Language is surprisingly important in Dungeons & Dragons, even if most DMs don’t talk about it much. Of course, if you’re playing a character whose native language is something other than Common, you might try to give them an accent of some sort, but there are plenty of mechanical reasons to know other languages too.
Table of Contents
List of Languages
One important thing to keep in mind is that while the Player’s Handbook and other guides often give a small description of each language, you need not interpret it that way. For example, a DM might rule that Primordial sounds like Hebrew, even though there is nothing in the text to support that since players have a real-life example to draw from. Or that Elvish sounds like French. Whatever makes it easy to recognize in-game works best.
- Abyssal- spoken primarily by fiends or demons.
- Celestial- the tongue of the angels and aasimar.
- Common- the lingua franca of D&D. Whenever people are speaking, and you can understand them, this is probably what you’re hearing.
- Daelkyr- spoken by the Daelkyr. From Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
- Deep Speech- spoken by aberrations.
- Draconic- spoken by Dragonborn, dragons, and kobolds, and often used in ancient texts.
- Druidic- spoken solely by Druids. It is kept a secret from outsiders.
- Dwarvish- spoken by dwarves of all kinds.
- Elvish- spoken by elves of all kinds.
- Giant- spoken by giants and goliaths. Doesn’t have its own system of writing and relies on Dwarvish.
- Gith- spoken by Githyanki and Githzerai. From Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse.
- Gnomish- spoken by gnomes of all kinds.
- Goblin- spoken by goblins and hobgoblins.
- Hadozee- spoken by the Hadozee. From Spelljammer: Adventures in Space.
- Halfling- spoken by halflings of all kinds.
- Infernal- spoken primarily by devils and tieflings.
- Kraul- spoken by the Kraul. From the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica.
- Leonin- spoken by the Leonin. From Mythic Odysseys of Theros.
- Loxodon- spoken by the Loxodon. From the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica.
- Marquesian- spoken by the inhabitants of Marquet. From the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.
- Minotaur- spoken by minotaurs. From Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse.
- Naush- spoken by the Ki’Nau living along the Menagerie Coast. From the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.
- Orc- spoken by orcs.
- Primordial- the common tongue of elementals. Sometimes also spoken by druids because of their powerful connections to the world.
- Quori- spoken by the Kalashtar. From Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
- Riedran- the common tongue of the continent of Sarlona. From Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
- Sylvan- primarily spoken by fairies, satyrs, and other fey who hail from the Feywild. Elvish is similar, but not intelligible.
- Thieves’ Cant- not precisely a language so much as pidgin Common. Think of Cockney Rhyming Slang for a real-world example. It’s specific to Rogues and other people who join gangs or need to communicate secretly, but the concepts aren’t particularly advanced.
- Thri-keen- spoken by the Thri-keen. From Spelljammer: Adventures in Space.
- Undercommon- spoken by drow, duergar, deep gnomes, and other creatures who hail from the Underdark.
- Vedalken- spoken by the Vedalken. From the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica.
- Zemnian- originates from the Zemnian Fields in the Dwendalian Empire. From the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.
How Do You Learn Them?
There are a few primary ways to learn languages in D&D, but we’ll separate them by when they occur. The first type of language learning happens when you initially create your character. Depending on your race, you may find that you start knowing a few tongues in addition to Common. Even if that’s not the case, your background will let you select one or two languages that you begin knowing. Not every background lets you select a language, but most do.
If you’ve already started playing and decide that you want to learn another language, don’t fret! According to Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, you can use your downtime to spend 25gp for every week spent with a tutor learning. It takes a number of weeks equal to 10 – your Intelligence modifier (or plus your Intelligence modifier if it’s negative) to become fluent.
Alternatively, you could take a feat that includes learning a new language. Feats like Fey Teleportation, Linguist, or Prodigy all let you learn a new tongue. However, the Telepathic feat explicitly says that your telepathy is in a language you know, and the target can only understand you if they know that language.
Do You Have To Become A Polyglot?
At this point, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s true that there are numerous spells and class features that overcome language barriers, like comprehend languages, tongues, or the Warlock’s Eyes of the Rune Keeper Eldritch Invocation. If you have telepathic abilities, they may or may not have language constraints.
However, it’s worth remembering that most ways of getting around language barriers need to be activated. That’s fine when your party has uncovered an ancient scroll in a forgotten tomb or has a few hours to haltingly communicate with an NPC, but there are also times when you need to have a common tongue immediately.
For example, someone with the Observant feat can read lips from far away, potentially eavesdropping on crucial conversations. However, you need to understand the language to read lips. Similarly, there are plenty of excellent spells that you’d probably love to cast in combat, but they’ll only work if the target can both hear and understand your words.