northwestern part of the nation. This means they are mostly found in Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, and Sokoto states. The tongue is used for broadcasting on local and international media stations, e.g. BBC Hausa, Africa Magic, and Arewa.

languages in nigeria
Three African women holding a conversation. Photo:, @PICHA Stock
Source: UGC

Igbo/ Ibo

Igbo comes in second on the list of the top 10 languages in Nigeria. About 20 million people speak the Igbo dialect.

Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, and Cyprian Ekwensi are among the prolific writers from this community. They have produced a growing body of literature that preserves the community's rich traditions.

Igbo people are chiefly found in the southeastern part of the country. This means they are mostly found in Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, and Imo states. Others are Bayelsa, Cross River, River State, and Akwa Ibom.


Yoruba is among the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. People from this community are also found in northern Togo and Benin.

There are about 20 million Yoruba people in the 21st century. They are mostly found in the southwestern part of the country. They are found in Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Lagos, Oyo, Kwara, and Osun states. Some parts of Kogi State also speak this dialect.


Fulfulde is also known as Fula or Fulani language. About 65 million people from West Africa use this dialect.

The tongue is mainly used in Kano, Katsina, Jos plateau, Bororo, Zaria, Maiduguri, and Sokoto states. Most people who speak it are Muslim.


There are over 3 million Nigerians who use the Kanuri dialect. Kanuri is mainly spoken mostly in Borno, Gombe, Yobe, and Jigawa states. About 500k others use it as a second tongue.

list of languages in nigeria
A group of young people talking. Photo:, @Monstera
Source: UGC

Ijaw/ Ijo

Ijo is the smallest branch of the Niger-Congo linguistic family, with about two million speakers. These people are primarily found in the narrow coastal Niger River delta region of the nation. They are found in Delta, Ondo Bayelsa, and Ekiti states.

Pidgin English

Pidgin English is a blend of English and ethnic Nigerian languages. Its origin can be traced to the 17th century. It started as a lingua franca for trade between Nigerians and Portuguese merchants.

There about 30 million speakers of this dialect in the country, and it is mostly spoken in the Niger Delta region.


Tiv is a dialect of the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo linguistic family. The Tiv community is mainly found on both sides of the Benue River.

About 2 million people speak this language, and they mainly reside in Benue State. They are also widespread in Nassarawa, Plateau, and Taraba.


Ibibio is a dialect spoken in southeastern part of the country, particularly in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states. The Ibibio community is divided into Efik, Enyong, Eket, Andoni-Ibeno, Anang, and Ibibio proper.


Edo is a dialect spoken by approximately one million people. Most of its native speakers are found in Edo State in the southern part of the country. Members of this community can also be found in Bini, Benin, Oviedo, and Addo.

What are the 3 major languages in Nigeria?
A group of four young men conversing. Photo:, @Mikhail Nilov
Source: UGC

How many tribes are in Nigeria?

There are about 371 tribes in the country. The three largest are Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba.

How many languages are spoken in Nigeria?

Over 520 languages are spoken in the country. Many of them are of the Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Niger-Congo linguistic families.

What are the 3 major languages in Nigeria?

The three major languages in Nigeria are Hausa, Yoruba, and English. English is the official language and is mainly used in urban areas.

Which state has the highest number of languages in Nigeria?

Bauchi State has the highest number of dialects in the country, with 60+ languages. Some are more common than others, and the main ones are Fulfulde and Hausa.

How many languages do we have in Nigeria?

The country has over 500 dialects, making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries.

If you have ever asked yourself how many languages are in Nigeria, we hope you have an answer now. This linguistically diverse nation is home to over 206 million people, and English is its official language.

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