20 Top Programming Languages
Updated January 2023
The world is flush with programming languages. Estimates range from a few hundred to several thousand. Of course, many of those languages are little utilized while many other are evolved forms and variations of widely used, historic programming languages.
What’s going on? In the latter instance, languages often evolve to improve features or to fill a particular niche. In these cases, proficient programmers will have an advantage because their language familiarity (and the code’s shared syntax) will enable a quicker onboarding to evolved versions of the same language (and, frankly, in many cases, to entirely new languages thanks to a learner’s mindset).
And while there are also different types of programming languages, there are a handful of core languages with wide use that can help aspiring programmers and established professionals alike know where to start when picking up a new language. Before we get to our list of 20 programming languages for 2023, however, a few more words on coding and how to read our list.
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Coding
Programmers, software engineers, web developers, and more depend on coding languages. Coding languages allow these professionals to accurately instruct computers and similar devices in how to perform specific tasks.
By “speaking” to the computer in a language that it can easily understand and follow, coders are able to create programs capable of doing great things, from displaying an image on a screen to landing a probe on another planet.
But just as there are nearly limitless uses for computer code, there are a huge number of programming languages from which to choose. Most aspiring programmers should pick and choose the languages that make sense for their goals, so they can pursue them.
We’re Here to Help
We’ve created a list of twenty programming languages. Now, this isn’t a programming language ranking, as each of these languages brings different advantages to the table. Instead, we’re showing some of what’s out there, so that when you arrive at the ice-cream parlor of coding education, you’ll have a better idea of what’s available, and what might be right for you.
One note before we get started: Make no mistake, HTML and CSS are incredibly important web development languages, but Devmountain’s director of education, Cameron Stuart, doesn’t include in this list because they are Markup languages, not programming languages.
Our List of the Top 20 Programming Languages
What can we say? It’s hard to have a list of top programming languages without Python. Python is often on programming language charts for good reason. That’s because Python is powerful, yet simple to learn. A high-level general programming language, Python is usable across many applications and can be great for beginners and professionals alike.
A star among application, game, and animation-software programmers, C++ offers the speed and portability needed to be used across devices and platforms, and it allows programmers the ability to reuse code, for easier program maintenance.
Programming languages are generally used to tell computer systems what to do, but there are exceptions. SQL is a query-based language that is mostly focused on retrieving data from databases. This makes it effective when used to generate reports and sift through massive amounts of digital information. It’s just not as effective for all-purpose coding. Utilizing a proper database performance monitoring tool is also important to determine problems in real-time and to prevent potential issues in your database.
If you have familiarity with the Unix-like operating systems and are familiar with functional programming, you may settle rather quickly into Nix tutorials. Nix is the underlying language for Nixpkgs (called “the largest, most up-to-date software distribution in the world”) and the Linux-aligned Nix Operating System. In turn, the NixOS website touts its many strengths: it’s language agnostic, portable, enables experimentation, is community oriented thanks to GitHub-based collaboration, and offers a consistent dev environment with complete dependencies—and it can also be used all along the pathway from build to deployment.
Scala combines functional programming with object-oriented programming, offering code complexity alongside concise notation for better coding and increased performance. Scala is also accessible and can be fun to learn.
Shell scripting languages show up in a variety of operating system environments, including Unix, Linux and Ubuntu. Shell typically exists as an interface between human inputs and the computer programs running the OS.
Rust offers speed and security, without sacrificing performance. Rust has valuable built-in documentation and features helpful error messages (so you can more easily find problems when something goes wrong). That said, for beginners, Rust may be more difficult than some of the other languages on this list.