Maldivian language

ދިވެހި, dhivehiދިވެހިބަސް, dhivehi-bas
Native toThe Maldives,Minicoy Island (Maliku)
Native speakers
340,000 (2012)[1]
Early forms
(Dhives Akuru until the 18th century)
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byDhivehi Academy
Language codes
ISO 639-3div
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Maldivian in Carl Faulmann [de]'s Das Buch der Schrift, 1880

The Maldivian language,[1] whose endonym is Dhivehi[2] or Divehi[3][4] (ދިވެހި, dhivehi or ދިވެހިބަސް, dhivehi-bas, Dhivehi pronunciation: [d̪iˈʋehi]), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the South Asian island country of the Maldives. It has the distinction of being the only Indo-European language whose indegenous area extends to the Southern Hemisphere.[5]

Maldivian language has notable dialects. The standard one being that of capital city Malé. Minicoy which was once a part of Maldives has its own dialect called Maliku bas or Mahl that still retain older Dhivehi features. Maliku bas is mutially intelligble with standard Dhivehi. The greatest variation of the dialect is from the southern atolls Huvadu, Addu and Fuamulak of Maldives. Each of those atolls has its own dialect closely related to each other but very different to the northern atolls. The southern atoll dialects are so distinct that those only speaking northern dialect cannot understand them.[5]

The ethnic endonym for the language, Divehi, is occasionally found in English as Dhivehi (spelled according to the locally used Malé Latin for romanization of the Maldivian language), which is the official spelling as well as the common usage in the Maldives. Maldivian is written in Thaana script.

Maldivian is a descendant of Elu Prakrit and is closely related to Sinhalese, but not mutually intelligible with it. Many languages have influenced the development of Maldivian through the ages. They include Arabic, French, Persian, Portuguese, Hindustani, and English. The English words atoll (a ring of coral islands or reefs) and dhoni (a vessel for inter-atoll navigation) are anglicised forms of the Maldivian words atoḷu and dōni.


The origin of the word "Divehi" is div+vehi meaning "islanders" (from Sanskrit dvīpa). Bas means "language" (from Sanskrit bhāṣā), so Divehi-bas means "Islanders' language". Harry Charles Purvis Bell, one of the first Dhivehi linguists, called it Dives.[6] This was consistent with Maldives, the name of the country, for the -dives of Maldives and the word Divehi have the same root, Old Indo-Aryan dvīpa "island".

Wilhelm Geiger, a German linguist who undertook the first research on Maldivian linguistics in the early 20th century, also called the language Divehi. An h was added to the name of the language— "Dhivehi"— in 1976, when the semi-official transliteration called Malé Latin was developed. Today the spelling with Dh is both common and official usage in the Maldives.