|Hungarian names includes both surnames, given names and
(sometimes) middle names, or "second given names".
When speaking or writing the Hungarian
language these names invariably use the "Eastern
name order", or family name followed by given name,
except in foreign language text. The Hungarian language is the
only major national language of a European and Western country
to use this order, though some regional languages like the Basque
language and the Alemannic
German dialect sometimes also do this.
orthography is slightly simpler than that of the 18th and
19th centuries, but many Hungarians still use the older spelling
for their names. For example, the letter 'c' is often written as
'cz'. Letters such as Q, W, X, or Y, which are usually only ever
seen in foreign words, can also be seen in these older spellings
of names, especially in old noble family names which stem from
the Middle Ages. Some family names refer to a place of origin,
and may be written ending in "Y" instead of
"I". So someone from Szolnok
may spell his family name "Szolnoky" instead of "Szolnoki",
but only if the chosen Y variant of the family name is not a
protected name of a historically documented noble family. Unless
acknowledged officially, such spelling variants cannot be used
as legal names. Except in special cases, to change one's name to
any historical or old-style written name is not and will not be
The Hungarian language normally puts family names first,
except for foreign names, in Hungarian speech and text.
Some Hungarian surnames relate to professions, for example Szabó
"fisher." Other surnames relate to non-Magyar ethnic
origin. For example common Hungarian surnames include Németh
an outdated term for "Slovak" (now Szlovák in
modern Hungarian), Oláh
an outdated term for "Romanian", and Lengyel
During the Austro-Hungarian
empire, in the kingdom
of Hungary non-Hungarian ethnic people such as Jews, Germans
and Slovaks were encouraged to adopt Hungarian surnames.
Some people with German names translated them directly into
A few given names are also used as family names, and this
practice may confuse even a native Hungarian speaker. For
example, in the unlikely case that a Hungarian speaker has never
heard of Attila
József, they would be unable to tell which of the two was
his family name, because it could be either.
As in all cultures, the origin of Hungarian names is closely
related to the religious and dynastic history of the country.
Many saints names and royal names have English equivalents.
becoming popular after the King Andrew
I of Hungary. This name was given to three monarchs and
to several princes.
Because the Hungarian monarchs considered themselves direct
descendents of Attila the King of the Huns,
the name formed part of the popular culture.
The name of pagan origin was given to four medieval Kings of
Hungary and nowadays is still commonly used.
He was one of the sons of Attila, the King of the Huns.
The name of pagan origin was given to two medieval Kings of
Hungary and to many princes, and nowadays is still popular.
The King (and Saint) Stephen I of Hungary not only honored
Saint Martin of Tours, but also Saint
George was since Hungary's early times one of the most
important holy characters.
The first King of Hungary was Saint Stephen
I of Hungary.
King Stephen's son was Saint
Emeric of Hungary.
After the Biblical characters called Joseph.
After the King of French origin Charles
I of Hungary.
After the King of French origin Louis
I of Hungary.
The same happened with Saint Ladislas I of Hungary.
After the evangelist Saint Mark.
Martin of Tours, who was born in the early Middle Ages
in the territory of modern-day Hungary, before it existed as
After the Christian Saint, name that became even more
popular after the reign of the King Matthias
Corvinus of Hungary (1458–1490).
the Great's history was translated in medieval Hungary
and made extremely popular during the XIV century.
After the biblical figure Saint
A popular name of pagan origin very common in modern times, Zoltán
of Hungary was a tribal chief at the beginning of the
After the King Sigismund
of Hungary, member of the House of Luxemburg and at the
end of his life Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
names and religious names
Hungarians do not commonly use middle
names (called second given names because of the
Eastern name order) or their corresponding initials. While it is
increasingly frequent that they are given one, they tend to
choose one they prefer to use.
a child can get an additional name (baptismal name), especially
if there is no saint who bears their name so they need a name a
patron saint is associated with. In confirmation,
children receive another given name, but it is not used. Both
the baptismal and the confirmation names have religious
significance only, and they are not on any official records.
There is a wide range of selection of a married name. Up to
about the 18th century noblewomen
kept their names at marriage and their children received their
father's name. (Poor people usually did not have a last name at
needed]; 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. But most
women did take their husbands' names; most of the exceptions
Nowadays 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
- Júlia can keep her maiden name, as Szendrey Júlia
(now very popular, especially among more-educated women).
- Júlia gives up her name, adds the suffix -né to
her husband's full name, and will be called Petőfi
- Júlia adds the suffix -né
to her husband's family name, adds her full name and will be
- Júlia adds the suffix -né
to her husband's full name, adds her full name and will be
called Petőfi Sándorné Szendrey Júlia (less
popular these days, because it is long to write).
- Júlia takes her husband's family name, keeps her given
name "Júlia" and will be called Petőfi
The applicable law,
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
- Sándor can keep his birth name, as Petőfi Sándor
(the most common choice).
- Sándor takes his wife's family name, keeps his given name
"Sándor" and will be called Szendrey
Sándor (often considered when the wife's family
name sounds remarkably better than the husband's one).
- A further new option is hyphenation. In our example, the
family name Petőfi-Szendrey
will be introduced for one or both parties. A sole party not
assuming the hyphenated form keeps his or her original
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.
People of the same sex are not allowed to marry in Hungary,
so they cannot legally use each other's names
unless they change their names through a deed
of change of name.
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.
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, see below). Given names can
be chosen by the parents from an official list of several
thousand names (technically, one list for each gender).
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.
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. A lot of recent additions are foreign names, which,
however, must be spelled following Hungarian phonetics, e.g. Jennifer
becomes Dzsenifer or Joe becomes Dzsó.
Those who belong to an officially recognized minority
in Hungary can also choose names from their own culture,
whereby 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.
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,
of styles treat Hungarian names in different ways. The Chicago
Manual of Style 16th Edition (2010) reverses the
Hungarian order to put given name first, but allows all
diacritics on the name:
When indexing names, Hungarian names are re-inverted so the
surname comes first in English indexes, the same as English
treatment of foreign names in Hungarian
This way of writing names is not used for people who are not
Hungarian (or not from another country where Eastern name order
is used). For example, "Tony
Blair" will stay as "Tony Blair" in Hungarian
texts. However names with an important tradition actually are
translated and written in the Hungarian way, like Kálvin János
for John Calvin.
Leaders of countries are translated only in the case of Monarchs
and members of their family. For example, Elizabeth
II of the United Kingdom becomes II.
Erzsébet, and Pope
Benedict XVI becomes XVI.
Benedek pápa, but Fidel
Castro remains the way.
The names of some people born before the twentieth century
have been Magyarized.
For example Jules
Verne's name is often written as Verne
Gyula, and has Hungarian pronunciation.
common Hungarian surnames