Hungarian words reverse-engineered

A linguist, Dr. Gyula Lónay, wrote a book with the title A magyar nyelv misztériuma (the mystery of the Hungarian language). In his work he tried to describe the origin of the Hungarian words going back to the ancient times when there was nothing but nature around our people. The only reference they had so that they could create new words was nature. He postulates that R, S, K, T, M, P and H were the first sounds humans managed to pronounce. These seven sounds had the following meanings:

R > meanings: Lord, God, sublimity, ”height” / variations: L, J
S > meanings: unity, unification; separation; former connection / variations: SZ, Z, ZS, CS, C
K > meanings: stone, hardness; continuity – multitude, plularity (as the parts of a split stone fly apart and there is a great number of splits); diminution / variations: G, GY; C
T > meanings: place; nailed down to something / variations: D, GY, C, Z
M > meanings: mother earth / variations: N, NY
P > meanings: height, something up there / variations: B, F, V
H > meanings: soul, habit, intimate; hole space / one variation: K

Side note: G has the characteristic of gathering, being one. SZ shows a certain tendency for separation. L expresses life many times in our words.

Lets see a couple of examples for root words and their meanings:

B-R > water moving uninterruptedly

LáB leg, foot; as water flows, our legs brings us continuously where we want to.
TaLP sole; same as LáB
BéRC crag, peak; a place where water flows
BéR salary; a certain equalization effect of water
BíRó judge; same as BéR
BoRul > primary meaning: to be covered. Like water covers the river bed.
BuRkol to cover; same kind of meaning as BoRul
BeRek mountain; a place where water flows (see: BéRC)
öBöL bay
BáLna whale; B-L refers to water and N in na refers to mother earth as a variations of M > the mother of water.

P-S > water that lets something in; expresses a certain type of continuity as water flows in rivers. The meaning can be literal and figurative.

PiSil to pee
PaCSkol to splash
PoCSolya puddle
SzoP to suck
SeB wound: original meaning is to flow

The opposite of this root is S-P with consonant alterations like:
CsaP tap; a tap capture the water and holds it in a certain path
CsaPda trap; as humans used smaller bays to capture fish
CiPő shoes; it brings/conducts you somewhere
PaPuCS slipper; same as CiPő
BoSSZú revenge > original meaning: the equalizing effect of water

P and its variations: refers to height

Fa tree
FáRaó pharao > F = height, R = Lord
PaLoTa palace > P = height, L = Lord; T = place >> place of Lord up there, very high
éPüL to be constructed > P = height, L = Lord >> something constructed upwards

K and its variations: refers to plurality, continuity, diminution and hardness

éK wedge > opposite of Kő; if you split a stone, it can be a wedge
Kemény hardness
tálCa tray > diminutive suffix for tál-bowl

Of course, K is the suffix for expressing plurality: házaK houses, erdőK forests

M and its variations: refers to mother earth

MaMa mom
aNYa mother
NéNe aunt

MaG seed > M = mother earth, G = together, one >> something is one in mother earth

SZ and its variations: separation

aSSZoNY woman > SZ – separation, NY – mother earth >> in our context a woman is different/separated from men
SzüL to bear > SZ – child separates from mother, L – Life

It would be a long list to write every words, so I will continue with words that were fundamental to our ancestors. It should be also noted that our words are built up like this:

sounds create source words
source words create primary words
primary words create secondary words

sounds P-N > source words NaP (sun) > primary word PiNce (cellar) > secondary word PiNcér (waiter)

The cellar is related to the sun because that is where life comes from. Food is stored in the cellar and food is what keeps us alive. So the primary word is related to the source word. However, the secondary words has nothing to do with the source word. It is derived from the primary as needed.

P-N variations:

FeNN up
FeNYő pine > a tree is shooting upwards as it grows (English kept that meaning, too P-N=PiNe)
FéNY light > comes from God, from very high
FőNök boss > a man leading in a hierarchy

So much for now. I will try to write more. Bye 🙂

7 comments on “Hungarian words reverse-engineered

  1. Nathan Vail says:

    As a linguist I appreciate Dr Lonay’s idea, though I have to confess I don’t find most of the examples convincing (except maybe the -FE- set). But every one who has tried it sooner or later just comes up with his own language, while the project only makes sense if you make it universal, i.e., certain sounds correspond to certain realities.
    I want to say I have been reading this blog for a couple of years and it is really well done. You give the best explanation I’ve seen of separable particles (meg, le, fel, etc) and their different meanings according to position and tense. I found a couple of 19th-century grammars for English speakers and became interested in the archaic verb forms found there: imperfect tense (vala etc, also found in the Bible), and the future conjugation in -and-/-end-. What is the nuance conveyed by the latter, conjugated in all tenses and moods?
    Köszönöm szépen!


    • hunlang says:


      The -and and -end suffixes formed the future tense originally. Under the reign of the Habsburg Monarchy, linguists more interested in pleasing the Austrians than dealing with the Hungarian language properly assimilated a lot of germanisms. Like circumscribing the future tense because German doesn’t have suffixes to express that tense. Their mentality was that if German doesn’t have it, Hungarian shouldn’t have it, either. That is how the paraphrased future tense was born. We say ‘írni fogok – I will write/I’m going to write’ just because German can only say ‘ich werde schreiben’. Hungarians should say ‘Írandok’. These suffixes were kept to some extent with -andó, -endő referring to a future act that is supposed to be done: elolvasandó könyv – book to be read, keresendő szöveg – text to be searched for.


  2. Jason says:

    This is complete pseudo-scientific nonsense. The Hungarian language doesn’t work this way and all these words have different origins (Finno-Ugric, Iranian, Turkic, Slavic, German, etc) and thus most are unrelated to each other:

    Láb = Finno-Ugric or Proto-Uralic origin
    Talp = Unknown origin
    Bérc = From a Slavic language. Brdce = Hill, Little Mountain
    Bér = From a Turkic language
    Bíró = Bír (unknown origin) + particle suffix ó
    Borul = Bor (Turkic origin = to cover up, to enfold) + reflexive suffix ul
    Burkol = Burok “shell” + verb suffix ol
    Berek = Grove, marsh with groves. Unrelated to the word Bérc.
    Öböl = Unknown origin
    Bálna = From the Latin word Baleana
    Pisil = An onomatopoeia + frequentative suffix l
    Pacskol = An onomatopoeia + verb suffix ol
    Pocsolya = An onomatopoeia
    Szop = An onomatopoeia
    Seb = Unknown origin
    Csap = From the German word Zapfen “cone, pivot” or the verb Zapfen (to tap liquid)
    Csapda = Csap + noun suffix da
    Cipő = From the back formation of the word Cipellős, which probably came from the Medieval Latin word Zipellus (a kind of footwear)
    Papucs = From the Ottoman Turkish word Papuc
    Bosszú = From a Turkic language
    Fa = Proto-Uralic origin
    Fáraó = From the Latin word Pharao, ultimately of Egyptian origin
    Palota = From a Slavic language, ultimately from the Latin word Palatium
    Épül = Unknown origin + the verb suffix ül
    Kő = Finno-Ugric origin
    Ék = Possibly of Finno-Ugric origin
    Kemény = Finno-Ugric or Proto-Uralic origin + nominal suffix ny
    Anya = Proto-Uralic origin
    Nő = Proto-Uralic origin
    Mag = Finno-Ugric origin
    Asszony = From the Old Hungarian word Achscin, axsin. Ultimately from an Iranian language
    Szül = Finno-Ugric origin
    Nap = Unknown origin
    Pince = From a Slavic language
    Pincér = Pince + occupational suffix ér, which is a calque of the German word Kellner, which comes from the Medieval Latin word Cellenarius “cellerman”.
    Fenyő = Finno-Ugric origin
    Fény = Unknown origin
    Főnök = Fő “head” + occupational suffix nök


    • hunlang says:

      This is the list Hungarian children have been taught for a hundred years now. Interestingly enough, 500 years ago Hungarians knew their origin. Archeological founds right under our legs prove that we already lived in the Carpatian Basin 7000 years ago when Germanic and Slavic people were just a faint thought. We are not the people who borrowed anything from anyone.


  3. Nathan Vail says:

    Well done, Jason!

    And back to Hunlang: I found it strange to find the future in -and/-end conjugated not only with the suffixes for potential (várhatand), causative (vártatand), passive (váratand), passive potential (várathatand, causative potential (vártathatand) …! But also in the past (várandottam), subjunctive (várandjak), and conditional (várandnék), even várandni fogok! What would várandottam mean in English or French or German (the languages I speak most)?
    And of course, the passive (váratom, találtatom in the present: vérartam, találtattam in the past), which is no problem “I am awaited, found”. It also looks like there was some overlap in form between the passive and the causative (when it was -tat-): is that why it faded away?
    By the way, one of the two old books I have was written in London 1852 by one Sigismund Wékey, “late aide-de-camp to Kossuth”: the other by J Csink, also London 1853. That must have been the high tide of English sympathy for the Hungarian rebellion after its defeat, like that manifested towards Greece a generation earlier. Both are available as reprints.



    • hunlang says:

      Várandottam would mean I will have waited. The causative is expressed with -at, -et, -tat, -tet. The passive is not used anymore because Hungarian prefers active verbs to expressing an action where the subject is irrelevant. Váratom means I keep him waiting and találtatom would mean I get sy to find sg. We don’t say találtatom, but megkérem, hogy találja meg.


  4. Nathan Vail says:

    Thank you. I like what you say about the origin of the analytic future (fog + inf), as influenced by German. i would much prefer it if Hungarians went back to their own way of expressing it.
    It is a coincidence (I think) that the Latin suffix -and/-end forms the future passive participle likewise with the overtone of obligation: agenda’ means ‘things to be done’, ‘amanda est’ means ‘she must be loved’.


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