Romanian (obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; autonym: limba română ( listen), "the Romanian language", or românește, lit. "in Romanian") is an East Romance language spoken by approximately 24–26 million people as a native language, primarily in Romania and Moldova, and by another 4 million people as a second language. It has official status in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. In addition, it is also one of the official languages of the European Union.
Romanian is a part of the Balkan-Romance group that evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin separated from the Western Romance during the 5th–8th centuries. To distinguish it within that group in comparative linguistics it is called Daco-Romanian as opposed to its closest relatives, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian.
Furthermore, numerous immigrant Romanian speakers are also scattered across many other regions and countries worldwide, most notably Italy, the Iberian peninsula (both in Spain and Portugal), the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), the British Isles (both in the United Kingdom as well as in Ireland), Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), North America (most notably in the United States but also in Canada), and Oceania (mainly Australia and New Zealand).
Romanian descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken in the Roman provinces of Southeastern Europe. Roman inscriptions show that Latin was primarily used to the north of the so-called Jireček Line (a hypothetical boundary between the predominantly Latin- and Greek-speaking territories of the Balkan Peninsula in the Roman Empire), but the exact territory where Proto-Romanian (or Common Romanian) developed cannot certainly be determined. Most regions where Romanian is now widely spoken—Bessarabia, Bukovina, Crișana, Maramureș, Moldova, and significant parts of Muntenia—were not incorporated in the Roman Empire. Other regions—Banat, western Muntenia, Oltenia and Transylvania—formed the Roman province of Dacia Traiana for about 170 years. According to the "continuity" theory, modern Romanian is the direct descendant of the Latin dialect of Dacia Traiana and developed primarily in the lands now forming Romania; the concurring "immigrationist" theory maintains that Proto-Romanian was spoken in the lands to the south of the Danube and Romanian-speakers settled in most parts of modern Romania only centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Most scholars agree that two major dialects developed from Common Romanian by the 10th century. Daco-Romanian (the official language of Romania and Moldova) and Istro-Romanian (a language spoken by no more than 2,000 people in Istria) descended from the northern dialect. Two other languages, Aromanian and Megleno-Romanian, developed from the southern version of Common Romanian. These two languages are now spoken in lands to the south of the Jireček Line.
The use of the denomination Romanian (română) for the language and use of the demonym Romanians (Români) for speakers of this language predates the foundation of the modern Romanian state. Although the followers of the former Romanian voievodships used to designate themselves as "Ardeleni" (or "Ungureni"), "Moldoveni" or "Munteni", the name of "rumână" or "rumâniască" for the Romanian language itself is attested earlier, during the 16th century, by various foreign travellers into the Carpathian Romance-speaking space, as well as in other historical documents written in Romanian at that time such as Cronicile Țării Moldovei (The Chronicles of the land of Moldova) by Grigore Ureche.