Over the years, ITC has developed a strong network of translators whose native language is Icelandic. These linguists have passed several rounds of tests and are evaluated regularly. In addition, the ITC project managers have drawn up language guides to help translators follow the specific rules that apply to Icelandic.


people speak Icelandic as their mother tongue

32 letters

make up the Icelandic alphabet

4 letters

don’t exist in Icelandic: c, w, q and z

History of the language: translation into Icelandic

Icelandic is the language spoken in Iceland, a northern island country located between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. With an area of 103,000 km2 but only 330,000 inhabitants, it’s the least densely populated country in Europe. Its capital, Reykjavik, is the northernmost capital in the world for a sovereign state. The colonization of Iceland began in the ninth century A.D., and the territory was considered completely colonized at the dawn of the new millennium. Most of the settlers came from western Norway, although many slaves and settlers were also of Gaelic origin. Although some Icelandic words seem to have originated from Gaelic, the latter seems to have had less influence on the predominant language of the new community, which was a western dialect of Old Norse.

The oldest preserved Icelandic texts were written in the 12th century. In its written form, the language has undergone some changes over the centuries but they are fairly minimal compared to other Northern Germanic languages. However, pronunciation has changed considerably, especially since the significant vocal change that took place between the 12th and 16th centuries. The centuries of Danish colonial rule (Iceland gained independence in 1944) affected the language only slightly, except for a few borrowed words.

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Specific features of the Icelandic language

Icelandic is a highly inflected language with four cases (nominative, accusative, dative and genitive) and three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine and neuter). Nouns, adjectives and pronouns are declined in the four cases, and for number in the singular and plural, while verbs are conjugated for tense, mood, person, number and voice. The Icelandic alphabet is a Latin alphabet with 32 letters. These include the consonants Ð (anglicized as eth or edh) and Þ (or thorn), the latter of which is no longer used in any other living language.

Largely due to the linguistic purism movement started in the early 19th century (fueled by Romanticism and the Icelandic national movement), there has been a concerted effort to keep foreign words out of the language, instead creating new vocabulary to reflect the evolution of new concepts and technology by forming new words out of Old Norse roots or recycling archaic words and giving them new meaning. As a result, many “international” terms (such as “computer” or “radio”) that have been incorporated into a number of languages cannot be found in modern Icelandic, having been replaced by Icelandic neologisms.