There is such a dizzying list of coding languages to learn that at one point or another we’ve all wondered: how many programming languages are there? There is an incredible number of computer programming languages that are used by software engineers, web developers, and other computer science professionals. The total number of computer languages that exist is around 9,000.
How Many Computer Languages Are There? The Short Answer
There are about 700 programming languages, including esoteric coding languages. Some sources that only list notable languages still count up to an impressive 245 languages. Another list called HOPL, which claims to include every programming language to ever exist, puts the total number of different programming languages at 8,945.
List of Programming Languages
Rather than take you through all programming languages, we’ve narrowed it down to a top 50 programming languages list. The following list of programming languages includes both popular languages and languages that are historically significant or infamous for one reason or another. The coding languages on this list are used in mobile apps, machine learning, and game development.
What Is a Coding Language?
The first step to figuring out how many programming languages there are is to define ‘programming language.’ This is an important step in compiling a list of programming languages because, just like with human languages, it’s sometimes hard to decide what is different enough to be its own language.
One common way of defining a programming language is: ‘an artificial language built to allow someone to give instructions to a computer.’ Computers can’t understand English, Hindi, or Chinese, and almost no humans learn binary, the base language of computers. So we need some intermediate way of communicating, which we call ‘programming languages.’
These languages are used to write programs, which are complete and functional sets of instructions that computers use to accomplish tasks, like loading a web page, generating statistical analyses, and finding the sum of two numbers.
Why Are There So Many Programming Languages?
Programming languages simplify the computer’s native language of binary. One reason why there are so many programming languages is to vary how close a language is to binary vs human language. There are high-level programming languages that are easier to use, and there are low-level programming languages that are harder to use but give more granular control over the computer.
Another reason why there are so many coding languages is that many coding languages are built for a specific function. There are programming languages made for controlling automated factory machines, designing video games, or even teaching people how to program.
What About Markup and Query Languages?
HTML is a markup language that allows a software developer 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 it doesn’t support basic functionality like conditional statements. It isn’t complex enough to be a general-purpose programming language.
What About Esoteric Languages?
One of the stranger phenomena to have come out of the programming community is esoteric coding languages. These are entire languages built around jokes, obsessions, and the desire to push the boundaries of technology. Esoteric programming languages aren’t used in day-to-day programming jobs, they are a hobby for devoted programmers.
Binary Lambda Calculus is an esoteric coding language built to be as dense as possible, with every program written to require the fewest number of 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 a computer’s memory.
Even though esoteric programming languages are actual programming languages, they are usually excluded from programming language lists because they aren’t used in development work. As you can see, finding one definition of what a programming language is can be a complicated task.
What Are Different Programming Languages Used For?
Different programming languages are used for different kinds of computers. Most people think that computers are limited to desktops and laptops, but there’s a computer in your phone and in your car. There are also computers in spacecraft, inflight entertainment systems on airplanes, ocean-going robots, and some kitchen appliances.
These different computer systems use different coding languages to accomplish a wide range of tasks. Programming languages are being used for robots that care for the elderly, chatbots that can handle customer support, and machine learning systems that can detect landmines, plant crops, solve protein folding problems, generate text, and recognize faces.
Most Used Coding Languages
If you’re new to programming, it’s easy to get lost in long lists of coding languages. You don’t need to learn all of them. You can spend your time studying just a few of the most used programming languages. Though the top five coding languages vary in age, they are all important to understand if you want to be a developer.
This coding language is one of the most commonly used programming languages for web development, and it is easy to learn HTML. The acronym ‘HTML’ stands for ‘hypertext markup language,’ and the language is used for formatting and arranging text in a document. Developers can use HTML to change text position, font, size, and color properties.
Coding basics for HTML are relatively simple because HTML is a static coding language. This means commands can’t be changed while the program is running. HTML is used by complete beginners and experienced coders, making it one of the most used coding languages.
C and C++ are older programming languages that date back to the 1970s. Despite their age, these languages are very useful. Software engineers use C-based code for building computer programs, and developers use this versatile coding language to create a wide variety of products, from simple software to entire operating systems.
Many modern coding languages trace their roots back to C, so learning this foundational language can help you better understand many of the most used programming languages. In fact, one of the most popular C derivatives is the next language on our list.
Our next popular coding language is a member of the C/C++ family. Java ruled software development for decades and is still one of the most used programming languages for desktop applications and mobile applications.
This coding language is popular because of its universal usability. Developers can write code in Java for virtually any device. Java is a great language to master early in your career because it is so versatile. It’s a time-tested general-purpose coding language with scores of online resources for beginners.
Like Java, Python is a terrific general-purpose programming language. It’s an open-source development tool based on the popular Django platform. This versatile code works just as well for simple projects as it does for entire software programs. You’ll find Python in many places, but it’s mostly found in backend applications that require servers and databases to interact.
Of all of the languages on this list, Python is probably the most user-friendly. Python is a natural programming language that you can easily pick up because it was designed to be similar to a spoken language. Python is one of the most used coding languages, and it’s a recommended starting point for anyone who wants to learn their first coding language.
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Like Python, Ruby is a multi-purpose dynamic coding language. It is widely used in web development because of the excellent Ruby on Rails platform, which allows developers to design and manage separate website features easily. Because of its dynamic typing features, it is more beginner-friendly.
PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It’s one of the most popular web development languages in the world. Over 80 percent of websites use PHP today. PHP is used for a wide range of website functions, such as cookies and data management.
Do you prefer Apple products over PCs? If so, you may have wondered which programming languages Apple developers like to use. Apple devices run on unique operating systems (OS) that are largely incompatible with external devices. It’s easier to use an Apple language than to try and force another language to work on macOS. The most used programming language for Apple is Swift.
How Many Programming Languages Are There?
So, how many programming languages are there? It really depends on who you ask. The most commonly accepted source is Wikipedia’s list of 700. However, it’s important to note that really only the 50 most popular languages are in common use today according to the Tiobe index.
Given how quickly new languages are being developed, no one can give an exact total number of programming languages. The picture gets even blurrier when you start including esoteric languages. There are certainly a lot of programming languages out there, but you can build a solid career by mastering a few of the most popular coding languages.
Which Coding Languages Should I Learn?
If you’re looking to start a career in tech, this is an important question. The good news is you don’t need to learn every programming language, and you don’t even need to know how many programming languages there are. You should learn just one or two programming languages to start a career.
Frequently Asked Questions
The first computer programming language was Assembly, which was developed in 1949. However, over half a century earlier, Ada Lovelace wrote an algorithm for her mechanical computer that many historians consider to be the first computer program.
Who uses programming languages?
There is a wide range of tech professionals who use programming languages from web developers to data scientists. Other careers that use programming languages include business analyst, app developer, agriculture scientist, operations research analyst, and web designer.
How many programming languages should I learn to get a job?
It’s a good idea to learn two programming languages to get a job. The good news is that once you learn one programming language, it’s much easier to learn a second. You don’t need to be an expert in more than one language, but listing coding skills in more than one programming language on your resume will help you get a job.
How do different programming languages work together?
Developers sometimes build software using multiple programming languages. They’ll typically use a low-level language to build backend modules and a high-level language for user interface modules. The way these programming languages work together is that the main program will have a command to run one or more scripts written in the other programming language or languages.
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