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Magyar nyelv

Number of native speakers

about 15 million

Official language in

Hungary: nearly 10 mln speakers, EU

Minority language in

Romania (2 mln), Slovakia (1 mln), Ukraine (250 000), Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia (together ab. 700 000) and Austria (50 000), regional language in Slovakia, Serbia and Slovenia.

Language of diaspora

USA, Canada, Israel, Germany, France, UK, Brazil, Russia, Australia, Argentina, Chile

44 (Latin alphabet + á é í ó ö ő ú ü ű)
Grammatical cases
Language code
hu, hun
Linguistic typology
agglutinative , compounding , vowel harmony , pro-drop , free word-order, SVO /SOV
Language family
Ugric language, the largest member of the Finno-Ugric languages (inside of the Uralic language family)
Number of dialects

Longest word

inquiry of qualification for deputy head of department for process control
the feature of not being able to be profaned

Curious word or sentence

Hungarian uses many e sounds, and a language game Esperente consists of only using words with e vowels, e.g.
An excellent system that can help you find people and lots of other things. (Internet)
He is climbing the mountain with enthusiasm.
Sentence only with ö /ø/:
Five Turks are beating five Greeks with eternal pleasure.

Interesting facts

The order of name, address and date is different than in other European languages:

  • Family name + personal name:
    Kovács Mária, Kiss Péter
  • Town, street, number:
    Budapest, Gizella utca 3
  • Year, month, day:


The Hungarian language has a history of several thousand years reaching back to Asia. It is most widely regarded to be a member of the Finno-Ugric language family. It separated from most of the other Finno-Ugric languages about 3000 years ago near the Ural mountains. It has been strongly influenced by the Turkic languages. There is no written document from the prehistory of Hungarian.

The agglutinative structure and part of the basic vocabulary (the words kéz ‘hand’, vér ‘blood’, ‘horse’, hal ‘fish’, víz ‘water’, etc.) show a similarity with the Finnish. See also related words in Finno-Ugric languages. A considerable part of its ancient word stock can be traced to Turkic languages, e.g. gyümölcs ‘fruit’, alma ‘apple’, búza ‘wheat’, sajt ‘cheese’, sör ‘beer’, bor ‘wine’, disznó ‘pig’.

Writing system and pronunciation

  • a
  • á
  • b
  • c
  • cs
  • d
  • e
  • é
  • f
  • g
  • gy
  • h
  • i
  • í
  • j
  • k
  • l
  • ly
  • m
  • n
  • ny
  • o
  • ó
  • ö
  • ő
  • p
  • q
  • r
  • s
  • sz
  • t
  • ty
  • u
  • ú
  • ü
  • ű
  • v
  • w
  • x
  • y
  • z
  • zs

Old Hungarian script, the so-called rovás alphabet (runic script – from right to left) was changed to Latin alphabet during the reign of the first Hungarian king Stephen I (reigned 997-1038).

Hungarian has 14 vowels and 25 consonants written with the basic Latin alphabet and 9 letters with diacritics (á, é, í, ó, ö, ő, ú, ü, ű).

Every vowel has a short and long version indicated by an ‘accent’ on the letter. Attention kor = ‘age’ – kór = ‘illness’!

Letter Example
a nagy (big)
á lány (girl)
e nem (no, not)
é szép (beautiful)
i kicsi (small)
í ír (write)
o mozi (movie)
ó (good)
ö jön (come)
ő főnök (boss)
u kutya (dog)
ú úgy (like that)
ü ügy (affair)
ű sűrű (dense)

Every consonant can have a long version, though not at the beginning of a word (e.g. ebben ‘in this’, szebb ‘nicer’). Attention megy = ‘goes’ – meggy ‘(sour) cherry’!

Letter Example
p szép (beautiful)
b barát (friend)
t téma (topic)
d dél (noon)
ty tyúk (hen)
gy gyerek (child)
k kicsi (small)
g hideg (cold)
f fa (tree)
v van (is)
sz szép (beautiful)
z az (the)
s és (and)
zs zsák (bag)
h hír (news)
c cél (goal)
cs csak (only)
dz edz (harden)
dzs dzsessz (jazz)
m ma (today)
n nem (no, not)
ny anya (mother)
l lány (girl)
r ír (write)
j, ly jön, lyuk (come, hole)

Hungarian pronunciation is quite regular and smooth.


Hungarian has a special structure, where most of the grammatical and syntactic functions are expressed by word elements glued to the root of the basic word (agglutinative language).

The agglutinative character of Hungarian means that word forms often consist of several word elements (morphemes) which have their own functions. They take over the role of separate words such as prepositions or possessive adjectives, among others, in the Indo-European languages.

A noun word form can come into being in the following way: the plural suffix or the possessive suffix (equivalent of my, your, his etc.), the possessor suffix and the case endings are added to the basic word (see barátoméban).

The 18 case endings (their number is discussed) follow:

Ending Example
Nominative /- barát (friend)
Accusative -t/at/ot/et/öt barátot (friend+acc)
Dative -nak/nek barátnak (to (a) friend)
Instrumental -val/vel baráttal (with (a) friend)
Causal-final -ért barátért (for (a) friend)
Translative-factive -vá/vé baráttá ((turn) into (a) friend)
Inessive -ban/ben barátban (in (a) friend)
Superessive -n/on/en/ön baráton (on (a) friend)
Adessive -nál/nél barátnál (at (a) friend)
Sublative -ra/re barátra (on(to) (a) friend)
Delative -ról/ről barátról (of/about (a) friend)
Illative -ba/be barátba (in(to) (a) friend)
Elative -ból/ből barátból (out of (a) friend)
Allative -hoz/hez/höz baráthoz (to (a) friend)
Ablative -tól/től baráttól (from (a) friend)
Terminative -ig barátig ((up) to (a) friend)
Formative -ként barátként (as/like (a) friend)
Essive-formal -ul/ül barátul (as (a) friend)

Hungarian nouns can have up to 1000 different forms! There are also postpositions in Hungarian such as előtt ‘in front of’, mögött ‘behind’: a ház mögött ‘behind the house’.

The locative cases (and postpositions) express consequently the origin, the place and the direction as in Finnish:

From where Where To where
(come) from house
(be) in house
(go) into house
ház mögül
(come) from behind house
ház mögött
(be) behind house
ház mögé
(go) behind house

Word formation and lexicon

Word formation in Hungarian is productive. The -ság/ség suffix can be always used for the production of an abstract notion as in jóság (goodness) and szépség (beauty). New verbs can easily be made from nouns by the suffix -z or -l:

  • számítógép (computer)számítógépez(ik) (to work/play with a computer)
  • Internet → internetez (use the Internet)
  • blog → blogol (write a blog)

Compounding is very common in Hungarian (therefore there are many very long words), such as:

  • állatkert
    animal+garden ‘zoological garden’
  • kávéfőző
    coffee+cooker ‘percolator’

The word tan (‘study, thesis’) is the basis of many other words:

  • tanár
  • tanít
  • tanul
  • tanuló
    pupil, learner
  • tanulékony
  • tanulatlan
  • megtanulható
  • tanulmány
  • nyelvtan
    language study (grammar)
  • hangtan
    sound study (phonetics)
  • számtan
    number study (arithmetics)
  • állattan
    animal study (zoology)
  • növénytan
    plant study (botany)
  • géptan
    machine study (mechanics)
  • hittan
    belief study (religious instruction)
  • tankönyv
    study book, (textbook)

The derivations for the verb ad (‘give’) by verb-prefixes show the scope of the change of meaning:

  • átad
    hand over
  • bead
    give in
  • belead (mindent)
    put (everything) into it
  • elad
  • előad
    present, perform, exhibit
  • felad
    give up
  • hátraad
    give back
  • hozzáad
  • idead
  • kiad
  • lead
    hand down, pass, deliver
  • odaad
  • összead
    sum up
  • ráad
  • továbbad
  • túlad vmin
    get rid of sth

There is no grammatical gender in Hungarian, there are not even separate pronouns for she and he, only one ő (and only used emphatically). It is possible to read many pages of a novel without knowing the sex of the characters.

In the family relations age is important, there are simple words for younger sister húg and elder sister nővér, but no simple word for sister and they are used normally speaking about family. The same is true for brother where the speaker must specify the relative age with öcs or bátya.

Body parts that occur in pairs are used in the singular:

Szép szeme van
beautiful eye+her/his is
She/he has beautiful eyes.

There is no difference between tree and wood, both are fa, between skin and leather, both are bőr.

Thematic words

Funny or odd traditional proverbs and idioms

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