How Many Programming Languages Are There? The Short Answer
According to Wikipedia and other reliable sources, there are about 700 programming languages, including esoteric coding languages.
What Is a Coding Language?
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We need to begin by trying to stake out a definition of the term ‘programming language’. For reasons that will become clear soon, this is an important step in compiling (and interpreting!) a list of programming languages.
One common way of defining a programming language is: ‘an artificial language built so as to allow someone to give instructions to a computer’. Computers can’t understand English, Hindi, or Chinese, and even though some humans technically learn binary, almost none do.
So we need some intermediate way of communicating, which we call ‘programming languages’.
Now, while this may seem straightforward enough, there are lists that make certain important exceptions.
What about Markup and Query Languages?
HTML is a markup language that allows one to annotate content for display in a web browser. Most people don’t consider it a programming language because it doesn’t really contain instructions and doesn’t support basic functionality like conditional statements.
SQL is a query language which allows you to structure a request for data from a database. Query languages work differently from standard programming languages like Python or Ruby, but not so differently that they’re usually excluded from a list of programming languages.
What about Esoteric Languages?
And now we arrive at one of the stranger phenomena to have come out of the programming community: entire languages built around jokes, obsessions, and the overwhelming desire programmer’s feel to push the boundaries of their technology.
Esoteric languages are often actual programming languages which are nevertheless excluded from lists of programming languages because they are not every really intended to be used in development work.
Binary Lambda Calculus is an esoteric language built to be as absolutely dense as possible, with every program written to require the fewest characters. Malbolge was built to be as difficult as possible, with programs that are inherently self-modifying and effects which depend on where an instruction is stored in computer memory.
As is now surely clear, there is more than a little difficulty around pinning down an exact definition of a programming language.
So, How Many Programming Languages Are There?
It really depends on who you ask. On Quora a number of different answers were submitted, with the most upvoted response provided a list of 268, while the second most upvoted response providing a list of almost 700.
So we can say there’s at least a few hundred and maybe as many as a thousand.
Given how quickly new languages, including crazy esoteric ones, are being developed, we may not be able to give a more accurate figure than that.