Marathi language

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{{Infobox Language |name=Marathi |nativename=मराठी Marāthī |states=India |region=Maharashtra, parts of Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu |speakers=70 million native speakers
20 million second language speakers |rank=13–17 (native); in a near tie with Korean, Vietnamese, Telugu and Tamil |familycolor=Indo-European |fam2=Indo-Iranian |fam3=Indo-Aryan |fam4=Central zone |nation=Maharashtra State, India |iso1=mr|iso2=mar|iso3=mar|notice=Indic}}

Marathi (मराठी Marāṭhī) is one of the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by the Maharashtrian people of Western India. It serves as the official language of the state of Maharashtra, with roughly ninety million native speakers in this state.

Marathi is at least one thousand years old, and derives its grammar and syntax from the older Sanskrit. The Marathi language is also known as Maharashtri, Maharathi, Malhatee or Marthi.



There is no unanimity amongst scholars about the origin and antiquity of the language. The earliest known written form is on the copper plate of Vijayaditya found in Satara, dated 739 CE. The stone inscription at the feet of Shravanabelgola Gomateshwar - whose first line reads as "Chavundarajen Karaviyalen" (meaning - Built by Chavandaraja, the king), is another old specimen, constructed in 983 CE. Also, an interesting couplet is found in the Jain monk Udyotan Suri's 'Kuvalayamala' in the 8th century, referring to a bazaar where the Marhattes speak Dinnale (Dile - given), Gahille (Ghetale - taken).

Scholars believe that Marathi descended from the Prakrit dialect Maharashtri and was the official language of the Satavahana empire during its early periods. With the patronage of the Satavahana empire based at Pratishthana (now Paithan), Maharashtri became the most widespread Prakrit dialect of its time, and also predominated amongst the three "Dramatic" Prakrits (Sauraseni and Magadhi being the other two). The Marathi spoken under the Yadavas (1180 – 1320) had many words borrowed from Telugu and Kannada. A version of Maharashtri, Jaina Maharashtri, was used in part of the Jain canon. The most famous literature in Maharashtri is the Gathasaptashathi, an anthology of poems collected by the Satavahana Emperor Hala. Maharashtri slowly evolved into Marathi over the course of the 15th and 16th centuries CE.

Marathi came into prominence during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji (16301680) who led the Marathas in an independence struggle against the Muslim sultans of Bijapur and later the Mughal empire. The Marathas later established a loose-knit empire which extended north to Delhi, east to Orissa, and south to Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu excluding the Kingdom of Mysore that successfully kept Maratha advances at bay.

At present, Marathi is spoken extensively in the state of Maharashtra, as well as in the neighboring states. There are active film and music industries in Marathi, as well as an active set of Marathi writers and poets. The Maharashtrian diaspora has spread the language around the world. Presently it is one of the official languages of India which is closest to Sanskrit and shares most of its attributes.


The major dialects, historically, have been:

Other dialects in Marathi include:

Although it is debated whether Konkani is a separate language or a dialect of Marathi, it is very similar to Marathi. In Marathi, the consonant 'L' is abundantly used while in the Varhadii dialect, it is replaced by the letter 'y' which makes it quite distinct. Such phonetic shifts are common in spoken Marathi, and as such, the spoken dialects vary from one region of Maharashtra to another.

Another dialect of Marathi called as "Thanjavur Marathi" is spoken by a wide group of people residing in South India. There is more of a mix of the local language in the marathi that is spoken by these people. This Marathi evolved from the time of occupation of the Marathas in the Southern Region of Tamilnadu viz.,Thanjavur. There is even a huge fort that was built by the Marathas in Thanjavur during their occupation. This fort is a landmark in Thanjavur and a place of tourist interest in South India. This dialect of Marathi is considered to be a very impure form of Marathi and the "real" Maharashtrians in Maharashtra do not even have an idea about the existence of such "Marathi" speaking people in the South. It is noteworthy that more than a lakh of people speak this dialect of Marathi. This marathi speaking population reside mostly in parts of Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

There are also various associations formed by these "Marathi" speaking people in South India. In Chennai there is this association known as "Maratha Education Fund" or MEF in short. In Hyderabad also there exists a similar organisation called as SIMA or the South Indian Maharashtrians Association. These associations provide for a meeting ground for this relatively small group of such "Marathi" speaking people down south to share their culture and also for finding matrimonial matches.

More than 98% of these "thanjavur marathi" speaking people are Hindus. Among this group, there are 2 sects of people viz., the "Smarthas" and the "Madhwas". Anology can be drawn from the 2 sects in Tamil brahmins viz., the "Iyers" and "Iyengars". Smarthas worship Lord Shiva, whereas the Madhwas worship Lord Vishnu. These sects of people have also settled down in other north indian states as well as abroad.

Geographic distribution

Marathi is mainly spoken in Maharashtra and to a good extent in the neighboring states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The Ethnologue states that Marathi is also spoken in Israel and Mauritius.

Official status

Marathi serves as an official language of Maharashtra; the State of Goa also recognizes Marathi as an official language along with Konkani. The Constitution of India recognizes it as one of the twenty-two official languages of the country.


Marathi uses the Devanagari script for writing. Marathi script consists of 16 vowels and 36 consonants making a total of 52 letters. Please visit the Devanagari page for a more accurate pronunciation guide.


अं अः
a aa i ii u uu e ai o au aM aH ru Ru lru lRuu


ka kha ga gha nga
ch chh j jh JN
T Th D Dh N
t th d dh n
p ph b bh m
y r l v sh
क्ष ज्ञ
Sh s h L ksh Dnya

The combination of the vowels with the k series

Script Transliteration Pronunciation
k as in cup, cub
का ka as in cart
कि ki as in kin, kit
की kee as in key
कु ku as in kudos
कू koo as in cool, cook
ke as in ketchup, came, cane
कै kai as in Cairo
को ko as in coat, coal
कौ kow as in cow, Moscow
कं kom as in company
kah No such pronunciation in English
Diactric Marks
Mark name Symbol Alphabets with Marks Pronunciation
kaanaaआ, का, डा, फा, रा, हा, ळा of 'a' as in cart, dark, mark, tar etc.
maatraaके, खे, डे, छे, ळे, ले, मे of 'a' as in make, ket, bet, wet etc
सै, बै, गै, नै, डै, ळै of 'ai' as in cairo etc.
kaanaa + maatraa ओ, गो, छो, णो, दो, शो, षो, हो, लो of 'o' as in dome, toll, coal etc.
सौ, पौ, तौ, झौ, मौ of 'ou' or 'ow' or 'au' as in cow, couch, owl etc.
velaanTeeि कि, घि, जि, टि, धि, भि of 'i' as in kit, ship, pin etc.
गी, ठी, ढी, णी, थी, री of 'ee' or 'ey' as in key, sweep etc.
ukaarकु, ढु, थु, दु, धु, शु, लु of 'u' as in kudos, put, etc.
कू, णू, नू, फू, मू, वू of 'oo' as in root, shoot, cool etc.
visargaअः, ङः, भः, ळः, वः sounds like aH. वः is pronounced as vaH
anusvaarकं, चं, डं, ठं, रं, यं, ज्ञं of 'om' or 'on' or 'an' or 'am' or 'un' or 'um' as in company, conference, campus, wound etc.
halantद् , प् , र् , य् , ह् , त् Incomplete consonants. These are used to create cluster of consonants. As in scarf, dwarf, swan, stamp etc. Where the vowels come after 2 or more consonants.
rukaar कृ, मृ, वृ, नृ, दृ, तृ, हृ of 'ru' as in crude etc.
ardha-chandraकॅ, छॅ, डॅ, धॅ, णॅ, बॅ, नॅ, शॅ, कॉ, रॉ, पॉ of 'a' or 'au' or 'o' or 'ou' as in mat, bat, cap, pot, box etc. Specially for foreign languages words.
chandra-bindu गँ, चँ, टँ, ठँ, पँ, मँ, सँ, टाँ, माँ, जाँ of 'an' or 'am' or 'on' or 'aun' or 'oun' as in gang, mango, pond, composition etc.

Word Formation

Vowels are combined with consonants using special diactric marks to form syllables which are strung together to form a word . Each vowel has a characteristic mark, such as kaana for 'aa', velaantee for 'i' and 'ii', ukar for 'u' and 'uu', single or double matra to indicate 'e, ai, o and au', anuswAr for 'am' and visarga for 'ah'. Syllables which involve 'i' and 'u' are called rhasva (short) which require a short pronunciation whereas syllables involving 'ii' and 'uu' are called deergha (long) forms which require stretched or long pronunciation. There are two separate marks to indicate rhasva' and 'deergha. These are helpful in knowing where the stress lays while pronouncing the word.

Marathi has a complex system to make jodakshare (consonant clusters). When two or more consecutive consonants are followed by a vowel then a jodakshar (cluster) is formed. The pronunciation of such clusters is similar to the English words like stop, scandle, sweet, empty etc.

  • tyaache - त्याचे
  • prastaav - प्रस्ताव
  • vidya - विद्या
  • myaan - म्यान
  • tvaraa- त्वरा
  • mahattva- महत्त्व
  • phakt - फॅक्ट
  • baahulyaa - बाहुल्या

The letter 'r' is most complex when combined with other consonants and there are four different marks in the script depending on the usage. The consonant clusters which are difficult to pronounce are the aspirated forms of N, n and m (mhaNUn, nhAN, kaNheri etc.) and of r,l and v (tarhA, kolhA, kevhA).

Before the use of the printing press, writers in Marathi used a different script called the Modi script -- a cursive script designed for minimising the lifting of pen from paper while writing. However, with the advent of large-scale printing, Modi script fell into disuse, as it proved very difficult for type-setting. (See External Links). The courts in the olden days also used Persian-type scripts under the influence of Muslim and Maratha rulers.


Marathi grammar is somewhat like Hindi or Sanskrit. The most conservative form of Marathi is found in old texts like Chakradhar's Lilacharitra or Dyaneshwar's Dyaneshwari.


Marathi preserves the neuter gender found in Sanskrit. The three genders in Marathi are thus:

  • pullin^ga (male) - पुल्लिंग
  • striilin^ga (female) स्त्रि-लिंग
  • napumsaklin^ga (neuter) नपुंसक-लिंग

Masculine proper nouns usually ends with 'a' or 'u' while feminine proper nouns tend to end with 'aa', 'ii' or 'uu'.


There are three voices in Marathi which are referred to as 'Prayog':

  • Kartarii prayog refers to a sentence construction in which the verb changes according to the subject, which is comparable to the active voice in English.
For example, Raam mhanato (Raam says), Raam aambaa khaato (Raam eats a mango), etc.
  • Karmanii prayog refers to a sentence construction in which the verb changes according to the object, which is like the passive voice in English.
For example, Raamaane aambaa khallaa (Raam ate the mango), Raamaane saangitale (Ram told - which is a Karmanii prayog sentence with an understood object).
  • Bhaave prayog refers to a sentence construction in which the verb does not changes according to either the subject or the object. This is used for imperatives.
For example, Maajha nirop tyaala jaaun saang (Give my message to him).


There are three purushh (or persons):

  • Pratham purushh (First person) includes mi (I), aamhi (We - listener not included) and aapan (We - listener included).
  • Dwitiya purushh (Second person) includes tuu (You) and tumhi (plural you). Tumhi is also used in the singluar to show respect. In rare cases, aapan is used in the place of tumhi, and is considered extremely formal.
  • Trutiya purushh (Third person) includes to (He), tii (She) and te (It). The plural form for the masculine gender is te which (like tumhi) can also be used in the singular to express reverence. The plural for feminine is tyaa and neuter is tee. All of these plural forms are translated as 'they'.

Note: All of the above examples are of object pronouns.

Like Sanskrit (well, almost)

Marathi, alone among the Indo-Aryan languages based on Sanskrit partly preserves the Sanskrit locative case


  • Sanskrit:
    • prabhaat: dawn gR^iha: house
    • prabhaate: at dawn gR^ihe: at/in the house
  • Marathi:
    • pahaaT: dawn ghar: house
    • pahaaTe: at dawn gharI/gharaat/: at/in the house

Parts of speech

Marathi words can be classified in any of the following parts:

  1. Naam (noun -- literally "name"): (Note: The name of a person falls into this category)
  2. Vishesh Naam (proper noun -- literally "special name")
  3. Sarva naam (pronoun -- literally "all name")
  4. VisheshaN (adjective)
  5. Kriya VisheshaN (adverb -- literally "how adjective")
  6. Kriyapad (verb)
  7. Avyay
    • Ubhayanvayi Avyay
    • Shabd Yogi Avyay
    • Keval Prayogi Avyay

Sentence structure

The usual word order in a sentence is Subject Object Verb (SOV); however, because of the extensive declension and conjugation patterns, order can be changed for stess purposes without a loss in meaning (unlike English).


Prepositions in Marathi are indicated through the use of suffixes. These are referred to as vibhaktI pratyay and there are eight such vibhaktI in Marathi. The form of the original word changes when such a suffix is to be attached to the word and the new, modified root is referred to as sAmAnya rUp of the original word. For example, the word ghoDA (a horse) gets transformed into ghODyA- when the suffix -var (on/above) is attached to it to form ghODyavar(on the horse).


Along with Sanskrit derivatives, Marathi uses a number of modified Urdu, Persian and Arabic words, because of the extensive influence of Muslim and Maratha rulers.

Word origins

Marathi has borrowed words from Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, and Portuguese.

  • Khurchee (chair) is derived from the Arabic Kursi (chair).
  • Jaahiraat (advertisement) is derived from the Persian Zaahiraat (advertisement). See Note 1
  • Shiphaaras (recommendation) is derived from the Persian Sifarish (recommendation).
  • Marjee (wish) is derived from the Persian Marzee (wish).
  • Ishq (love), used in rural and theatrical versions of Marathi, is derived from the Persian eshq (love), itself derived from Arabic ‘ishq.
  • Batataa (potato), is derived from the Portuguese for potato
  • Ananas (pineapple), is derived from the Portuguese for pineapple See Note 2
  • Phanna (Generally used to refer to a greedy eating) comes from Fanaah (Finished-destoyed)
  • Niga (Looking after) is derived from he Persian nîgâh (Sight-vision)

A lot of English words are commonly used in conversation having been assimilated into the Marathi vocabulary. These include - pen, pant(meaning trousers), shirt, table, fan, glass (for drinking).

Forming Complex Words

There are also rules(like Sanskrit and German) to join words together to form a complex word. This is referred to as a sandhi (combination). For example, ati+uttam gives the word atyuttam.

The other method of combining words is referred to as samAs (margin) and there are no fixed rules for making a samAs. When the second word starts with a consonant, a sandhi can not be formed, but a samAs can be formed. For example, mIth-bhaakar (salt & bread), udyogpatI (businessman), ashtabhujA (a Hindu goddess with eight hands) etc. There are different names given to each type of samAs.

Counting system

In Marathi, there are distinct names for the numbers 1 to 20 and each multiple of 10, as well as composite ones for those greater than 20.

There are distinct names for 1/4, 1/2, 3/4: 'paava', 'ardhaa', 'pauuNa' respectively. For most fractions greater than 1, the prefixes 'savvaa-', 'saaDe-', 'paavaNe-' are used. Note: There are special names for 3/2 ('diiD') and 5/2 ('aDich').

The powers of 10 are as follows shambhara/she (100), hajaara/sahastra (100), laksha/laakha (1,000), koti (10,000), abja (100,000), kharva (1,000,000), nikharva (10,000,000), parardha (100,000,000).

A positive integer is read by breaking it up from right to left (R->L), into parts each containing 2 digits, the only exception being the second part containing only 1 digit instead of 2. For example, 12,34,567 is read as '12 laksha 34 hajaara 5 she 67.

Some short phrases

Words/phrases Transliteration Meaning
नमस्कार namaskaar Hi/Hello
तुम्ही कसे आहात? tumhee kase aahaat? How do you do?
तुम्हाला भेटून आनंद झाला tumhaalaa bheToon Anand jhaalaa Pleased to meet you
पुन्हा भेटू punhaa bheToo Good Bye (Lit: "We will meet again")
धन्यवाद dhanyavaad Thanks
हो ho Yes
नाही naahee No
नको nako No, I do not want what you are offering
किती kitee How much/ how many
कुठ kuThe Where
कसे kase How
केव्हा kevhaa When
कोण koN Who
काय kaay What
मी mee I, me
तू tu You (singular)
आम्ही aamhee We
तुम्ही tumhee You (plural)

See also

External links

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da:Marathi de:Marathi es:Idioma maratí eo:Marata lingvo fr:Marâthî hi:मराठी भाषा id:Bahasa Marathi kn:ಮರಾಠಿ ka:მარათჰი (ენა) mr:मराठी ms:Bahasa Marathi nl:Marathi ja:マラーティー語 nn:Marathi pl:Język marathi pt:Marata ru:Маратхи sa:मराठी simple:Marathi fi:Marathin kieli sv:Marathi ta:மராத்தி th:ภาษามราฐี zh:马拉地语


  • 1 - 'Zahiraat' looks like an arabic word. The persian word for advertisement is 'Agahi'
  • 2 - 'Ananas' is also used in many other European languages like Italian, Russian etc.