Together with its closest relative, Khanty, Mansi forms the Ob-Ugric group of languages. It was previously thought that Hungarian and the Ob-Ugric languages were also closely related and belonged to the Ugric languages. Today, this classification has to some extent been abandoned.

There are a total of around 12,000 ethnic Mansi and only around 1,000 speakers of Mansi.

Mansi has four main dialects: North, East, West and South Mansi. The only two currently alive are North and East Mansi. The Mansi dialects differ so much from each other that we could also talk about the Mansi languages.

The first appearances of Mansi were in the form of individual words in Russian chronicles (historical accounts of events) in the 1400s to 1600s. The first more extensive texts were the Gospels of Matthew and Mark from 1868. The first alphabet book in Mansi was published in 1903.

A proper literary language was created for Mansi in the 1930s. It was based on the North Mansi dialect. In the 1930s, Mansi was written for a while in the Latin alphabet, but the Cyrillic script was adopted in 1938. Today, publications in Mansi include textbooks and fiction as well as the newspaper Lūimā Sēripos.