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Hungarian names include surnames and given names. Some people have more than one given name, but only one is normally used. In the Hungarian language, whether written or spoken, names are invariably given in the "Eastern name order", with the family name followed by the given name (in foreign-language texts in languages that use Western name order, names are often given with the family name last). Hungarian is one of the few national languages in Europe to use the Eastern name order, like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer and some Basque nationalists.[1]


Main article: Hungarian alphabet

Although Hungarian orthography is now simpler than it was in the 18th and the 19th centuries, many Hungarians still use the old spelling for their names. For example, the letter c is often written as cz. Letters such as q, w, x and y are usually seen only in foreign words but may also be seen in older spellings of names, especially in noble family names that originated in the Middle Ages.

Family names that refer to a place of origin and end with the suffix -i have two possible endings: they can be written with the -i suffix, which is used in every other context, or with a -y suffix, both of which mean "from" or "of" a place and are pronounced the same way. A family originating from Szeged and named after that fact thus may spell its surname "Szegedi" or "Szegedy", both of which mean "from Szeged" or "of Szeged". The -y ending is popularly but falsely believed to indicate noble origin. However, it is true is that -y is an older spelling, and older records were more likely to record people of higher rank and wealth.

Hungarian surnames

See also: Category:Hungarian-language surnames and wikt:Appendix:Hungarian surnames

Hungarian normally puts family names, except for foreign names, first in Hungarian speech and text.[why?][2] Some Hungarian surnames relate to professions like Szabó (tailor), Kovács (smith), Halász (fisher). Other surnames refer to ethnic origin. For example, common Hungarian surnames include Németh (German), Horváth (Croat), Tóth (Slovak), Lengyel (Polish), Oláh (Romanian) and Rác/Rácz/Rátz (outdated term for Serb).

During the 19th and the early 20th centuries, people in the Kingdom of Hungary who were of non-Hungarian ethnicity, with Jewish, German or Slovak ancestry, were encouraged to adopt Hungarian surnames.[3] Some people with German names translated them directly into Hungarian.[4] Some of them just magyarized their original German surnames into Hungarian forms. However, many Hungarians of German descent retained their original surnames like Horn, Deutsch, Staller, Keller, Rockenbauer, Hoffmann, etc.[5]

A few given names are also used as family names, a practice that may confuse even native Hungarian-speakers.

Hungarian given names

The origin of Hungarian names is closely related to the religious and dynastic history of the country. Many saints' names and royal names have Hungarian equivalents.

Female names

See also: category:Hungarian feminine given names

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (January 2023)

Male names

See also: Category:Hungarian masculine given names

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (January 2023)

Second given names and religious names

While it is increasingly frequent that Hungarians are given a second given name, they tend to choose one that they prefer to use.

When baptised, a child may get an additional name (baptismal name), especially if there is no saint who bears its name, and so they take a name associated with a patron saint. At confirmation, children receive another given name, but it is not used. Both baptismal and confirmation names have religious significance only and are not on any official records.

Married names

There is a wide range of selection of a married name. Until about the 18th century noblewomen kept their names at marriage and their children received their father's name; it became compulsory only under the reign of Joseph II. When Hungary was under Habsburg rule and became influenced by Western European traditions, women became known by their husbands' names. So for example Szendrey Júlia, marrying Petőfi Sándor, became Petőfi Sándorné (the -né suffix approximately means "wife of", and this is the Hungarian equivalent of "Mrs." as in "Mrs. John Smith"). This was both the law and the tradition until the 1950s. During the Communist rule of Hungary, great emphasis was put upon the equality of women and men, and from that time, women could either choose to keep their maiden name or take that of their husband. Most women did the latter except for artists.[citation needed]

Now, the alternatives for a woman when she marries are as shown below (using the examples of Szendrey Júlia and Petőfi Sándor – Júlia and Sándor are their given names):

The applicable law,[6] which used to give substantially different sets of options to women and men, was declared sexist and unconstitutional. The ensuing amendment, in force since 2004, also lists options for men. Thus:

Note that using opposing hyphenations (i.e. Szendrey-Petőfi Sándor and Petőfi-Szendrey Júlia) and exchanging names (i.e. Petőfi Sándor and Szendrey Júlia become Szendrey Sándor and Petőfi Júlia) are not allowed. Also, one can have a maximum of two last names. If one or both partners-to-be come to the marriage with more than one surname, they will have to agree which ones to keep.

Both the bride and groom have to declare at the wedding which name they will use, and they have to declare which family name their children will get (which can be changed until the birth of the first child). Children can get either parent's surname, if it is on the marriage certificate, but all children must have the same surname. Since 2004 they can also get a hyphenated name, but only if both parents kept their birth names at least as one part of their new name. Children usually get their father's surname, but hyphenated names are becoming more common.

Couples of the same sex are not allowed to marry in Hungary, so they cannot legally use each other's names[7] unless they change their names through a deed of change of name.

Women's names in everyday life

When a woman takes her husband's name in the traditional way, as in Petőfi Sándorné, her female first name no longer forms part of her official name, yet this is the name she will be called by even after her wedding, in all but the most formal contexts. Thus, Hungarian radio speakers and others often resort to a compromise like Kovács Jánosné, Juli néni (Mrs. János Kovács, aunt Juli) to indicate how the woman should be called by others. (Néni and bácsi, "aunt" and "uncle", are traditional polite forms to address older people, and, for children, to address all adults; it does not indicate a family relationship.)

Some women who officially bear the -né form will nevertheless introduce themselves with their husband's family name and their own first name (in our example, Kovács Júlia or Kovácsné Júlia, rather than Kovács Jánosné), to avoid confusion about how to address them.

If the woman takes her husband's full name, the couple can easily be referred to in writing as Petőfi Sándor és neje (Sándor Petőfi and wife), equivalent to the English form "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith". This can be seen on older tombstones in Hungarian cemeteries.

Hungarian law on names

By law, children born as Hungarian citizens may bear no more than two surnames (most people have only one; those who have two may hyphenate them). They can also have only one or two given names (religious names not included since they are not official: see above). Given names may be chosen by the parents from an official list of several thousand names (technically, one list for each gender).[8][9] If the intended name is not on the list, the parents need to apply for approval. Applications are considered by the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences following a set of principles.[10] Thus, names are approved if they are not derogatory or overly diminutive, can be written and pronounced easily, can be recognised as either male or female etc. Approved names expand the official list, the newest edition of which is regularly published. Many recent additions are foreign names, but they must be spelled following Hungarian phonetics: Jennifer becomes Dzsenifer or Joe becomes Dzsó.

Those who belong to an officially recognized minority in Hungary may also choose names from their own culture, and a register of given names maintained by the respective minority governance must be observed.

If one or both parents of a child to be named are foreign citizens, the given name(s) may be chosen in accordance with the respective foreign law.[11]

Treatment of Hungarian names in English and other languages

Outside Hungary, Hungarian names are usually rendered by the Western convention of other European languages. In English language academic publishing, archiving and cataloguing, different manuals of style treat Hungarian names in different ways. The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition (2010) reverses the Hungarian order to put the given name first but allows all of the diacritics in the name:

8.13 Hungarian names. In Hungarian practice the family name precedes the given name — for example, Molnár Ferenc, Kodály Zoltán. In English contexts, however, such names are usually inverted — Ferenc Molnár, Zoltán Kodály [...]

When indexing names, Hungarian names are re-inverted so that the surname comes first in English indexes, as for English names.[12][13]

Hungarian treatment of foreign names

This way of writing names is not used for people who are neither Hungarian nor from another country that uses the Eastern name order. For example, "Tony Blair" will stay as "Tony Blair" in Hungarian texts. However, names of historical importance are generally translated and written in the Hungarian way: Kálvin János for John Calvin. Names from languages using a different script (Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Greek etc.) are transcribed according to pronunciation.

Leaders of countries are translated only in the case of monarchs and members of their families. For example, "Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom" becomes II. Erzsébet, and "Pope Benedict XVI" becomes XVI. Benedek pápa, but "Fidel Castro" is not changed.

Before the 20th century, foreign names were often translated, for example, Jules Verne's name was written as "Verne Gyula", and a Hungarian pronunciation was used.

See also


  1. ^ Robert Lawrence Trask The history of Basque 1997 "Finally, I must mention yet another of Sabino Arana's interventions. For some reason, Arana decided that the Basques should write their names surname first,..."
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of literature Merriam-Webster, Inc - 1995 -- Page vii "Hungarian names, which also follow family-personal name order, are, on the other hand, treated as English names." [with diacritics]
  3. ^ Stefania Ruzsits Jha, Reconsidering Michael Polanyi's Philosophy (2002), p. 7. "In the Hungarian part of the monarchy non-Hungarian ethnic people were encouraged to adopt Hungarian surnames and to learn the Hungarian language in addition to the several others they were already speaking".
  4. ^ Pieter M. Judson, Marsha L. Rozenblit, Constructing nationalities in East Central Europe (2005), p. 41 "While some people with German names translated them directly into Hungarian (hence the draftsman Nikolaus Liebe — in English, Nicholas Love — became Miklos Szerelmey), others were more inventive in their choice of Hungarian surnames."
  5. ^ Farkas, Tamás. 2009a. "Surnames of Foreign Origin in a Language Contact Situation. The Reasons and Ways of Their Changes and Their Influence on the Surname Stock in Hungary." In Wolfgang Ahrens, Sheila Embleton & André Lapierre, eds., Names in Multi-Lingual, Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Contact, Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, 2008, Toronto: York University, p. 365-374.
  6. ^ "1952. évi IV. törvény a házasságról, a családról és a gyámságról" [Act No. IV. of 1952 on Marriage, Family and Guardianship] (in Hungarian). Art. 25. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  7. ^ "Névviselés" [Person names] (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  8. ^ "current list of approved male Hungarian given names" (PDF).
  9. ^ "current list of approved female Hungarian given names" (PDF).
  10. ^ "basic principles guiding the approval of new given names" (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  11. ^ "1982. évi 17. törvényerejű rendelet az anyakönyvekről, a házasságkötési eljárásról és a névviselésről" [Decree-Law No. 17 of 1982 on Registers, the Marriage Procedure and Person Names] (in Hungarian). Art. 27–31. Archived from the original on 2011-03-10. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  12. ^ The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition (9780226104201): University of Chicago 2010 16.79 Indexing Hungarian names... In English contexts, however, such names are usually inverted; in an index they are therefore reinverted, with a comma added. Bartók, Béla. Molnár, Ferenc. ..
  13. ^ "Indexes: A Chapter from The Chicago Manual of Style Archived 2015-02-26 at the Wayback Machine." Chicago Manual of Style. Retrieved on December 23, 2014. p. 26 (PDF document p. 28/56).

Further reading