How to Pronounce Older Hungarian Family Names

In the following link we have already covered some of the challenges our Hungarian ancestors met after the Latin alphabet had been introduced in their lives:

Now we will take a look at the pronunciation of older family names, specifically those of some Hungarian poets, doctors, writers. Their profession is not really important now. We are more interested in how to say their names.

First you see the full name, then the correct pronunciation as it should be written if only we had stuck with the original Hungarian alphabet (mistakenly called runic writing!).

1. It was very common that a Y was written at the end of the family name instead of an I, but you pronounce it as Hungarian I, like English I in HIT. It was also common that the same family name was written with Y or I due to the confusion of how to apply the Latin alphabet to the Hungarian sounds.

Acsády Károly – Acsádi
Acsádi Rozália
Ady Endre – Adi
Ambrózy Ágoston – Ambrózi

Béki István
Béky-Halász Iván – Béki

Mezei András
Mezei Balázs
Mezey József – Mezei
Mezey Katalin – Mezei

Note that the GY, LY, NY, TY sounds at the end of the names were said in the same way as today with the exception of Áprily Lajos under group 6.

2. About a hundred years ago the C was still written as CZ. The sound in CATS.

Aczél Géza – Acél
Aczél János – Acél
Oravecz Imre – Oravec
Boncza Berta – Bonca
Czuczor Gergely – Cucor
Herczeg László Tibor – Herceg

3. Sometimes an H was added, but the pronunciation of the sound did not change. GH is pronounced as G in GET. TH is simple T.

Ágh István – Ág
Apáthy Géza – Apáti
Bartha István – Barta
thori István – Bátori

The most typical family names for this phenomenon are Balogh, Horváth, Németh and Tóth:

Balogh Attila – Balog
Balogh Gyula – Balog
Balogh János – Balog
Balogh József – Balog
Balogh László – Balog

Horváth Attila – Horvát
Horváth Béla – Horvát
Horváth Benji – Horvát (Benji=Bendzsi)
Horváth Elemér – Horvát

Németh Dezső – Német
Németh Erzsébet – Német
Németh György – Német
Németh István Péter – Német

th Árpád – Tót
th Bálint – Tót
th Endre – Tót

4. Many times the consonants were doubled, however they were pronounced as one simple consonant, and then the usual Y was added. Some names where combinations like that were applied are:

Andrássy Béla – Andrási
Andrássy Lajos – Andrási
Antalffy Endre – Antalfi
Ásguthy Erzsébet – Ásguti
Barkóczy Borbála – Barkóci
Básthy József – Básti
Beniczky Emil – Benicki
Kazinczy Ferenc – Kazinci

5. The name of Áprily Lajos is pronounced as Áprili, not as LY in LYUK (=English Y).

6. The name of Babits Mihály is pronounced as Babics. TS was the general combination for the sound we write with CS nowadays for the English CH in CHANGE. The same goes for:

Batsányi János – Baccsányi
Csokits János – Csokics
> written in two different ways in the same name: CS and TS

Kovács Márk János
Kovács Péter
Kováts József – Kovács
Kováts Tamás – Kovács

CH was also used to write the CS sound: Jankovich Ferenc – Jankovics

7. The name of Dessewffy József is pronounced as Dezsőfi.

8. Sometimes the Á vowel like the English I in SIGH was written like :

Gl Imre – Gál
Lr András – Lár

9. The family name Weöres was also written normally as Vörös:

Vörös István
Weöres Sándor – Vörös

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s