Country Listing

Hungary Table of Contents


Origins and Language

The Hungarian people are thought to have originated in an ancient Finno-Ugric population that originally inhabited the forested area between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains. Sometime between the first and fifth centuries A.D., after the Ugric and Finnic peoples had split, Ugric tribes in the eastern portion of the territory moved farther south, intermingling with nomadic Bulgar-Turkish peoples (see Early History , ch. 1). Some of these tribes settled in the Carpathian Basin in the ninth century A.D. and became the direct ancestors of today's inhabitants of Hungary. The proper name for the largest ethnic group in Hungary is Magyar. The word is a derivative of Megyeri, supposedly the name of one of the original ten Magyar tribes. Magyar refers specifically to both the language and the ethnic group. The words Hungary and Hungarian are derivatives of a Slavicized form of the Turkic words on ogur, meaning "ten arrows," which may have referred to the number of Magyar tribes.

Hungarian is the country's only official language. It is a member of the Finno-Ugric family of languages, unrelated to the Indo-European language family, which contains the major European languages. Within Europe, Hungarian is related to Finnish, Estonian, Komi, and several lesser-known languages spoken in parts of the Ural Mountain region in the Soviet Union. It has a heavy admixture of Turkish, Slavic, German, Latin, and French words. Hungarian is written in Latin characters. The various dialects are intelligible to all Hungarians throughout the country.

Data as of September 1989