English is a West Germanic language spoken originally in England, and is now the most widely used language in the world. It is spoken as a first language by a majority of the inhabitants of several nations, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. It is the third most commonly spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. But it is more commonly used as a second language than any other, which is why its total number of speakers — native plus non-native — exceeds those of any other language. English is an official language of the European Union and many Commonwealth countries, as well as in many world organisations.
English arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and what is now south-east Scotland, but was then under the control of the kingdom of Northumbria. Following the extensive influence of Great Britain and the United Kingdom from the 18th century, via the British Empire, and of the United States since the mid-20th century, it has been widely dispersed around the world, becoming the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions.