Macedonian or “North Macedonian”—what is the correct name for the language now?

I am often asked whether the Macedonian language still exists, and whether it is not called “North Macedonian” now?

The language spoken in the Republic of North Macedonia is still Macedonian (in Macedonian it is called “makedonski”). There is no such language as “North Macedonian” or “Northern Macedonian”.

The Prespa Agreement entered into force on 12th February 2019. This officially renamed the Republic of Macedonia to the Republic of North Macedonia.  However, it is not correct to say Northern Macedonia. The agreement also contains a provision on the language. Article 1(3)(c), read in conjunction with Article 7(3), stipulates that the Macedonian language is the official language of the Republic of North Macedonia.

What else may be called “Macedonian” in addition to the language?

Almost anything that is related to the Republic of North Macedonia may generally be designated as “Macedonian”.

The Prespa Agreement makes the following restriction in Article 1(3)(f): in the “reference to the State, its official organs and other bodies”, the “adjectival use” of the official state name Republic of North Macedonia is “of the Republic of North Macedonia” or “of North Macedonia” (but never “North Macedonian”). It must therefore read: “the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia”; the term “the Macedonian Government” would be contrary to the Prespa Agreement.

In any other context, however, the use of “Macedonian” is expressly permitted. This follows from Article 7(3), which regulates what may be called “Macedonian” in addition to the language in the context of the Republic of North Macedonia:

“When reference is made to the Second Party [Republic of North Macedonia], these terms [Macedonia, Macedonian] denote its territory, language, people and their attributes, with their own history, culture, and heritage, distinctly different from those referred to under Article 7(2)*.”

It also follows that there is no need for an adjective such as “North Macedonian”. The correct name therefore is “Macedonian food”, “Macedonian wine”, “Macedonian music”, “Macedonian mountains”.

The citizenship of the citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia may therefore continue to be referred to as Macedonian, Article 1(3)(b) in conjunction with Article 7(4).

Hence, I speak and write in Macedonian language, and I interpret and translate into and from Macedonian for you.

The Prespa Agreement is named after the place where it was signed, the Lake Prespa.


* For the sake of completeness, I am also quoting Article 7(2) of the Prespa Agreement, to which reference is made in the above-mentioned Article 7(3):

“When reference is made to the First Party [Hellenic Republic], these terms [Macedonia, Macedonian] denote not only the area and people of the northern region of the First Party, but also their attributes, as well as the Hellenic civilization, history, culture, and heritage of that region from antiquity to present day.”