Hungarian 101

Learn Hungarian with
Giving an exact estimate for the total word count is difficult, since it is hard to define what to call "a word" in agglutinating languages, due to the existence of compound words. To have a meaningful definition of compound words, we have to exclude such compounds whose meaning is the mere sum of its elements. The largest dictionaries from Hungarian to another language contain 120,000 words and phrases (but this may include redundant phrases as well, because of translation issues). Hungarian lexicon is usually estimated to comprise 60,000 to 100,000 words. (Independently of specific languages, speakers actively use at most 10,000 to 30,000 words.)

Hungarian words are built around so called word-bushes, for example kör-köröz-körös-kering-kerge-kurta (originally related to "circle", "round"). Due to this feature words with similar meaning often arise from the same root.

The lexicon of Hungarian contains words borrowed from various Turkic languages, including Turkish, as well as several loan words from German and Slavic.

The basic vocabulary shares 1000-1200 words from Uralic languages like Finnish and Estonian (e.g., the numbers egy ~ yksi ~ üks (1), kettő ~ kaksi ~ kaks (2), három ~ kolme ~ kolm (3), négy ~ neljä ~ neli (4); víz ~ vesi ~ vesi (water); kéz ~ käsi ~ käsi (hand); vér ~ veri ~ veri (blood); fej ~ pää ~ pea (head) which have regular sound correspondences, so most linguists classify them as Finno-Ugric languages, a subgroup of the Uralic language family.

These 1000-1200 original word roots, however, account for about 80-90% of the words in an average present-day text, due to their wide-ranging compounds, derivations and formations, several dozens of words from a single root.

The proportion of the word roots in Hungarian lexicon is as follows: Finno-Ugric 21 %, Slavic 20 %, German 11 %, Turkic 9.5 %, Latin and Greek 6 %, Romance 2.5 %, Other of known origin 1 %, Other of uncertain origin 30%. Except for a few Latin and Greek loan-words, these are undiscernible for native speakers; they were entirely adapted into Hungarian lexicon.

Word Formation

Words can be compound (as in German) and derived (with suffixes).

There are also compound words using verbs which have their individual meanings, for example egyedülálló single (eg. person), whereas egyedül álló means something which stands alone.

Featured Video

Learn Hungarian with