Language Support

The built-in labels, messages, and syntax keywords in Asciidoctor are English by default. However, Asciidoctor is not restricted to working with English-only content. Asciidoctor can process the full range of the UTF-8 character set. That means you can write your document in any language, save the file with UTF-8 encoding, and expect Asciidoctor to convert the text properly. Furthermore, you can customize the built-in labels (e.g., “Appendix”) to match the language in which you are writing.

There are some caveats to know about:

  • Currently, the official HTML and PDF converters only fully support left-to-right (and top-to-bottom) reading. Support for right-to-left (RTL) is being worked on. See issue #1601 for details. In the interim, you can leverage the DocBook toolchain to get right-to-left support.

  • Attributes that store dates and times (e.g., docdatetime) are always formatted like 2019-01-04 19:26:06 GMT+0000.

  • Message (aka logging) strings are always in English.

  • Asciidoctor does not support the language conf files used by AsciiDoc Python. However, Asciidoctor does provide a translation file that can be used for a similar purpose.

Translating built-in labels

When converting to DocBook, you can rely on the DocBook toolchain to translate (most) built-in labels. To activate this feature, simply set the lang attribute to a valid country code (which defaults to en for English). For example:

$ asciidoctor -a lang=es -b docbook article.adoc

The list of supported languages, as well as additional language considerations for DocBook, are described in DocBook XSL: The Complete Guide.

The lang attribute does not enable automatic translation of built-in labels when converting directly to HTML or PDF. It’s merely a hint to configure the DocBook toolchain. If you’re not using the DocBook toolchain for publishing, you must translate each built-in label yourself. One way is to set the following attributes in the document header or by passing the attributes via the API or CLI:

Attributes that control built-in labels
Attribute name Used for Default


Appendix titles.



CAUTION admonitions (when icons are not in use).



Prefix added to chapter titles (i.e., level-1 section titles when doctype is book). (pdf converter only)



Example titles.



Automatically prefixed to figure titles.



IMPORTANT admonitions (when icons are not in use).



Label for when the document was last updated.

Last updated


The label for listing blocks. By default, listing blocks do not have captions. If you specify listing-caption, then you also turn on captions for listing blocks.

not set


Label for the program name section in the manpage.



NOTE admonitions (when icons are not in use).



Title text used for the anonymous preface (when the doctype is book).

not set


Automatically prefixed to table titles.



TIP admonitions (when icons are not in use).



Title of the table of contents.

Table of Contents


The document title, for documents that have only body content.



The label preceding the revnumber in the document’s byline.



WARNING admonitions (when icons are not in use).


If you plan to support multiple languages, you’ll want to define the attributes for each language inside a conditional preprocessor directive. For example:

ifeval::["{lang}" == "de"]
:caution-caption: Achtung

Of course, you’re probably hoping this has already been done for you. Indeed, it has!

You can find an AsciiDoc file in the Asciidoctor repository that provides translations of these attributes for most major languages. The translations are defined using AsciiDoc attribute entries inside conditional preprocessor blocks, just as suggested above.

To use this file to translate the built-in labels according the the value of the lang attribute (just like the DocBook toolchain does), follow these steps:

  1. Download the AsciiDoc file attributes.adoc from the Asciidoctor repository.

  2. Put the file in the folder locale relative to your document.

  3. Add the following line to the header of your AsciiDoc document:

  4. Set the language using the lang attribute. This attribute must be set before the include directive gets processed. For example:

    -a lang=es

The built-in labels will now be translated automatically based on the value of the lang attribute.

There’s an ongoing discussion about how to make language support even simpler (issue #1129). Input is welcome.


Asciidoctor (or DocBook) currently does not support translation of content out of the box. There’s a proposal to integrate gettext (discussion), and suggestions are welcome.