Chibcha language

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Muisca, Muysccubun
Region Central highlands of Colombia
Ethnicity Muisca
Extinct 18th century
  • Chibcha–Motilon
    • Chibcha–Tunebo
      • Chibcha
Language codes
ISO 639-2 chb
ISO 639-3 chb
Glottolog chib1270[1]

Chibcha, also known as Muisca, is an extinct Chibchan language of Colombia, formerly spoken by the Muisca people, a complex indigenous civilization of South America and the present-day Colombian region. Scholars believe the Chibcha language arose in South America and then migrated with people to nearby areas.[2]

As early as 1580 the authorities in Charcas, Quito, and Santa Fe de Bogotá mandated the establishment of schools in native languages and required that priests study these languages before ordination. In 1606 the entire clergy was ordered to provide religious instruction in Chibcha. The Chibcha language declined in the 18th century, however.[3]

In 1770, King Charles III of Spain officially banned use of the language in the region [3] as part of a de-indigenization project. The ban remained in law until Colombia passed its constitution of 1991.

Words of Muysccubun origin are still used in the departments of Cundinamarca of which Bogotá is the capital, and Boyacá. These include curuba (a fruit), toche (a bird), guadua (a bamboo-like plant) and tatacoa (a snake). The Muisca descendants continue many traditional ways, such as the use of certain foods, use of coca for teas and healing rituals, and other aspects of natural ways, which are a deep part of culture here. Chibcha culture flourished in these areas since at least the 7th century BC.[2]

The only public school in Colombia currently teaching Muisca (to about 150 children) is in the town of Cota, about 20 miles by road from Bogotá. The school is named Jizcamox (healing with the hands) in Muisca.[2]

The Chibcha or Muisca called their language Muysccubun. The Spanish called it Chibcha, derived from Chib (staff) and Cha (man), meaning the "Chief of the Community". Chibchacum, the god of agriculture, was punished by the god Bochica and had to hold the earth on his shoulders.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Chibcha". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ a b c Gloria Helena Rey, "The Chibcha Culture – Forgotten, But Still Alive", Colombia, Inter Press Service (IPS) News, 30 Nov 2007, accessed 9 Nov 2010
  3. ^ a b "Chibcha Dictionary and Grammar". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 

Further reading (in Spanish)[edit]

External links[edit]