Machu Picchu
177 articles
The Quechua
Click to rate article

Quechua, language of the Incas

Quechua is the language of the Incas and the native language of greatest use in South America, extended from northern Argentina to southern Colombia, encompassing the present territories of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia . The chronicler Bernabé Cobo argued that more than 2,000 dialects were spoken in the Tahuantinsuyo empire; Guamán Poma named 15 languages.

Currently, studies indicate that there were many languages in the Empire of the Incas . The Chachapoyas had their own language, also the Conchucos, the Huancas, the Cholonas of the Hoya del Huallaga, the Huánucos, Yauyos, Lucanas Chancas, Pocras, Collas, the towns of Quito, Chile and Tucumán, etc. However, there is a more relevant language than all of the above; The Quechua or Runa Simi (mouth of man), was the most widespread language in the Inca Empire and is spoken today in countries such as Peru and Bolivia; And in case you knew it, there are more than 12 million Quechua-speaking people in South America. A language that far from disappearing, made new roots.

Quechua Inca language
Representation of the Inca
  1. Origin of the language Quechua (Rune Simi)
  2. The Quechua Language in Ancient Peru
  3. Quechua and the extirpadores of idolatries
  4. Quechua Literature
  5. The first books in Quechua language
  6. Quechua in the 19th and 20th Centuries
  7. Quechua today
  8. How is the language Quechua (Rune Simi)?
  9. Learn something Quechua for your trip to Machu Picchu in Cusco
  1. Origin of the language Quechua (Runa Simi)

  2. The Runa Simi or Quechua is born on the central coast of the Lima region. Spreading from there to Cusco and all the Sacred Valley of the Incas , expanding next to the empire of the Incas . The victors imposed their language as a unifying force, thus arising the language of state. The term Runa Simi was changed to “Kichua” or “Quechua”, in the work “Art and vocabulary of the general language of Peru called Quichua” , written by Fray Domingo de Santo Tomas in the 16th century.   TOP ▲

  3. The Quechua Language in Ancient Peru

  4. Quechua was spoken from the territory of Caral culture in Lima, to all Tahuantinsuyo, are the descendants of the Caral culture, who become patriarchs of the different Quechua ethnic groups, such as Chavín, Lima, Moche Wari and Nazca; By the south, the K’anas, Chunpiwillkas, Qanchis, Ayarmakas and others. To the Cusco region, Quechua arrives with the Yauris, the Chunpiwillkas, and the Canchis.   TOP ▲

  5. The quechua and the extirpadores of idolatries

  6. Catholic missionaries used Quechua and other languages spoken in the empire of the Incas to impart the new religious doctrine in the new world ; Religious manuals were written in the most important languages of the empire, such as Aymara, Mochica or Guarani. Thus it was that the Spaniards rapidly increased their power over the people of the empire.   TOP ▲

  7. The first books in Quechua language

  8. It is said that Fray Domingo de Santo Tomas (Dominican friar) was the first missionary to learn the Quechua language . During his evangelizing work in Peru, he published the first two works in Quechua, “the grammar or art of the general language of the Indians of the kingdoms of Peru” and “Lexicón “ (vocabulary of the general language of Peru).
      TOP ▲

    Quechua Inca language
    First Quechua Book “Lexicon” by Fray Domingo de Santo Tomas

  9. Quechua Literature

  10. In 1680 the so-called golden century of Quechua (Southern) literature began. In this period the drama Ollantay was written. After the defeat of Tupac Amaru II (1781), the use of garments and native languages, as well as any manifestation of the customs or forms of life, different from those of the invaders, are forbidden. By causing the decline of the Andean elites and generating a social stigma against the language, but without making it disappear completely.   TOP ▲

  11. The quechua in the 19th and 20th Centuries

  12. During the rubber fever, Quechua is established as the main language in the northern jungle; After the War of the Pacific, the resurgence of Andean elites was favored, especially in the City of Cusco , where there is the resurgence of Quechua theater. By the twentieth century, the theater gave way to poetry and modern scientific studies of the Quechua language. The Quechua language was vindicated, and its employment began again in May 1975.

    In 1950, there was an accelerated process of replacing indigenous languages with Castilian (mother tongue of Latin America). In the twentieth century, Quechua was also officialized in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador . In addition, Bilingual Intercultural Education programs were implemented (until then, state instruction was given only in Spanish). In 1970 Ricardo Palma University established the teaching of the Quechua language in the Faculty of Modern Languages . At the end of century XX already had the works like Trilce and the Quijote, in Quechua.   TOP ▲

  13. Quechua today

  14. Quechua is spoken in the western part of South America; And is, along with Spanish, the official language in countries like Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina . It is used in the Andean region, especially where indigenous communities are settled and in Chile in San Pedro de Atacama. While in Argentina, Quechua is widely spoken in the province of Santiago del Estero. Quechua has become so popular among its own and strangers that it even has its own quechua search engine on Google.   TOP ▲

  15. How is the language Quechua (Rune Simi)?

  16. It is a very expressive language, showing affection, appreciation and confidence. Quechua is energetic when it comes to denying, warning or drawing attention.


    • Onomatopoeic: Quechua voices are born from natural noises, such as the sounds of wind, the running of water, the trilling of birds, etc.
    • Polysynthetic: It is said thus, since adding a morpheme or suffix to a lexeme or root word, other words are born.
    • Polysemic: A large number of Quechua words have two or more meanings.   TOP ▲

  17. Learn something Quechua for your trip to Machu Picchu in Cusco

  18. Do not miss the opportunity to learn something from Quechua. You will be proud to know something of the language of the Incas, even if only a few words. Learning a few words in Quechua, will allow you a much broader and deeper view of culture on your trip to Machu Picchu in Cusco , way of life, ideas and sense of humor of the Andean peoples.   TOP ▲

    Here are some Quechua phrases that might be useful:

    • Hi – Rimaykullayki / Napaykullayki
    • How are you? – Allillanchu?
    • Fine and you? – Allillanmi, Qamri?
    • What’s your name? – Imataq sutiyki?
    • My name is … – Sutiymi kan …
    • Ñuturuna – A very small person
    • Rupaqsiki – A woman of good appearance (although not necessarily a compliment)
    • Uya Iskay – Two faces
    • Opauya – Face of an idiot
    •   TOP ▲

    Quechua Inca language
    The Quechua Language spread in all four Suyos

    Many linguists agree that there is probably no other language in the world that can express so many states of mind with a single verb, with expressions with many degrees of sweetness, tenderness, passion, anger or disdain.



By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, March 26, 2019