The name "Omniglot" comes from the Latin prefix omnis (meaning "all") and the Greek root (glossa, meaning "tongue").
The website was launched by British linguist Simon Ager in 1998, originally intended to be a web design and translation service. As Ager collected and added more information about languages and various writing systems, the project evolved into an encyclopedia.
It provides reference materials for about a hundred written scripts used in different languages, and materials for learning languages.
It also has reference materials in numerous languages.
Its material was the source for a compendium of characters used for development of artificial intelligence, the Omniglot Challenge.
The Omniglot compendium has been used widely since it was first released.
As of February 2020, the number of languages detailed on the site is over 1,300.