Programming Language Levels (Lowest to Highest) | Comp Sci Central (2023)

When learning to code, one of the first things I was curious about was the difference in programming language levels. I recently did a deep dive into these different levels and put together this comprehensive guide with useful and interesting information.

One thing to point out is that the definitions of the various programming language levels have changed as programming languages have evolved, but I’ll expand on that later.

Programming Language Levels

Programming language levels refer to the level of abstraction of a given language.

There are two main levels of programming languages:

  • Low-Level Languages: Machine Code and Assembly Language.
  • High-Level Languages: Java, Python, PHP, Perl, C#, JavaScript, etc.

One way to think of the difference in these abstraction levels is as follows:

Each statement written in low-level languages corresponds to a single instruction for the computer. On the other hand, each statement written in high-level languages corresponds to multiple instructions for the computer. For the sake of this post, the more instructions per coding statement that a language is capable of, the higher its level.

Also, if a programming language is low-level, such as Assembly Language or machine code, then it’s easy for computers to process but difficult for people to read. Likewise, high-level languages such as Java, Python, and JavaScript are much easier for people to read, but need to be compiled or interpreted before computers can process them.

Thus, low-level languages run faster and perform better than high-level languages.

Low-Level Programming Languages

  • Machine Code
  • Assembly Language

These are examples of low-level programming languages.

Low-level languages have a low level of abstraction than high-level programming languages. Because of this, Low-Level code is more easily read by computers and is faster at runtime. However, although this code runs more efficiently, it’s not efficient for developers to write.

(Video) C_02 Low level vs High level Languages | Machine and Assembly Language | Programming in C

Some programming languages such as Java and Python code look more like plain English when compared to Machine Code or Assembly Language.

Machine Language

Machine language or machine code is the only language that computers can understand and receive instructions. These machine languages are often either binary or hexadecimal code.

Binary is a system of using only zero’s and one’s to compose characters, text, and everything else that appears on a computer screen.

Although there are higher levels of programming languages than machine code, the higher-level code must first be interpreted or compiled into machine code in order for the computer to receive those instructions.

Here’s an example of binary that creates the word: hello.

01101000 //h01100101 //e01101100 //l01101100 //l01101111 //o

Notice how there are 8 binary bits per letter. These 8-bit sequences are called a byte.

Additionally, when compared to a print statement with the Python language, you can see just how much easier it is for people to understand higher programming language levels.

Assembly Language

Assembly is the closest language to Machine code.

However, assembly language gets converted into machine code by an assembler so it can pass instructions to the computer that are low enough level for the computer to understand.

It’s important to note that Assembly language is a general term for the low-level programming language that communicates with a computer’s hardware.

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This means that the assembly language is different depending on the computer that it’s running on. In fact, there are many different types of assembly language but the four main types are CISC, RISC, VLIW, and DSP.

High-Level Programming Languages

  • Java
  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • SQL
  • C++
  • C#

These are all examples of high-level programming languages.

High-level languages have a higher level of abstraction than low-level languages. They also tend to be much closer to spoken languages such as English. Because of this, high-level languages make it easy for programmers to read and write code.

However, that code will not run as fast as the same program written in a low-level language because it must first be interpreted or compiled into machine code.

Java Language

Java has been one of the most popular high-level programming languages in the world for some time. What makes Java so popular is that it’s a high-performance language with a large library and medium difficulty to learn and use.

However, although Java is more performant than Python, it’s still not as easy to learn and use as Python in most cases. Typically, you could take a Java program and rewrite it with Python using less code.

These are good indicators that Python is higher level than Java.

Python Language

Python is another extremely popular high-level programming language. The reason behind Python’s rise to stardom lies in its performance, versatility, and beginner-friendly syntax.

In fact, when compared to other programming languages, Python reads closer to English than most. Let’s take a look at a quick Python example:

name = 'Tim'print('Hello, ' + name)

The first line of code creates a variable called “name” containing the text “Tim”. The second line prints a simple variable using the new message: Hello, Tim.

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Middle-Level Programming Languages

  • C

C language is an example of a middle-level programming language.

Some developers believe that high-level programming languages should be further divided to represent a middle level.

For instance, C has characteristics of both high-level and low-level languages.

Therefore, the distinction is often made for a middle programming language level.

Is C a High-Level Programming Language or a Middle-Level Language?

C is both a high-level programming language and a middle-level programming language.

To clarify, C has always been known as a high-level language.

However, after higher-level languages such as Python have appeared, many developers believe it’s fitting to categorize C as a middle-level language.

What is a Very High-Level Language?

Very High-Level Language (VHLL) was a term that was used in the 1990s to describe languages such as Python, Perl, Ruby, and Visual Basic.

Today, these are simply known as high-level languages while C can reasonably be thought of as a middle-level language.

However, these languages that were once referred to as VHLLs aren’t even the highest level languages out there.

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That is to say that other languages have a higher level of abstraction.

What is the Highest Level Programming Language?

Currently, the highest level programming language is Prolog. Prolog is a logic programming language used mainly in Artificial Intelligence including IBM’s Watson. The reason that Prolog is the highest level language is that it has the highest level of abstraction.

Unlike other high-level languages, Prolog doesn’t set instructions and then translate them into machine code. Rather, it sets programming logic using facts and rules that the computer must follow when commands are made, leaving the computer to determine the specific instructions.

I asked this question on Reddit and this was one of the top responses:

Programming Language Levels (Lowest to Highest) | Comp Sci Central (1)

Let’s look at an example of Prolog:

?- tim(male). /* this is a query asking if i'm a male */

The query above is asking if I (Tim) am a male.

As long as there is logic stating that I am a male then the query will return a value of true. Of course, this is a very basic example and doesn’t showcase the language’s level of abstraction as well as a larger program. However, it does give an idea of the simple syntax and readability.

What is the Lowest Level Programming Language?

The lowest level programming language is machine language which provides little to no abstraction from the computer’s architecture. Machine code can be either binary or hexadecimal.

Machine code is a native computer language which means machine code is the language that computers speak. Because of this, machine language has the highest level of performance.

However, it isn’t practical to create applications by writing computer code. That’s why we have the need for high-level languages that can eventually be translated into machine code with some loss of performance.

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Programming Languages From Lowest to Highest Level

  • Machine Code (Binary): Composed of 0’s and 1’s that refer to simple states, 1 being ‘on’ and 0 being ‘off’. This binary machine language is the lowest programming language level.
  • Machine Code (Hexidecimal): Composed of hexidecimal values that strongly correlated to binary. There is only a single level of abstraction between hexidecimal code and binary.
  • Assembly Language: A low-level programming language specific to the computer architecture on which it runs.
  • FORTRAN: The first high-level language invented.
  • BASIC: The second high-level language invented.
  • C Language: Was high-level when invented but now regarded as more of a middle-level language. Many newer language are built on top of the C language.
  • C++:A cross-platform language used to create high-performance applications.
  • Perl: Created to be a highly capable, feature-rich programming language
  • Java: A high-level programming language and computing platform.
  • JavaScript: A scripting language used to create dynamically updating content.
  • PHP: A widely-used general-purpose scripting language used for the web.
  • C#: A modern, object-oriented, and type-safe programming language.
  • Python: A high-level programming language that reads close to English. Built on the C language.
  • SQL: A high-level query language for accessing structured data from databases.
  • Prolog: Used for Artificial Intelligence, this is the language with the highest level of abstraction at the moment.
  • Spoken Language: Although not a programming language, English and other spoken languages are the standard to which high-level programming languages are held.

History of Programming Languages

  • 1689: Binary system was invented by Gottfried Leibniz which became the foundation of modern Machine language.
  • 1947: Assembly language was invented by Kathleen Booth.
  • 1957: FORTRAN was invented by John Backus at IBM, becoming the first high-level programming language.
  • 1964: BASIC was invented by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz, improving on its predecessor and becoming the second high-level language.
  • 1972: C language was invented by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs.
  • 1973: PROLOG was invented by French Computer Scientist Alain Colmerauer and likely the highest level programming language to date.
  • 1979: SQL was created by Computer Scientists at Oracle.
  • 1985: C++ was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup.
  • 1987: Perl was invented by Larry Wall.
  • 1991: Python was invented by Guido van Rossum.
  • 1994: PHP was created by Rasmus Lerdorf.
  • 1995: Java was invented by James Gosling.
  • 1995: Javascript was developed by Brendan Eich.
  • 2000: C# was invented by Anders Hejlsberg at Microsoft.


What are the 4 levels of programming language? ›

Assembly languages , that are thin wrappers over a corresponding machine language. High-level languages , that are anything machine-independent. System languages , that are designed for writing low-level tasks, like memory and process management. Scripting languages , that are generally extremely high-level and ...

Is C# higher level than C? ›

One of the important features languages like C have is that they can access memory directly, using specific types of commands called pointers. While C# is a much higher level language, a limited range of pointer features is still available for developers.

What are programming languages low level and high level? ›

High-level languages require the use of a compiler or an interpreter for their translation into the machine code. Low-level language requires an assembler for directly translating the instructions of the machine language. These languages have a very low memory efficiency.

What is the lowest level coding language? ›

The only true low level programming is machine code or assembly (asm). Assembly is as close as possible to what the CPU (the computer's processor) can execute, as it is literally a text translation of the binary code which the CPU understands.

What are the 5 stages of programming? ›

Program development life cycle (PDLC) The process containing the five phases of program development: analyzing, designing, coding, debugging and testing, and implementing and maintaining application software.

What are 5 programming categories? ›

5 major types of programming languages
  • Procedural programming languages. A procedural language follows a sequence of statements or commands in order to achieve a desired output. ...
  • Functional programming languages. ...
  • Object-oriented programming languages. ...
  • Scripting languages. ...
  • Logic programming languages.
Nov 30, 2022

Should I learn C# or C++ first? ›

If performance is your top priority, then C++ is the way to go. If performance doesn't matter that much, you prefer not to get bogged down coding the details of everything, and you want the project done quickly, then you should go with C#.

Is Python higher level than C#? ›

In short, C# and Python are both high-level, object-oriented, and easy-to-learn languages. They ensure fast development and good performance. However, C# is more clear and organized, and it's much faster at runtime. While Python is easier to learn and write than C# and has vast standard libraries.

Is C++ lower level than C#? ›

C++ is a low level language. C# is high level object oriented language. C++ includes very complex features. C# is quite easy because it has the well-defined hierarchy of classes.

What are the 3 levels of programming languages? ›

Programming Languages:
  • Machine Language.
  • Assembly Language.
  • High level Language.

Is C++ lower level than Python? ›

C++ has gained a lot of popularity and is still one of the most important programming languages, especially for embedding systems. C++ is a lower-level programming language compared to Python. This means that the language is closer to the machine and it can manipulate the hardware directly.

Is C or C++ high-level language? ›

Examples of high level languages are C, C++, Java, Python, etc.

What are the five low-level languages? ›

Low-level languages
  • machine code.
  • assembly language.

Is Python a lower level language than C? ›

In brief, C is an older, compiled, low level, procedural programming language. It has more control over itself and the computer, and it runs faster. Python, on the other hand, is an interpreted, high level, and object oriented programming language that's easier to learn.

Is Python high-level or low level? ›

Python is an interpreted, object-oriented, high-level programming language with dynamic semantics.

What are the levels of programming skills? ›

Structured = there are five levels of Developer Skill: Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert.

What is the 6 programming development Cycle? ›

The software development life cycle comprises requirement gathering, design, development, test, deployment, and maintenance.

What is Step 7 in the programming process? ›

Step 7 Connecting, Downloading and Uploading.

What are the 7 categories of software? ›

This classification has seven major elements. They are: platform and management, education and reference, home and entertainment, content and communication, operations and professional, product manufacturing and service delivery, and line of business.

What are the levels of computer language? ›

Broadly the computer language can be classified into three categories:- assembly language, machine language, and high-level language.

What are the 3 main structures of coding? ›

Surprisingly, it can often be broken down into three simple programming structures called sequences, selections, and loops. These come together to form the most basic instructions and algorithms for all types of software.

Should I learn C++ or C++ first? ›

It is much easier to understand concepts of other languages and appreciate their conveniences and advancements when you have a strong understanding of C++. A lot of other popular languages are developed using C++ so by learning it first you will be better at developing in those languages.

Should I learn C# or Python? ›

Still, while Python is generally considered to be easier to learn, C# can give you a leg up as a first language since it's transferable to other languages in the C family, like C, C++, and Java. While Python is known for having concise, legible code, C# runs faster and is also clearer and more organized.

Is C# hardest to learn? ›

C# is one of the easiest programming languages to learn. C# is a high-level, general-purpose programming language that is easy to read because of its well-defined class hierarchy. It is the perfect language for beginner developers as it will be straightforward to grasp compared to most other languages.

Is Java higher level than C#? ›

The Java programming language is more flexible than C#. Apps that use Java are mostly Android apps, data center apps, and cloud-based apps. Google, Netflix, Airbnb, Instagram, Amazon use Java for web development purposes. So, in the web development context, none of them is inferior or superior to the other.

Is C# higher level than C++? ›

C++ is a mid-level programming language that's faster and closer to machine code. C# is a high-level programming language that's easier to learn. Both C++ and C# are object-oriented, general-purpose programming languages.

How long does it take to master C#? ›

It will take you about two to three months to learn the basics of C#, assuming you devote an hour or so a day to learning. You may learn C# quicker if you study part-time or full-time.

Should I learn C before C#? ›

I don't recommend learning C first.

There're just too many habits you'll struggle with later when moving to either C++ or C#. So let's change the question slightly to which to lean first, C++ or C#? I do recommend that you eventually learn all three languages. Just don't start with C.

Which is better C or C#? ›

A: Although C++ and C# are better than C, C forms the basis of both the languages, and most of the popular operating systems like UNIX, Windows, etc are still written in C. Thus C should be learned before C++ and C#.

Is Java or C++ Lower level? ›

However, C++ is typically used for low-level programming, while Java is usually used for high-level programming. Learning either of these programming languages at a coding bootcamp can set you up for a lucrative and secure career.

Is C++ a high-level language? ›

C++ is an “intermediate-level” language, meaning that it facilitates “high-level” programming—i.e., in the abstract—and “low-level” programming of actual hardware.

Is C++ or Java harder? ›

Most experts will tell you that Java is easier to learn. It's a newer language than C++ and isn't as complex in its principles or execution. However, there's more to consider than a language's learning curve. Selecting a programming language comes down to what you want to do with it.

Is C++ higher level than Java? ›

Direct call support for native system libraries

C++ is great for system-level programming because it allows the programmer to make direct calls to native system libraries. As a higher-level language, Java requires additional tools (e.g., Java Native Interface or Java Native Access) to access native features.

Is Python lower level than Java? ›

Python programs are generally expected to run slower than Java programs, but they also take much less time to develop. Python programs are typically 3-5 times shorter than equivalent Java programs. This difference can be attributed to Python's built-in high-level data types and its dynamic typing.

Should I learn C or C++ or Python? ›

Deciding whether to learn Python or C++ first is a matter of preference for most people. Learn more about the pros and cons of each before you make a decision. Both Python and C++ are popular, easy programming languages for beginners, and choosing the one to learn first is often a matter of personal preference.

Why C is a middle level language? ›

C has the features of both assembly level languages i.e low-level languages and higher level languages. So that's why C is generally called as a middle-level Language. The user uses C language for writing an operating system and generates menu driven customer billing system.

Is C the first high-level language? ›

1972: Dennis Ritchie developed C, generally regarded as the first high-level programming language. This means that it's closer to human language and less like machine code.

Is C++ a low-level language? ›

C++ is still considered a high-level language, but with the appearance of newer languages (Java, C#, Ruby etc...), C++ is beginning to be grouped with lower level languages like C.

What are the five high-level languages? ›

Commonly used high-level languages
  • Python.
  • Java.
  • C++
  • C#
  • Visual Basic.
  • JavaScript.

What is the first low-level language? ›

What was the first widely used programming language? Assembly Language appeared in 1949 and soon saw wide use in Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculators. The Assembly was a low-level computer language that simplified the language of machine code ie. the specific instructions necessary to operate a computer.

Should I learn C or Python first? ›

Python is always recommended if you're looking for an easy and even fun programming language to learn first. Rather than having to jump into strict syntax rules, Python reads like English and is simple to understand for someone who's new to programming.

Which is harder C or Python? ›

The syntax of a C program is harder than Python. Syntax of Python programs is easy to learn, write and read. In C, the Programmer has to do memory management on their own. Python uses an automatic garbage collector for memory management.

Which is easy C or C++ or Python? ›

Python is a high-level object-oriented programming language. It is one of the easiest and simplest languages to learn, as it is close to the pseudocode. Its 2.0 version was released in October 2000, that included new features like garbage collection for memory management.

Is Python harder than C++? ›

Python's syntax is a lot closer to English and so it is easier to read and write, making it the simplest type of code to learn how to write and develop with. The readability of C++ code is weak in comparison and it is known as being a language that is a lot harder to get to grips with.

Is Python worse than C? ›

C is a faster language compared to Python as it is compiled. Python programs are usually slower than C programs as they are interpreted. In C, the type of the various variables must be declared when they are created, and only values of those particular types must be assigned to them.

Is HTML a low-level language? ›

Yes , HTML is a high level language. HTML is not a programming language. It is a markup language. It is high level in the sense that it has English-like keywords, known as tags or elements, and it has English-like attributes.

What are the four 4 common programming paradigms? ›

Imperative, procedural, functional, declarative, and object oriented paradigms are some of the most popular and widely used paradigms today. And knowing the basics about them is good for general knowledge and also for better understanding other topics of the coding world.

Is Python 4th level language? ›

Fourth Generation Languages :

These are used mainly in database programming and scripting. Examples of these languages include Perl, Python, Ruby, SQL, and MatLab(MatrixLaboratory).

What are 3 levels of programming languages? ›

Programming Languages:
  • Machine Language.
  • Assembly Language.
  • High level Language.

Is C++ higher level than Python? ›

Developed from the C language, C++ is considered the better option for large system development, but it is also the harder language of the two to master and write in, which is something that limits its usage. On the other hand, Python is a high-level programming language.

Is Python hard or C++? ›

Python is easy to learn and easy to put in practice when compared to C++ which becomes harder as we advance through its features. Another advantage of Python is its libraries that allow us to write any functionality especially data analysis and machine learning. So popularity-wise Python scores over C++.


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