Top 100 Programming Languages

Compiling the top 100 programming languages out there is a herculean task. But we did it in this overview where we’ll see what each of them is about and why you should consider using them.
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Top 100 Programming Languages

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When we set out to compile the top 100 programming languages out there, we had a slight suspicion that we were getting into a herculean task. Though most software engineers around the world mostly work with the same 20 or so languages, there are plenty more – and there are people out there using them!

So, providing an overview of that massive landscape can get daunting, as we quickly found out. How to categorize the top 100 programming languages? Is there some sort of hierarchy? How to decide on the criteria to sort them all? These questions appeared at the drawing board of this article and there was no shortage of answers.

We had to make several compromises. The first and most important one is that we wouldn’t adhere to the hierarchical order. In other words, we’ll list the top 100 programming languages in no particular order, meaning that the fact we discuss C first doesn’t mean that it’s better than Java or Python. 

Then, we decided to use the TIOBE Index to define which programming languages made the cut (we know that there are more programming languages but we had to draw the line somewhere). In case you don’t know it, the TIOBE Index is a well-known programming language index that ranks languages according to their popularity. You can learn more about it in this link

Finally, we had to agree on what a programming language really is. We first agreed upon using Wikipedia’s definition that reads as follows:

A programming language is a formal language comprising a set of instructions that produce various kinds of output. Programming languages are used in computer programming to implement algorithms.

We added to that a rule in the TIOBE Index: they only take into account languages that are Turing complete. Since that made sense to us, we decided to use that as well. It’s highly likely that we won’t miss any of the top 100 languages in the world following those compromises. We are 100% sure that we’ll cover the essential ones and why they are seen as such. 

Now that we got all that out of the way, let’s dive into this overview where we’ll see what each programming language is about and why you should consider using it.

 

The Top 50 Essential Programming Languages

 

  1. C    

A lot of people see C as the most influential programming language ever. It’s hard to argue with that, given how pivotal C has been to C++, C#, Objective C, Java, Python, JavaScript, and many other languages you’ll find below. All those languages borrowed many basic features from C (especially its control structures). C was the first language to work on a higher level, opening the door for the development of complex software with significantly less knowledge.

Fundamental to the reimplementation of Unix since its 4th version, C enjoys justified popularity, thanks to its almost endless possibilities. This general-purpose language is frequently used to build operating systems, language compilers and interpreters, drivers, and utilities. 

 

  1. Java

Java often appears at the top of programming languages rankings thanks to its huge popularity, rooted mainly in one thing: its “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) principle: any compiled Java code can run on any platform that supports Java without having to recompile it first. That’s possible thanks to the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), which runs on a Virtual Machine to provide it with that cross-platform capabilities. 

Combined with the fact that Java is a general-purpose language, that makes it perfect for virtually any development project. In fact, Java is used for a lot of things, from Android apps and web apps to games, big data tools, and even scientific platforms. 

 

  1. Python

A lot of beginners that have gone online to ask which programming language should they learn first hear Python as the first answer. That’s because the language has a strong emphasis on code readability, ease of use, and flexibility. All of that means that beginners can quickly learn it and start working on pretty much any application they can think of.

Though Python can be used to build everything from business applications to games, there are some strong suits for it. For one, the language is frequently used for data analysis, scripting, and scientific research, mainly because it includes a robust set of tools for that. But Python is also great for web app development and even for the creation of AI-based applications. 

 

  1. C++

A successor to C, the idea behind C++’s development was to add higher-level paradigms to C but also keeping the low-level qualities present in it. Since its inception, C++ has evolved quite a lot to include object-oriented, generic, and functional features. C++ is a compiled language that has many compilers to work on many different platforms, thus extending its usability. 

Given its predecessor, C++ boasts notable computing performance, which is the reason why it’s mostly used for system programming and embedded systems. Thus, it’s often used to create device drivers, game engines, image and audio software, telecommunications networks, and interpreters. 

 

  1. C#

Just Like C++, C# is another programming language built on top of C where the major addition was object-oriented capabilities. C# is closely related to Microsoft’s .NET framework since it was initially developed by the Redmond giant as part of its .NET initiative and has now become the primary language for .NET programming

C# is another language that can be used to build close to everything you can think of but it’s perfectly suited to build Windows desktop applications and games. Additionally, you can use it to create web apps as well as mobile applications which can later be used on virtually any mobile device through cross-platform tools like Xamarin. 

 

  1. JavaScript

JavaScript has been a fundamental part of our everyday lives for quite some time now, simply because it’s one of the essential pillars of most websites (along with HTML and CSS). Through JavaScript, web pages can dynamically apply changes to styles, animate menus, validate data entered into a form without refreshing, and much more. Javascript also works for web and mobile app development, as well as server applications and games. 

Most modern websites use JavaScript in some sense or another to control client-side page behaviors. And though it’s mostly a programming language for front-end development, it can be used on the server side as well (with Node.js).

 

  1. PHP

Speaking of the server side, here comes PHP, probably the most popular programming language designed for server-side development. This general-purpose scripting language can collect data from online forms, create dynamic elements for web pages, or handle cookies. Though that is its main goal, PHP can do more than that. 

For instance, PHP is great for command-line scripting to create scripts that only need a PHP parser to run, something nice for simple processing tasks. PHP can also be used for building desktop applications, though you have to really know your way around it to do so. Mastering the language isn’t a utopia, though, as the language has a gentle learning curve which makes it a great option for any newcomer to the programming world. 

 

  1. VB.NET

Though a lot of .NET developers now favor C# for .NET programming, Visual Basic still remains a fairly popular option to do so as well. This multi-paradigm, object-oriented language is the successor of the original Visual Basic, but it offers so much more, especially because it provides full access to .NET libraries but also because it’s easy to understand, is reliable, and it’s highly scalable.

Since VB.NET relies on the .NET framework, you can use this language to quickly create a wide range of Windows and Office applications as well as web and mobile apps. 

 

  1. R

With the rise of data science and statistical software, it’s only natural that a language as laser-focus as R would grow among the development ranks. Thanks to its wide array of libraries, R can implement a lot of statistical and graphical techniques, such as linear and nonlinear modeling, classification, clustering, and many others.

This nature is the main reason why statisticians and data miners use it to build statistical analysis and to create high-quality data visualizations. In fact, R is one of the most popular alternatives for the big data phenomenon, especially because it’s highly expandable through the many packages that are available for it. 

 

  1. SQL

Databases are an integral part of our tech-driven world – and SQL is among the most popular languages used to communicate with them. SQL stands for Structured Query Language and allows developers to create databases with their structures and handle all the data-related tasks that come with it, such as inserting, editing, and querying. 

The popularity of SQL is related to how it gives engineers the ability to use a conventional language to handle relational databases in new IT environments, like cloud-native systems and virtual networks. Thus, SQL is often a default tool to handle the data contained in a conventional database. 

 

  1. Go

Also known as Golang, Go is a Google-designed programming language that’s midway between C and C++. In fact, it’s syntactically similar to C but more sophisticated because of the inclusion of features like garbage collection and structural typing. This brings it closer to C++ although without this programming language’s complexities. 

Originally created for systems programming, Go has evolved and it’s now used for web applications, cloud-based platforms, containerization tools, and even for certain systems within cryptocurrencies. This makes it a great alternative for seasoned developers, though its ease of use is appealing to newbies as well. 

 

  1. Swift 

If you are interested in developing applications for any Apple device, then you’ll need to learn Swift. This programming language was developed by the Cupertino company for iOS, OS X, watchOS, tvOS, and Linux development. It’s primarily inspired by C and Objective-C and C but it has extended compatibility. 

This allows it to work perfectly with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, Apple’s own frameworks as well as with any existing Objective-C code developed for Apple systems. Apart from the fact that this is the programming language for creating Apple apps, it’s also a high-performance, general-purpose language that focuses on safety and (naturally) software design.

 

13 .   Perl

Frequently referred to as “the swiss army knife” of scripting, Perl has been around for almost 4 decades – and it’s still going strong. This high-level, interpreted, dynamic language can run over 100 platforms and it’s a great fit for both prototyping and big development projects. In fact, Perl went beyond its initial purpose (text editing) and it’s now used for a lot of things, including Linux system administration, network programming, and web development, among others.

It’s important to note that sometimes Perl refers to a family of languages, a term that includes Raku (formerly called Perl 6). However, Raku is now a programming language with its own development team and schedule and the original Perl team keeps working on its development.

 

  1.     Assembly language 

Assembly language is the most fundamental programming language around, as it’s a low-level language. This basically means that this language has little to no abstraction from the computer’s own architecture (meaning that the language’s functions are as close to the processor instructions as you can possibly get). That’s why it’s also known as the symbolic machine code.

Assembly code is converted to machine code through a processor called assembler, which runs the resulting code on the processor.  Since assembly depends on the machine instructions themselves, each assembler has its own language, specific to that particular computer architecture. There’s some discussion about assembly language’s value in the modern landscape, but it has a proven worth when optimizing for speed or size, for driver development, or for cases when strict time constraints are in place, such as real-time simulators.

 

  1. Ruby

According to its own official website, “Ruby is a language of careful balance”. They can certainly claim that since the language combines parts of Perl, Smalltalk, Eiffel, Ada, and Lisp to come up with a balanced mix between functional and imperative programming. This interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language is highly flexible since developers can remove or redefine any part of Ruby.

Ruby is mostly used for web application development, especially because of Ruby on Rails, a very popular development framework that provides an MVC (Model View Controller) architecture and encourages the use of web standards. Ruby’s uses don’t end there, though, as it can also be used for data analysis, prototyping, and proof of concepts. 

 

  1.   MATLAB  

MATLAB is another programming language designed with engineers and scientists in mind. It runs on the proprietary platform of the same name and it’s a matrix-based language that allows developers to express complex computational mathematics in the most natural way. Thus, you can work with matrix manipulations, data implementations, and plotting of functions. 

All of that turns MATLAB into the perfect ally for anyone looking to analyze data, develop algorithms, and create math models and applications. In MATLAB’s environment, you’ll find computation and visualization tools that are easy to use and can provide complex outputs through familiar mathematical notation. 

 

  1. Classic Visual Basic

As incredible as it feels, the TIOBE Index still ranks Classic Visual Basic among its top 20 programming languages. That’s really strange, as the programming language was declared legacy by Microsoft back in 2008. However, it seems that there are many developers out there that still use them to keep the necessary legacy systems running. 

Visual Basic used to be a good way to create Microsoft-centered applications using the components provided by its platform (especially after the VB community started developing its own components). However, today, it’s only worth learning for developers that are already familiar with other languages and need this for a very particular project. We expect Classic VB to disappear in the coming years but, hey, we still include it out of respect. 

 

  1. Apache Groovy

This is a fairly new object-oriented language that boasts Java-syntax compatibility and that runs on the Java platform. In a certain sense, you could say that Apache Groovy is similar to Python, Ruby, and Smalltalk, especially because it’s considered both a static and dynamic language. What’s more, since its code is compiled through the Java Virtual Machine, it can interoperate with other Java code and libraries, which extends its power.

 Among its most powerful features, there are scripting capabilities, domain-specific language authoring, metaprogramming, and functional programming. All of that can let us see it as a “Java enhancer” that provides more flexibility and power to Java developers. Thus, any Java project can be retouched through Apache Groovy to increase its performance. 

 

  1. Objective-C

Yet another high-level programming language based on C, Objective-C took it a little further by adding features and syntax from Smalltalk. Thus, we can say it’s a superset of C since any C code can run perfectly in an Objective-C compiler. Objective-C was initially developed as a way to add object-oriented programming to C but has taken a life of its own by now.

Thanks to its capabilities, Objective-C was the main language for developing Mac OSX and iOS applications (in fact, you needed to learn it to create any apps for those systems). With the introduction of Swift by Apple, Objective-C isn’t the only alternative anymore, though it’s still an interesting option. 

 

  1. Rust  

If you regularly check the Stack Overflow’s Developer Surveys, you’ve certainly come across Rust at some point, especially in the “most loved programming language” section. That’s because this multi-paradigm programming language is mainly focused on performance and safety. Rust has a very strict compiler that checks all variables and memory addresses, which leads you to write more effective and idiomatic programs. 

Developers have fallen in love with Rust because of its speed, memory safety, and parallelism. All of those allow engineers to work on a wide range of applications, from game engines and operating systems to browser components and file systems. 

 

Classics, Up-and-coming, and Niche Languages

 

  1. SAS 

This is a specialized programming language whose main goal is to perform statistical data analysis with databases and spreadsheets. SAS compiles the data, analyzes it, and offers the output through several visualization options or text/web-based documents. It’s mainly used in academia and government, given the level of control and freedom it offers to handle huge data loads. 

 

  1. Scratch 

Getting kids interested in programming has become a strategic goal for governments, academics, and businesses alike. That’s why a programming language such as Scratch is so important – this is a free, visual programming language based on Smalltalk targeted to children aged 8 to 16 to educate them in basic programming terms and teach them about systematic reasoning while creating stories, games, and animations. 

 

  1. D

D is a programming language designed to overcome the drawbacks of C (just as C was designed to sophisticate B’s offering). D is basically like C++ in that it’s object-oriented but unlike it, it’s not backward compatible, which helps remove the disadvantages present in C++. 

 

  1. Dart

Dart is another Google-designed language that the company used internally to create web, server, and mobile applications. In a sense, Dart compiles the source code in the same way as JavaScript, though the code has its Dart Virtual Machine. Though it has been around for quite some time, Dart is just starting to get the attention it deserves, mainly because Google introduced Flutter for native Android development – and developers that want to work with it need Dart to get started. 

 

  1. PL/SQL

SQL by itself won’t take you very far when working with databases. That’s why you need a language like PL/SQL, a procedural language that’s a superset of SQL. It builds on top of SQL adding procedural programming features, including basics like conditionals, loops, functions, objects, types, and more. Since it was created by Oracle, it works perfectly with their databases. 

 

  1. Logo

Developers of a certain age surely remember Logo, one of the first programming languages to teach children how to code. A lot of us learned how to write code on a console by providing commands to a small turtle that drew graphics. To some people, Logo is Lisp for kids, even when it has powerful features to create images, multimedia presentations, and games. 

 

  1. Delphi

Also known as Object Pascal, Delphi is both a programming language and an IDE for rapid application development. In fact, Delphi was designed as the successor of Turbo Pascal, a language already noted for its fast compiling times. Delphi, however, added full object-oriented programming to that foundation to become a fantastic alternative for desktop, mobile, web, and console software development

 

  1. COBOL 

Common Business-Oriented Language or COBOL as we all know it, is one of the first high-level programming languages that’s still around today. This imperative, procedural, and object-oriented language is still active mainly to maintain and support existing business, finance, and administrative systems. It’s highly likely that COBOL (like Visual Basic) is seeing its last days but it still has things to offer, especially a surprising mainframe processing speed. 

 

  1. Kotlin

One of the rising stars in the software development sky, Kotlin is a cross-platform, general-purpose programming language that’s Google’s preferred language for Android development. That certainly has boosted its popularity but its benefits have also played an important part. Kotlin is like a more concise version of Java, is highly interoperable with it, has many features, is easy to learn, and is less error-prone. 

 

  1. OpenEdge ABL

This is a business application fourth-generation programming language that offers a high level of abstraction. In fact, the goal of OpenEdge ABL is to be extremely user friendly, providing anything a developer needs for Rapid Application Development. That’s why this language is perfect for prototyping and creating systems with simple interfaces. 

 

  1. Julia

Another young language that’s seeing a rise in popularity, Julia is a high-level and dynamic programming language. It can work well for a wide array of projects but most of its features are a better fit for computational science. Additionally, Julia includes libraries for linear algebra, regular expression matching, and floating-point calculations, which makes it obvious that it’s a great choice for developers working with numerical analysis. 

 

  1. ABAP

The Advanced Business Application Programming language (or ABAP, for short) is a crucial language to create enterprise tools, applications, and systems or SAP software (named like that after the company that created ABAP in the first place). 

 

  1. Scala

Some people say that Scala is like an overhauled version of Java – and they might be just right. That’s because Scala is also object-oriented, compiles to Java bytecode to run on the JVM, and it’s even interoperable with Java, which means that it can use its libraries. Where it differs from Java is in the fact that Scala incorporates features of functional programming, it’s more concise, and has a syntax that’s easier to read. 

 

  1. Transact-SQL 

Also known as T-SQL, Transact-SQL is an extension of SQL developed by Microsoft and Sybase which is used to interact with relational databases. As such, T-SQL is key for developers using Microsoft SQL Server, the database management system created by the Redmond giant. All of the communications with this system are carried out through T-SQL statements, which explains why this language is popular among certain users – it’s practically mandatory! 

 

  1. Scheme 

Some people might say that Scheme is just a Lisp dialect but, to us, it’s a little more than that. True, Scheme may be too minimalist an adaptation of Lisp with a small core and a set of interesting tools. However, this economic approach can also be its strength. In fact, many educators swear by it and some engineers see in Scheme the best possible ally to develop embedded systems and for scripting. 

 

  1. Prolog

Prolog is a very different language to the ones above, mainly because it’s a logic programming language. That means that, unlike a lot of other languages that use procedural logic, Prolog is more about first-order logic, where the underlying logic of a program is expressed in various relations of facts and rules. Thus, the software works by interpreting queries according to these relations. Such an approach is why Prolog is mostly associated with artificial intelligence and NPL projects. 

 

  1. Ada

Ada Lovelace (a.k.a. The enchantress of numbers) is considered to be the creator of the first computer program by a lot of people. Whether that’s true or not, The enchantress certainly inspired a group of french developers that came up with Ada, an object-oriented, high-level programming language extended from Pascal. It might not be the most popular language out there but the french team that created it didn’t aim for popularity but security – especially because the language was commissioned by the US Department of Defense, which is where it finds most of its uses. 

 

  1. Lisp

We’ve mentioned a couple of its offsprings before, so it was about time we talked about Lisp, one of the eldest high-level programming languages still in use. In reality, the name Lisp points to a family of programming languages that share the same roots – the pioneering ideas that Lisp brought to life, such as tree data structures, dynamic typing, recursion, and higher-order functions, to name a few. It has been used for many things throughout the years but its relevance today is explained by the adoption of many AI and machine learning developers as their language of choice. 

 

  1. Apex

Another proprietary programming language, Apex is used by Salesforce to execute flow and transaction control statements and calls to the API in Salesforce servers. It’s an object-oriented language that’s similar to Java and C# that allows Salesforce developers to add business logic to many system-related events. Thus, software engineers that use it do so exclusively because of what Apex can give them in Salesforce. 

 

  1. Lua

Originally designed as a language that pursued the extension of software applications for increased customization, Lua continues to be one of the best languages for that purpose. That’s because it’s a lightweight high-level language that focuses on speed, portability, and ease of use. One of the best things about Lua is that it’s cross-platform, which extends its range of use. 

 

  1. Fortran

It almost feels ridiculous to think that a language that first appeared in 1957 might be around today, more than 60 years later, and still be relevant. Yet, that’s precisely what happens with Fortran, a general-purpose, imperative language developed by IBM with a strong focus on numeric computation and scientific computing. The secret to its relevance and popularity is that Fortran’s foundations are so robust that no other language can show similar performance in computationally intensive tasks such as computational fluid dynamics, geophysics, and finite element analysis. All that explains why Fortran is also used to create programs for benchmarking.

 

  1. Haskell

Another language widely known for the many languages that use it as a basis, Haskell is another general-purpose, multi-paradigm, purely functional language. The “purely functional” part means that Haskell’s functions only depend on their arguments, regardless of their global or local states. That makes it easier to understand, which is why Haskel is mostly used for academic reasons (though there it also has industry-wide uses as well). 

 

  1. Hack

This might not be the most popular language, but Hack was developed by Facebook as a way to extend PHP through the introduction of static typing, new type hints, and enhancing the use of type hints. In that sense, Hack is an implementation of PHP that lets developers use both dynamic and static typing through a system called gradual typing. 

 

  1. VBScript

Yet another proprietary language created by Microsoft that’s based on Visual Basic, VBScript was the company’s alternative to JavaScript for web developers. Naturally, JavaScript’s dominance left it without much room, so this scripting language found a niche in the development of applications and systems within Microsoft environments. Thus, VBScript is used for systems administrators, unit testers, developers of embedded applications, and macro development for Microsoft apps. 

 

  1. Visual FoxPro

Though Microsoft released its final version back in 2007, Visual FoxPro still has an active community that still sees the language as a valuable asset for database application development. True, you won’t find many new applications that use Visual FoxPro as their language of choice, but there are plenty of legacy platforms available written in it that perform well and need to be maintained. 

 

  1. TypeScript

Microsoft adds another language to this list with TypeScript, a superset of JavaScript that adds optional static typing to the language. That means that any existing application written in JavaScript can be worked through this programming language. The idea behind the development of this language is to provide developers with the possibility to build JavaScript applications for both client and server-side execution as well as to allow the development of large applications. 

 

  1. AWK 

Here’s another language that was developed in the 70s that’s still around. AWK is a domain-specific language that consists of a set of actions that are carried out against streams of texts. Its goal – to process those texts to extract information or transform them into a different output. This makes AWK a fairly limited programming language but it’s a nice addition to any toolkit, especially for those that work with large amounts of texts.

 

  1. ActionScript

The TIOBE Index shows that there still is some interest in ActionScript, a programming language that you could say it’s another superset of JavaScript. And that’s a surprising thing, mainly because ActionScript’s purpose was the development of website and software with Adobe Flash Player components. As you might recall, Flash was a crucial element of the web some time ago, as it provided animations and interactive elements that couldn’t be done otherwise. However, with the arrival of HTML5, Flash fell from grace and now it’s mostly shunned. Basically, this all means that ActionScript is another one of those languages that will be gone sooner rather than later. 

 

  1. Tcl 

Pronounced “tickle”, Tcl is a high-level, general-purpose language that is as simple as you can possibly get. In this language, everything is a command, even control structures such as “for” and “if”. This means that a developer can tweak pretty much anything they want through several commands, which provides them with a lot of power and flexibility. Those traits are what turned Tcl into an ally for developers working on rapid prototyping, scripted applications, and testing

 

  1. Smalltalk

Smalltalk is a very influential programming language that helped shape the model–view–controller (MVC) pattern for user interface design and fostered a new era in GUIs. However, even for all its pivotal relevance, Smalltalk has been gradually abandoned by most developers and it’s only used by a small community that swears by it. A significant reason why Smalltalk is used today is because of the release of development frameworks for it, especially Seaside, a framework that makes it easy for you to create web apps. 

 

Other 50 Languages Worth Mentioning

Aside from all the programming languages mentioned above (from the well-known to the classics, the upcomers, and the almost goners, there are many other languages out there that are worth knowing about. Sure, they might not have the biggest communities, a wide array of applications, or the biggest brands investing in them. However, they have interesting things for themselves, which is why we’re including them here.

 

  1. ABC

A general-purpose programming language and IDE, ABC is an alternative to BASIC, Pascal, or AWK, developed for teaching and prototyping. ABC was highly influential in Python’s design. 

 

  1. Alice

A dialect of Standard ML, this visual programming language uses 3D objects and point-and-click logic to teach basic programming concepts to new students and kids. 

 

  1. APL

APL stands for “A Programming Language” but don’t let that simplicity in the name fool you. APL is one of the most peculiar languages in the market, mainly because it uses a wide range of special graphic symbols for its functions and operators. Today, it’s mostly used for commercial and scientific purposes. 

 

  1. AutoLISP

Another member of the Lisp family, AutoLISP is a dialect of that language developed specifically to work within AutoCAD and several of its derivative platforms. That’s why it’s almost exclusively focused on geometry. 

 

  1. Bash

Bash (or Bourne Again Shell) is an sh-compatible command language that runs on a window where the user inputs commands to execute actions. Since its release, it has been used as the default login shell for a majority of Linux distributions. 

 

  1. bc

bc stands for “basic calculator” (or “bench calculator”, depending on who you ask) and it’s an arbitrary-precision calculator language that’s used for mathematical scripting, given that its calculations are performed with numbers whose digits of precision are only limited by available memory. 

 

  1. Bourne shell

Remember how Bash stood for “Bourne Again Shell”? This is the Bourne shell on which that pun lies on. That means that this is very similar to Bash in that it interprets and executes commands and provides programming abilities based on them.

 

  1. C shell

Here’s another shell, which means that C shell also runs from a window and executes user commands. The main difference is that the C shell is easier and faster to use, thanks to the language’s style, which resembles C, making it more readable. 

 

  1. Clipper

Clipper is a compiler that works to extend software that was originally created to work in MS-DOS through variants of xBase. A rather powerful general-purpose programming language, it was mostly used for database and business programs. 

 

  1. Clojure

Clojure is another general-purpose programming language that combines the approach of scripting languages with a solid infrastructure for multithreaded programming. A dialect of Lisp, it has been seeing a rise in popularity in recent years, thanks to its use in creative computing and the advocacy of several thought leaders. 

 

  1. CoffeeScript

CoffeeScript’s main rule is “it’s just JavaScript” (which might feel odd, because it isn’t precisely JavaScript). That means that CoffeeScript is a small language that compiles to JavaScript and that seeks to streamline the code while also getting rid of the interpretation at runtime. 

 

  1. Common Lisp

Yet another dialect of Lisp, Common Lisp is an improvement over its successor, Maclisp. Common Lisp’s objective was to unify and standardize different Maclisp dialects into a general-purpose programming language that combined procedural, functional, and object-oriented paradigms. 

 

  1. Crystal

A general-purpose, object-oriented language, Crystal was inspired by Ruby and developed to have its productivity and combine it with the speed and efficiency of compiled languages. Thus, it’s a good alternative for Ruby developers looking for increased performance. 

 

  1. cT

This is an algorithmic language similar to C, Fortran, and Pascal but with a stronger focus on multimedia. Thus, cT includes increased support for color graphics, mouse interactions, and video. It was a good alternative for developing multimedia programs across different platforms, but it was pushed aside in favor of VPython. 

 

  1. Elixir

Elixir is a general-purpose language that runs on BEAM, Erlang’s virtual machine. That’s because Elixir is based on Erlang and has the same abstractions. The difference is that Elixir provides you a more productive tooling and extensible design. 

 

  1. Emacs Lisp

As you might have guessed, Emacs Lisp is a Lisp dialect that’s used as a scripting language for Emacs, a text editor. In a sense, Emacs Lisp is close to Maclisp and even shows some influence from Common Lisp, which is why it’s used to customize and extend Emacs. 

 

  1. Erlang

Erlang is a general-purpose language originally created to develop telecom applications but that’s now used as a way to build concurrent applications. With this highly-scalable, functional language you can create telecom tools, web apps, distributed computing, and any other solution that requires handling multiple simultaneous inputs. 

 

  1. Euphoria

Euphoria is a general-purpose imperative-procedural language that focuses on simplicity, legibility, and rapid development. This allows Euphoria to handle dynamic sets of data easily, which is why it’s used for string and image processing, artificial intelligence, and mathematical studies. 

 

  1. F#

This general-purpose, cross-platform language was created by Microsoft with efficiency as its main goal. After reaching open-source status, F# gained certain popularity and you can now use it for enterprise programming, data science, machine learning, cloud computing, math and stats, and other related fields. 

 

  1. Forth

This is a procedural language without type checking that features interactive execution of commands and offers the possibility to compile sequences of commands for later use. Forth is mostly used in embedded systems that require interaction with hardware. 

 

  1. Genie 

Genie is a fairly new high-level language that was developed as an alternative to the Vala compiler in search of a simpler and cleaner dialect. In fact, you can say that both Genie and Vala are pretty much alike since their only differences lie on their syntax. Thus, Genie is closer to modern languages like Python and Delphi.

 

  1. Icon

Labeled “a very high-level language” by some people, Icon is focused on making it easy to process strings and structures while providing you with high-level graphic possibilities. The syntax is extremely easy to use given its abstraction level, which makes it perfect for creating short and concise programs in the fields of text analysis, document formatting, and data laundry.

 

  1. IDL

Standing for Interactive Data Language, IDL is a language mainly focused on data analysis and visualization. It shares syntax with PV-Wave and it’s somewhat of a niche language, as it’s mostly used in astronomy, atmospheric physics, and medical imaging. 

 

  1. Inform

Inform is a peculiar language that powers interactive fiction works. It’s an object-oriented and procedural language that provides the necessary structures to create objects that you can combine to create the narrative of your stories. 

 

  1. Io

Io is an object-oriented language partly inspired by Smalltalk, Lua, and Lisp. Its philosophy is to explore conceptual unification and dynamic languages, which is why Io is more about simplicity and flexibility rather than performance. 

 

  1. Korn shell

Here’s another Unix shell based on the Bourne shell but it also includes features from the C shell. Thus, Korn shell is a combination of the two most popular shells and it’s also the easiest one to use, which is why newcomers tend to use it, especially in commercial environments. 

 

  1. LabVIEW

LabVIEW is a graphical dataflow language, which means that you build applications by stringing together a set of routines represented by images. It was designed for interfacing with measurement and control devices through simple code, which allows you to build complex tools without having to write a single line. 

 

  1. Ladder Logic

The name “Ladder logic” was once used to refer to a method of documentation of the design and construction of relay racks through interconnected symbols. That principle evolved into this language, which presents an application with a graphical diagram. That’s why Ladder Logic is mostly used in industrial control applications. 

 

  1. LiveCode

LiveCode is a natural expressive language with a strong focus on readability. Its developers promise that you’ll write up to 90% less code with it, thanks to its English-like, object-oriented nature. That doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful, as LiveCode has been used to create AI, big data, and cryptography apps.

 

  1. Maple

Maple is both a symbolic and numeric environment and a multi-paradigm language. Through it, you can design powerful applications capable of dealing with symbolic mathematics, numerical analysis, data processing, and visualization, among others. 

 

  1. Mercury

This is a functional logic language that has a purely declarative logic. In that sense, Mercury is related to Prolog and Haskell and, in fact, can be seen as a subset of the former, albeit with strong types and modes. 

 

  1. ML

ML stands for “Meta Language” a name that indicates its main focus – programming language research. That’s possible thanks to its use of the Hindley-Milner type system, which automatically assigns types without requiring explicit annotations, all while ensuring type safety.

 

  1. MQL4

MQL4 is a high-level, object-oriented language based on C++ and a strong focus on flexibility. That’s what allows it to develop complex programs with a huge number of calculations. This, in combination with built-in functions for managing trading orders, is what explains why this language is mostly used for trading robots, indicators, scripts, and libraries for the MetaTrader 4 platform. 

 

  1. NATURAL

NATURAL is another proprietary fourth-generation language that is structured and less procedural than other conventional languages. It creates its programs in the system of the same name and can run them both interpretatively or executed as compiled objects. It was developed to work with Adabas, a database package that’s still widely used. 

 

  1. NXT-G

This is another graphical programming language that was built to program with the LEGO Mindstorms NXT robotics kit. Through a drag-and-drop environment, you can arrange function blocks and “sequence beams” to control the flow of the program. It’s a good way to introduce kids to programming and even for newcomers in the robotics field because it can manage components beyond LEGO-manufactured ones.  

 

  1. OpenCL

Some might say that OpenCL is a framework rather than a language, but we stand by the TIOBE Index selection. Through it, it’s possible to create programs that can be executed across many platforms consisting of CPUs, GPUs, DSPs, FPGAs, and other processors and accelerators. It provides a standard interface for parallel computing of accelerators found in cloud servers, mobile devices, embedded platforms, and more. 

 

  1. Oz

A multi-paradigm language, Oz is mostly used for teaching programming. It contains most of the aspects you’d find in the most popular programming paradigms, such as logic, functional, imperative, object-oriented, and concurrent programming. This, in combination with its simple semantics, make Oz a great educational alternative. 

 

  1. PL/I

PL/I or Programming Language One is another legacy language that’s become very niche. Designed for scientific, engineering, business, and system programming, this procedural, imperative language is now only used to maintain old systems or convert them to run in new hardware. 

 

  1. PostScript

A highly specialized language, PostScript is a page description language whose purpose is to describe graphics and page layouts. Thus, it’s mostly used for visual output: printing, font design, desktop GUIs, and individual images. Since PostScript describes elements in a resolution-agnostic way (making them highly scalable), it’s in the publishing and data visualization fields where it finds most of its use. 

 

  1. Q

Q is another proprietary language that was designed for array processing and to serve as a query language for kdb+, a column-based database. This database, in turn, is based on the language k, of which Q is a variation with a more readable interface. 

 

  1. Racket

Racket is a general-purpose language based on Scheme and mostly focused on programming language design and implementation (though it can also be used for scripting, research, and educational purposes). The language is a part of a platform of the same name, which includes a runtime system, libraries, and a JIT compiler. 

 

  1. Red

Red was first developed as a way to improve on Rebol but with the ultimate goal of becoming a full-stack language. Thus, Red is both imperative and functional and can be used for high-level and low-level programming through its two main components: Red/System and Red. 

 

  1. Ring

Ring puts innovation at the forefront of its logic. This general-purpose language supports many programming paradigms, including imperative, procedural, object-oriented, declarative, functional, meta, and natural programming. Simple and fast, Ring can be used in many projects, from web development to game development. 

 

  1. RPG

RPG (Report Program Generator) is a high-level language developed by IBM that originally served as an alternative to the punch card processing system on the IBM 1401. Today, it has evolved into a COBOL-like language that serves many businesses to create commercial applications on IBM’s iSeries minicomputer system.

 

  1. S

The predecessor to R, S is a high-level language for data manipulation and analysis. Highly extensible, S is a functional system that treats functions written by users as first-class objects similar to those of the system. Its code is readable and the language is fairly easy to understand, which is why it’s used for statistical and graphical analysis in large applications. 

 

  1. SPARK

A variation of Ada, SPARK is a formally defined language whose main purpose is the development of software for high profile safety-critical systems such as those used in aviation and in space applications. To ensure your solution’s safety and security, you can use its contracts to dynamically verify the specification of its components. 

 

  1. Stata

Stata is more than a language – it’s a pair of powerful languages packed in a platform developed to support statistical analysis and specialist research. Through it, you can solve complex statistical problems and produce charts, graphics, and simulations. Both languages are great to write scripts and manipulate data. 

 

  1. Vala

As we mentioned before, Vala and Genie are fairly similar. Vala is an object-oriented language that generates C code and that’s syntactically similar to C#. In that way, anything you create with Vala should have a similar performance to anything you can create in C, though with the benefit of being easier to write and maintain. 

 

  1. Verilog

This is a hardware description language (HDL), a special type of language that describes the structure of electronic and digital logic circuits. Basically, this means that Verilog is used to design computer chips and digital circuitry in general. 

 

  1. VHDL 

Another hardware description language, VHDL is another popular alternative for people involved in designing  CPUs, motherboards, FPGAs, and many other types of digital circuitry. VHDL can also work to simulate and test the performance of all designs. 

 

The Fascinating World Of Programming Languages

All of the above is a window to how varied and diverse the programming landscape can get – and that’s only considering some of the existing programming languages! There are plenty more of them out there, from the general-purpose to the highly specialized. Naturally, the programming world doesn’t end in languages – there are frameworks, libraries, IDEs, and many other components that make things even more complex.

But that’s part of the charm of the field, isn’t it? The possibilities are endless, so there are many paths to choose from, each and every one with its own set of pros and cons. It’s up to you which one you should take to become the kind of developer you aspire to be. 

With that being said, it’s also important to note that, for us, these programming languages are some of the paths you should consider first (especially when talking about the top 20 programming languages). That’s because they’ll provide you with solid foundations to advance your career. Then, you can move forward into the niche of your choice and branch out wherever your heart desires. 

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