Author(s): Christine Wilson Owens

Contributor(s): Tsegazeab Woldetatios, Medical Interpreter at Harborview Medical Center

Date Authored: December 16, 2010

Tigrigna vs. Tigrinya

Two different spellings are commonly used for this term which refers to the language spoken by people of Eritrea and of Tigray province in Ethiopia.  Both Tigrigna and Tigrinya are commonly accepted spellings. 

  • Tigrigna is considered to be the correct spelling, and is the common choice by people who know Italian or who have been exposed to Italian language and cultural influences in Ethiopia and Eritrea.  The ‘g’ in the word gives a clue about how a more accurate pronunciation would sound.
  • Tigrinya is considered also to be an accepted spelling, and is the common choice by people who do not have the Italian language influence, but rather an English influence.     

People from Tigray Province in Ethiopia:

  • Are commonly called Tigrean in the United States.
  • Call themselves Tigraway (singular) and Tigrawot (plural) by Tigrinya-speaking people.
  • Are commonly called Tigre (singular) and Tigroch (plural) by Amharic-speaking people from Ethiopia. 

Other Clarifications

  • Tigrinian is sometimes seen but is not a correct term, and should not be used as a name of the language nor of the people and culture.
  • Tigre, as mentioned above, is the name commonly used by Amharic-speaking people from Ethiopia to describe people from Tigray Province, Ethiopia.  This is not to be confused with the Tigre (sometimes spelled Tegre) peoples living to the north and west of the Eritrean Plateau in Eritrea who culturally and ethnically are related to the Beja of Sudan. Tigre there is used to describe the people who speak Tigre and the language itself. The Tigre language has shared origins with Tigrinya (Tigrigna) from a church language called Geez.
  • Tigrean is a termused in EthnoMed (and in the United States and international community in general) that refers to people and culture from the Tigray province in Ethiopia.  It does not refer to the Tigre ethnic minority group in Eritrea.


Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Eritrea : Overview, 2007, available at: [accessed 16 December 2010]

Tigrigna Teacher
Photo by UNICEF Ethiopia/2019/Tadesse (cc license).