Amharic (ămhârˈĭk) [key], language of Ethiopia belonging to the South Ethiopic group of South Semitic languages, which, in turn, belong to the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languages). The official tongue of Ethiopia since the 14th cent., Amharic is spoken by about 20 million people in that country. Amharic employs a modification of the Ethiopic script (see Ethiopic). The earliest extant texts in Amharic go back to the 14th cent. Amharic has been considerably influenced in its grammar and vocabulary by the nearby Cushitic tongues.
See W. Leslau, Amharic Textbook (1968); C. A. Ferguson, The Ethiopian Language Area (1971); W. Leslau, Concise Amharic Dictionary (1980).