A direct descendant of eastern Magadhi, Oriya is the principal and regional language of Odisha (Orissa). Belonging to the Aryan family of languages, it is closely related to Assamese, Bengali and Maithili. Under the influence of neighboring regional languages of the Aryan and Dravidian families, Oriya has developed many linguistic variations, such as Baleswari (Balasore), Bhatri (Koraput), Laria (Sambalpur), Sambalpuri (Sambalpur and other western districts), Ganjami (Ganjam and Koraput), Chhatisgarhi (Chhatisgarh and adjoining areas of Odisha (Orissa)) and Medinipuri (Midnapur district of West Bengal).

Besides, hilly regions of north and south Odisha (Orissa) have their own local versions of Oriya with many linguistic peculiarities. The first dated, inscription in Oriya goes back to 1051 AD discovered at Urajang. But some of the recent discoveries of Sanskrit inscriptions with Oriya words reported from certain areas of the ancient Kalinga Empire push back its lineage to the 6th century AD.

The Oriya script, descending from Brahmi, has been given Dravidian finish, probably during the reign of the Ganga kings. And the shape was admirably adapted to writing on processed palm leaves with an iron stylus.