Hittite is an Indo-European (I.E.) language, member of the Anatolian language family. It has been deciphered from cuneiform tablets discovered in the 20th century in Anatolia, more precisely at Bogazköy, where once stood Hattusa, the capital of the Hittite empire. The discovered tablets range from 1600 to 1200 BC.

The Anatolian family includes several well-attested languages : Hittite, Luwian, Palaic, and several languages more poorly attested, or whose membership with the Anatolian family is not quite certain : Lydian, Lycian, Sidetian, Pisidic, Carian.

Hittite texts sometimes include Luwian words (preceded by a special sign : Signe simple orSigne double), since Hittites employed Luwian priests and a lot of Luwian-speaking people were living in the Hittite realm.

After the fall of the Hittite empire, the peoples around have used a writing of "hieroglyphic" type which was already in use in parallel with the cuneiform writing, and which for a long time was believed to be Hittite, but whose partial deciphering showed that it was Luwian.

The Anatolian family exhibits a lot of peculiar features compared with the other I.E. families, so much so that some thought of it as a sister family of I.E., with both descending from a hypothetical "Indo-Hittite". It is more probable that the Anatolian languages are part of I.E., but of an earlier stage than the "classical" I.E. (Brugmannian). This former stage is then called Proto-Indo-European (P.I.E.) or I.E. II, in opposition to the later I.E. (I.E. III). In particular, the Anatolian languages still used P.I.E. phonemes (laryngeals) that vanished in the other I.E. languages.

The name "Hittite" comes from Hatti, name of the country and the language (non I.E.) of the people present before the Hittites. The Hittite kings called themselves "kings of the land of Hatti". The name that Hittites gave to themselves was "Nesumna" (inhabitants of the town of Nesa), and their tongue "Nesili".