Most Popular Languages in Nigeria: Top 10

Nigeria as a country which comprises of different ethnic groups, tribes, cultures and languages. Although, there are some of these languages that are popular in Nigeria as well as their tribes.

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Just in case you are asked, What is the most spoken language in Nigeria?, this post will expose the popular languages in Nigeria and give reasons why they are.

Language is what we use to communicate on a daily basis and it is the only means by which humans can understand each other. There are about 6500 spoken languages in the world according to data made available online.

Nigeria is ranked third on the list of countries in the world that has the most spoken languages. It is not surprising as Nigeria, aside being blessed with numerous natural mineral resources and ethnic groups, also have about 560 spoken Nigerian languages documented already.

While we are aware that the three major languages in Nigeria are Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba respectively, there are other tribes and ethnic groups that exist with their own dialect.

Linguists argue that most Nigerian languages might have gone extinct but we disagree because a country with a population of 200 million isn’t exposed only to English, the official language spoken in Nigeria.

Nigeria, with its vast population of over 160 million people is rich in culture and languages. The English language is the most popular lingua franca of Nigeria but as with many other multi-ethnic nations, Nigeria has a majority of popular languages that are spoken more than the others.

The Top 10 Most Popular Nigerian Languages

1. Hausa

Without any bias, Hausa is the most spoken language in Nigeria and is linked with the Islamic people in Nigeria. Even it is the language used to communicate within the Nigerian army.

It is often said that Hausa is under the Afroasiatic language and has the largest number of speakers with a population of about 19 million natives speaking the language, Hausa is currently the most popular language in Nigeria at the moment.

There are different dialects for the Hausa speaking people as it is tone language that can be differentiated by the consonants and vowels sound. We have the Eastern Hausa called “Guddiri”, while others include Western Hausa, the Southern Hausa and the Kano Hausa, which is the general dialect spoken.

States were Hausa is spoken includes: Sokoto, Kastina, Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara, Bauchi, Kebbi, Jigawa, and Gombe states.

The Hausa language is one of many Nigerian languages that is spoken chiefly by the people of Northern Nigeria. It is noteworthy to state that not everyone from Northern Nigeria is Hausa but the language is spoken and understood by almost everyone in that part of Nigeria.

There are 18.5 million native speakers of Hausa language found in Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, and Gombe states. International radio stations like the BBC, China Radio International and Voice of Russia to broadcast in it.

2. Igbo

Igbo is the second most spoken language in Nigeria with about 23 million natives of Igbo descent.

The Igbo language is a branch of the Niger-Congo language line with a varying degree of high pitch sound and low tones when speaking. This help to differentiate grammatical meanings as opposed to other Nigerian languages.

Since the Igbo speaking tribe are vast, they also have a number of dialects which can be differentiated by accent but understood by the majority that resides in the south eastern region of the country. Some of these Igbo dialects include the Idemili, Owerri, Bende, Ngwa, Umuahia, Onitsha, etc.

States were Igbo is spoken includes: Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo states and some parts of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and some parts of Delta states.

3. Yoruba

Yoruba is the native language of the Yoruba tribe and is the third most popular language in Nigeria. It is spoken by the people from the western part of the country.

Yoruba language is another major language spoken in Nigeria today especially among the south western geopolitical zone of the country. Yoruba is also spoken by parts of Benin and Togo in Western Africa.

The Yorubas are said to have descended from Oduduwa with an estimated population of 20 million people living in the its land. States that makes up the Yoruba land in south-western Nigeria include: Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Lagos, Osun and some parts of Kwara state.

There are also various dialects as indigenes from Ibadan speak differently from those in Ondo or Abeokuta and so on respectively.

States that speaks Yoruba includes Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara, Ekiti and some parts in Kogi State.

4. Fulfulde

Fulfude is mostly spoken by the Fulani tribe found in the Nothern parts of the country. They are mostly cattle rearers and live a normadic life.

Fulani & Fulfulde is another West African language spoken by the Fula people residing in the Northern part of the country and also from Senegal, Cameroon, Sudan nearing the Arab world.

People often confuse them with the Hausas which is not so as they are different from each other. There are also varying dialects for the Fulfulde speakers as the western part use dialect called Pulaar or Poular, while eastern use Fulfulde.

With an estimate of 1 million speakers, places were they are found includes Zaria, Katsina, Kano, Jos, Bororo, Sokoto and Maiduguri.

5. Kanuri

Those who speak this popular Nigerian language are over 7 million in number. Some are Nigerians, others are either Chadians or even Cameroonians.

Kanuri is also not similar to Hausa (the most commonly spoken language in northern Nigeria) in terms of culture and accents.

Those who speak the Kanuri language mainly originated from the Central Saharan tribe.

With about 2.5 speakers, Kanuri is one of Nigeria’s most spoken languages. States were kaniri is spoken includes: Jigawa, Yobe and Borno States.

6. Ijaw

One of the major languages of the Niger delta. It is spoken by about two million people that resides in Delta, Bayelsa and some parts of Ondo and Ekiti states.

7. Pidgin English

On a personal note, i would love to have tagged Pidgin English as the official language of Nigeria because it is virtually spoken by all and sundry in the country.

Pidgin English is a mixture of English and other Nigerian ethnic languages. Well for states that mostly speak pidgin, I would give it to the south south states most especially Warri.

8. Tiv

Tiv is spoken by almost 2 million people in Nigeria, majorly from Benue State and also in Plateau and parts of Taraba state.

9. Ibibio

Mostly spoken in Akwa Ibom by about 1.3 million people. This language is mostly known by those living in Southern part of the country.

10. Edo

Edo is one of the ancient languages in Nigeria and is spoken by the Edo people i.e about one million people. This makes Edo one of the most popular Nigerian language.

The above are the languages mostly spoken in Nigeria but Interestingly, the major languages as we were taught in primary school are Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.


One thing I noticed is that, there has been a decline in the usage of this popular Nigerian languages as it is going extinct due to western influence.

Igbo which is the main language spoken by people originally from South-eastern Nigeria, comprising of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. The language and other igbo languages are also spoken in some parts of Akwa Ibom, Delta and Rivers states.

This is the native language of the Yoruba people chiefly resident in South-western Nigeria. The Yoruba speaking states comprise of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Kwara, and Lagos states and parts of Kogi State.

Fulfulde language is also known as Fulani and it is spoken by cattle pastoralists largely in Northern Nigeria. In Nigeria, there are roughly 1.7 million Fulfude speakers resident in Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Jos plateau, Bororo, Maiduguri and Sokoto.

Kanuri is one of the most spoken languages in Nigeria. It is spoken by the people of Borno, Yobe and Jigawa States.

Ijaw language is spoken by the people in Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo and Ekiti states. There are a number of dialects that have come out of the original language including Arogbo, Egbema, Ikibiri and West Tarairi with about 30 of them being inherently intelligible.

Nigerian Pidgin is a mix of ethnic Nigerian languages and the English language. It is widely spoken by all and sundry in Nigeria and it operates as a kind of lingua franca across the country.

Tiv is spoken by the people in Nigeria located chiefly in Benue State. But it is also widely spoken in Plateau and Taraba states.

Ibibio is chiefly spoken by the people of Akwa Ibom State. It is taught in primary and secondary schools with radio and television programmes available.

Edo language is mainly spoken by the Bini people of Edo State. It is very interesting and can be learned if one is willing to.

Finally, for record purposes, if asked What is the official language spoken in Nigeria? Please its English as we were colonized by the British.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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