Covenant languages

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A Sangheili speaks in a language represented by Forerunner glyphs.
"Their language doesn't translate in a literal manner, and each word has multiple meanings."

The member species of the Covenant have their own unique languages. However, the Sangheili language came to serve as the lingua franca throughout the entire Covenant Empire,[2] and as such, many names of member species are derived from the Sangheili.[3] Even after the fragmentation of the Covenant, many members of the former client species continue to use the Sangheili language in lieu of their native tongues.[2] Not all races can speak the same language due to evolutionary design restrictions; for example, the Yanme'e could only communicate through a cacophony of high-pitched clicks and screeches.[4][5] To facilitate easier communications between member species, translation software is used on Covenant ships to decipher words. A specific trade pidgin also existed within the Covenant fringe.[6]

Written language[edit]

A guide to the cipher at a former incarnation of

Text, or writing, in the Covenant appears to be mostly triangle shapes and composed almost completely of equilateral triangles, except for a single dash-like shape that seems to serve the function of a period. The triangular characters have been seen oriented both in the horizontal left-to-right direction and in a vertical right-to-left direction.[7][8] Whether all of the species that are or were in the Covenant use this form of text is currently unknown.

Before the release of Halo 2, the official website at was made to look like a Covenant computer complete with a Covenant language. This language was a simple cipher with the triangular characters. In addition to, a released wallpaper contained triangular characters that made use of this cipher. After the site, the cipher changed. Two wallpapers were released with an entirely new cipher still using the triangular characters. Neither this cipher or the previous one have been used subsequently, though the triangular characters are still commonly used.



Main article: Unggoy

Their native language is composed of dog-like barks, squeaks, and grunts. Though largely unintelligible to most humans, translation software is able to decipher the meanings of these.[9] The word "Unggoy" itself is not a word from their vocabulary - rather, it is the Sangheili name for their species.[3] Unggoy are also fully capable of speaking a variety of human languages, a fact in which they take great pride.[10]


Main article: Kig-Yar
A Kig-Yar speaks its foreign tongue.

Kig-Yar language seems to consist of a range of hisses, growls, screeches, snarls, and squawks, though it is intelligible to other members of the Covenant.[11][12][13][4] The Kig-Yar are capable of speaking the Sangheili language. In addition, Kig-Yar are also capable of speaking the human English language in a rasped manner.[14] However, most Kig-Yar are unable to form a proper "f" sound in speech.[15] After the Human-Covenant War, some Kig-Yar often spoke amongst each other in odd mixes of English, Sangheili, and the Kig-Yar dialect.[16]

Known words of the Kig-Yar language include:

Irukan - The name of a type of grain.[17]
Mev-ut - Jackal equivalent of a bounty.[18]
Jha-sig - A kind of ailment.[19]
Shaks - A type of game played by Kig-Yar.[20]


Main article: Huragok

Huragok are the only known species in the Covenant to possess more than one language. One is a verbal language, consisting of musical whistles and chirps, used to convey orders between Huragok and their superiors, usually a shipmaster and their crew.[21] The second is a sign language, using the different shapes and positions of tentacles to convey different meanings. The Huragok sign language can be learned by other species, including San'Shyuum, Sangheili, and Unggoy, though the inferior finger dexterity of the latter makes forming the shapes a cumbersome task.[4]


Main article: Yanme'e

Yanme'e use a system of chirps, clicks and buzzes to convey information between other members of the hive, rubbing their wings together to produce such sounds, similar to Earth crickets. Translator units are required for other species to understand them.[4] Combat units will usually elect an attache to serve as a translator, learning how the other races communicate and relaying the relevant information to the other Yanme'e.[22]


Main article: Lekgolo

Lekgolo communication with other species is problematic at best. Between different Mgalekgolo forms they use resonance that only their own species can hear and understand.[4] For inter-species communications, Mgalekgolo are capable of speaking at least the Sangheili language.[3]


Main article: Jiralhanae

The native Jiralhanae language is animalistic, incorporating a wide range of sounds from growls and barks, to full-out howls and roars,[4][13] though Jiralhanae also express emotions through scents and musks. Young Jiralhanae have difficulty controlling the release of these scents, but learn how to moderate them as they grow older.[4] A communal howl is often made by the Pack Chieftain as a sign of celebration, and failure to participate in the howl is a serious affront to the Chieftain's authority.[4] Jiralhanae are also capable of speaking the Sangheili language.[verification needed]


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Main article: Sangheili
Deleted material: Elite speech from Deliver Hope

Though originating with the Sangheili, an advanced dialect of their language has come to be the Covenant lingua franca, used to connect the different races and species.[2] It is seemingly based upon the Forerunner language,[3] likely pieced together from fragments recovered on Forerunner relics. Curiously, in several instances of Forerunner-related terminology, the Sangheili appear to use the English translations of the original Forerunner terms, as for "Forerunner", "Requiem", "Reclaimer", "Didact", and "Librarian".[23][note 1] During the San'Shyuum-Sangheili War, the San'Shyuum obtained a comprehensive understanding of the Sangheili language by brutally torturing and interrogating prisoners of war. The San'Shyuum relied on translation software built into their anti-gravity chairs to understand the language.[24] The Ussans developed in isolation from other Sangheili, and their language evolved into a different form of the Sangheili dialect. It possessed similarities to Old Sangheili,[25] but the language developed into a new language that could not be understood by the "average" Sangheili.[26]

Note: All words in the following list should not be pronounced as if they were English. The pronunciation of each letter does not depend on the letters that follow. Certain sounds are not written due to them only being available via the International Phonetic Alphabet. This results in letters: a, o, i, u, e, y, t, d, f, v, b, c, p, k, l, h and s not representing the actual sounds in the Sangheili language.

A few words, and their meanings, are known:

Unggoy - Grunt
Kig-Yar - Jackal
Sangheili - Elite
Yanme'e - Drone
Jiralhanae - Brute
Lekgolo - Hunter
San'Shyuum - Prophet
Huragok - Engineer (taken from the Forerunner name "Huragok")
Domo'Inqanen - Human[27][note 2]
Wort - Go (imperative)[28]
Kaidon - Clan leader[29]
Ossoona - Eye of the Prophet[30]
Neru Pe 'Odosima - Servants of the Abiding Truth[31]
A'ul - Lump of wood[32]
Uchans - Shipmaster[27][note 2]
Ochooka - Shipmaster [note 2]
Nishum - Intestinal parasite; a common insult towards humans[33]
Jinee - Soul[note 2]
Laqil - New Llanelli[34]
Sqala - Venezia[35]
Nou - Cognate with English "no", as a negative response[27][note 2].
Ey - Cognate with English "No" and "not,[27][note 2][36] also used as an interjection[37]
Idayuk/idayuko/idayuxou - Brother, Suffix probably indicates politeness,respect or emotion.
Intiyuko - Loyal friend.[note 2]
Meio - refers to a group in which the speaker is a part of.[27][note 2]
Tashi - refers to a third group, which the speaker is not part of. Also means different.[27][note 2]
Qutashi - refers to something that is very different, like an alien or in some cases human.[27][note 2]
Koyakumo - Vector[27][note 2]
Magachi - Approach[27][note 2]
Ja - I/me/we refers to first person[note 2]
Wa - You (singular and plural)[note 2]
Ina - Like/who/whoever Meaning varies significantly depending on context.[note 2]
Re - make/made[note 2]
Dida - gift [note 2]
Musuyano - Rest/Remains/Remnant [note 2]
Kaboono - travel/go [note 2]
Ga- - denotes location compare with english "at" [note 2]
Dua- - through [note 2]
Noko - Keep (verb)[note 2]
Se - away from/from [note 2]
Toshiko - have awoken could also mean awake (verb)[note 2]
Ungendo/Ugedo - connects sentences with same meaning, denotes the addition of information, roughly translated as "and" and "now" although it does not denote time.[note 2]
Werege - Begin (imperative)[note 2]
Doshuga - Evacuation[note 2]
koi - have brought[note 2]
Koe - Bring (imperative)[note 2]
Rokee - Rise (imperative)[note 2]
Regachito - find[note 2]
Quillick - Small hunter[38]
QezoY'asabu - Obsidian Wing[39]


Main article: San'Shyuum

Based on religious sermons by the Prophet of Regret on Installation 05, the native Prophet language is similar to Medieval Gregorian-style chanting.[12] Whether this is spoken by all San'Shyuum, or if it is a special dialect for religious purposes is unknown. The San'Shyuum also used nonverbal communication, in the form of elaborate or simple hand gestures. Most other races, such as the Sangheili, were completely unaware of this.[38] Rippling the three fingers of one's right hand was the gesture of regret, meaning "All things flow away".[40] The San'Shyuum were also able to convey expressions through these gestures, such as irony,[41] obeisance,[42] amusement,[43] respect,[44] and empathy.[45] An extra flip of the thumb was used to show a gesture was being used mockingly.[43] Accents could also be conveyed through these gestures.[46] The Stoics on Janjur Qom seemed to have used the same hand gestures.[47]


Main article: Yonhet

The Yonhetian language seemingly makes use of illeism in everyday speech, as Yonhet individuals casually refer to themselves in the third person instead of the first person. Apart from their native tongue, Yonhet traders and smugglers also speak pidgin languages.[48][6]

Production notes[edit]

  • The languages in their original form are heard in Halo: Combat Evolved. In Halo 2, their words are translated for the convenience of the player. Elites in Halo: CE spoke a deep, warbling tongue. This was achieved by reversing the voice acting of David Scully. The ever popular "Wort, wort, wort!" shouted by many Elites during gameplay is actually "Go, go, go!" reversed and sped up.[28] The hissing-like language of the Jackals is actually the English language reversed. This, and the other Covenant languages (Drones, Hunters), have remained the same since Halo 2.
  • Conversations from the Universe contains letters written by the Prophets of Truth and Supposition. The writing in these letters resembles English, with various alterations. This may be due to a connection between Covenant or Forerunner texts and English texts, or simply thanks to literary license on Bungie's behalf.


List of appearances[edit]


  1. ^ It should be noted that in Spartan Ops subtitles, these terms are phonetically transliterated from Sangheili speech (e.g. "Dieduckt", "Liebuh-Rahrian", "Reeclaymah") rather than using their proper spellings.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae This is a phonetic spelling. The proper rendering has not been confirmed in canon.


  1. ^ Halo: First Strike, page 156
  2. ^ a b c Halo Waypoint: Covenant
  3. ^ a b c d Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Halo: Contact Harvest, page 311
  5. ^ Halo Encyclopedia, pages 148-149
  6. ^ a b Halo Waypoint - Axl
  7. ^ Halo: Uprising
  8. ^ Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Part 1
  9. ^ Conversations from the Universe
  10. ^ Bestiarum
  11. ^ Halo: Combat Evolved
  12. ^ a b Halo 2
  13. ^ a b Halo 3
  14. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 156-157
  15. ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 394
  16. ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 92
  17. ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 62
  18. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 218
  19. ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 274
  20. ^ Halo: Mortal Dictata, page 218
  21. ^ Halo: First Strike
  22. ^ Halo Encyclopedia
  23. ^ Halo 4, Spartan Ops
  24. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 22
  25. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 276
  26. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 204
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i Halo 4 - Terminal 1
  28. ^ a b EliteSpeak
  29. ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol
  30. ^ Halo: The Flood, page 28
  31. ^ Halo: Glasslands
  32. ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 24
  33. ^ Halo: The Thursday War, page 79
  34. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 295
  35. ^ Halo: Glasslands, page 262
  36. ^ Spartan Ops, E3 Catherine
  37. ^ Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
  38. ^ a b Halo: Broken Circle, Chapter 1
  39. ^ Halo Waypoint: Banshee
  40. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 4
  41. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 50
  42. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 75
  43. ^ a b Halo: Broken Circle, page 112
  44. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 160
  45. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 148
  46. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 16
  47. ^ Halo: Broken Circle, page 133
  48. ^ Halo: Nightfall, Episode One