In (usually British) English the date "2018/02/13" is pronounced "13th of February, 2018", which corresponds to the DD/MM/YYYY date format. Same thing is true for Russian, for example ("тринадцатое февраля 2018 года").

Are there any European languages that read out dates in a way that directly corresponds to the YYYY/MM/DD date format, i.e. year, then month, then day?

This Wikipedia article says that the YYYY/MM/DD format is used formally in Hungary, Lithuania, Albania, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Montenegro and Sweden. It is not clear whether this format is used coloquially in the languages they speak.

  • 2
    Czech usually writes DD. MMM YYYY and reads in the same order, though YYYY-MM-DD is usually used in IT instead of the former. Feb 13, 2018 at 12:54
  • With regard to written dates, please could you clarify the usage of separators? One clue in how to interpret a string such as 12/06/18 or 18-06-12 is the choice of separator.
    – Rosie F
    Jun 14, 2018 at 7:33
  • Albanian is Day Month Year
    – Marin
    Dec 2, 2018 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


New answer

The comments of A. M. Bittlingmayer convinced me my quick answer based on Wikipedia was insufficient. I then ran a small script through the CLDR (actually a python script using the Babel package) to output a given dates in all included languages and sort out the “Big endian” ones. It confirms my old answer, and completes it. Of course, it is just as good as the CLDR data, and more knowledge of the languages would be needed to validate this. The list below goes beyond Europe, because 1. why not? 2. The borders of Europe are difficult to define, and “big endian” languages in Russia (Uzbek, Chechen). It gives the 'long' date format of CLDR for “”, which is intended to reflect the way it is spoken. The corresponding output for English is “February 19, 2018” (“19 February 2018” for British English).

This list also misses “partially big endian languages”, like Azerbaidjani where January 13, 2012 is 13 yanvar 2012, but January 13 – 14, 2012 is indeed 2012 yanvar 13–14.

European languages

  • Hungarian: 2018. február 19. (checked on Wikipedia, see old answer below)
  • Lithuanian: 2018 m. vasario 19 d. (checked on Wikipedia, see old answer below)
  • Chechen: 2018 февраль 19
  • Inari Sami: 2018 M02 19 (the form seems a bit suspect, but 1. Chinese use the same kind of form, since the month do not have Chinese names, only numbers; 2. Northern Sami seems to be big-endian too, but with month names.)
  • Northern Sami: 2018 guovvamánnu 19
  • Breton: 2018 Cʼhwevrer 19
  • Basque: 2018(e)ko otsailak 19
  • Church Slavic: 2018 феврꙋа́рїа 19

Central Asian Languages (including Asian Russia)

  • Uzbek: 2018 Феврал 19
  • Kyrgyz: 2018 февраль 19
  • Sakha: 2018, Олунньу 19

East Asian Languages

  • Chinese, Cantonese, and Japanese : 2018年2月19日
  • Korean : 2018년 2월 19일
  • Sichuan Yi: 2018 ꑍꆪ 19
  • Dzongkha: སྤྱི་ལོ་2018 ཟླ་གཉིས་པ་ ཚེས་ 19
  • Tibetan: སྤྱི་ལོ་2018 ཟླ་བ་གཉིས་པའི་ཚེས་19
  • Mongolian: 2018 оны 02 сарын 19

South Asian Languages

  • Sinhala: 2018 පෙබරවාරි 19
  • Malayalam: 2018, ഫെബ്രുവരി 19
  • Nepali: 2018 फेब्रुअरी 19
  • Pashto: د 2018 د فبروري 19

American Language

  • Quechua: 2018 Hatun puquy 19

African Languages

  • Ngomba: 2018 Pɛsaŋ Pɛ́pá 19
  • Akan: 2018 Kwakwar-Ɔgyefuo 19
  • Metaʼ: 2018 imeg àbùbì 19
  • Kinyarwanda: 2018 Gashyantare 19

Artificial Auxiliary Languages

  • Esperanto: 2018-februaro-19 (but a quick glance on Wikipedia seems to infirm this)
  • Volapük: 2018 febul 19

Old answer

Hungarian in an example of such a “big endian” European language. See this wikipedia page for example. This wikipedia page in Hungarian uses “1956. október 23-án” for October 23rd, 1956.

Lithuanian also uses a similar format, and this wikipedia page in Lithuanian uses “1990 m. kovo 11 d.” for MArch 11, 1990.

Beyond Europe, this convention is fairly common in East Asia, where it is used in Chinese and Japanese.

According to this map on wikipedia, these languages corresponds to the only European countries where the YMD convention is used exclusively.

Date format by country

Since I know Germans only use DMY colloquially, while this map says both YMD and DMY are used, I guess that DMY there is only “administrative”, and the case might be similar for the other similarly coloured countries.

  • 3
    The way they’re read out. I hope my edit clarifies it: Wile I neither speak Hungarian nor Lithuanian, I doubt strings like “1956. október 23-án” or “1990 m. kovo 11 d.” are supposed to be read out loud in another order. Feb 13, 2018 at 12:59
  • 1
    Among the other agglutinative languages, which seem to be mostly left-branching, there are definitely others. For example Chechen and Azerbaijani Turkish. Feb 13, 2018 at 17:08
  • 1
    By the way, this database gives other examples: Basque 2012(e)ko urtarrila 13, Armenian for year month (2012 թ․ հունվար) but not day, year month. Chechen is not included Feb 14, 2018 at 15:25
  • 1
    For Japanese, the most common way to read dates is using the imperial calendar... which is also big endian except instead of 2017 it's heisei 30 here.
    – virmaior
    Feb 22, 2018 at 12:50
  • 3
    The Swedish official standard is YYYY-MM-DD but in spoken language, it's traditional little-endian "13 februari 2012".
    – tripleee
    Jun 14, 2018 at 10:02

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