Geʽez (/ˈɡɛz/;[5][6] ግዕዝ, Gəʿəz IPA: [ˈɡɨʕɨz] (listen), and sometimes referred to in scholarly literature as Classical Ethiopic) is an ancient Ethiopian Semitic language. The language originates from what is now northern Ethiopia and Eritrea.

ግዕዝ Gəʿəz
Native toEthiopia, Eritrea
Extinctbefore 10th century to 14th century[1][2]
Remains in use as a liturgical language.[3]
Geʽez script
Official status
Official language in
Liturgical language of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eritrean Catholic Church,[3] Ethiopian Catholic Church and Beta Israel[4]
Language codes
ISO 639-2gez
ISO 639-3gez
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Drawing of Mary, mother of Jesus, 'with her beloved son,' from a Geʽez manuscript copy of Weddasé Māryām, circa 1875

Today, Geʽez is used as the main liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Catholic Church and Eritrean Catholic Church, and the Beta Israel Jewish community.

The closest living languages to Geʽez are Tigre and Tigrinya with lexical similarity at 71% and 68%, respectively.[7] Most linguists believe that Geʽez does not constitute a common ancestor of modern Ethio-Semitic languages but became a separate language early on from another hypothetical unattested common language.[8][9][10]

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