If we had to name reasons to adore and learn Hungarian, its subtle descriptions and refined distinctions for the simplest things would definitely be high on our list. The language sometimes throws words at you for situations, personal traits and actions you weren’t even consciously aware of so far. At other times, you’ll realise that you just learned a new vocab you were often desperately looking for in English.
After reading our favourite 23 words that do not exist in English, you’ll find that it can definitely fill some gaping holes you might’ve felt in other languages so far. Here we go:
1. Szerelem (n.) – Romantic Love
The Hungarian Language has two separate words for love. One of them – szeretet – you can feel towards everyone. You can szeret your children, your dog or your life. But this special word – szerelem – is a feeling only reserved for your partner or the person you want as your partner. You can definitely not szeret your dog with szerelem! But you can still szeret your partner, though – with szerelem, ideally. Hope you get the idea!
Example Sentence: Csodálatos szerelem; tiéd vagyok, kedvesem. [First line of Bëlga’s (very ironic and funny) song “Szerelmes vagyok”]
Meaning: Wonderful romantic-love; I’m yours, my darling.
Literally: Wonderful romantic-love; yours am-I, darling-my.
2. Tutyimutyi (n. & adj.) – a Weak-Willed Person who Fears Every Action
A tutyimutyi person is a person with a weak will and a certain inability to take action. He moves super carefully through life and is constantly scared of making mistakes. But tutyimutyi is even more than that – it also refers to the physical behaviour of that person – his movements are rather careful but still inept. And since he fears to make a wrong movement this is exactly what happens all the time. Yes, you guessed right: Being tutyimutyi is certainly no desirable trait!
Example Sentence: A tutyimutyi ember csak akkor csinál bármit is, ha ráparancsolnak.
Meaning: A tutyimutyi person will only do anything if someone commands him to.
Literally: The tutyimutyi person only then does anything, if on-commanded.
3. Elvágyódás (n.) – The Desire to Get Away from where You Currently Are
If you know the word “wanderlust” you’re already close to the Hungarian “elvágyódás”. But while wanderlust describes the concrete desire to travel, “elvágyódás” is not really about travelling, but the feeling of wanting to get out and away. It’s not as energetic and doesn’t have zest for action wanderlust has and is not necessarily about a place. You can also “elvágyódni” in another time or era. All in all, it’s a rather melancholic feeling of missing something that you’re not sure about where in the world to find and wanting to escape your current reality. Sigh.
Example Sentence: Él bennem egy állandó elvágyódás a jelenből térben és időben.
Meaning: There is a constant feeling inside of me that I want to get away from the present – in space and in time.
Literally: Lives inside-of-me a constant wanting-to-get-away-feeling the future-out-of the time-in and space-in.
4. Aranyhíd & Ezüsthíd (n.) – The Reflection of the Setting or Rising Sun and Moon in the Water
Let’s stick to the romantic stuff. Aranyhíd literally translates to “golden bridge” and is as romantic as it gets. A beautiful word, though! It describes the reflection of the rising or setting sun in the water which actually looks like a glittering bridge spanning across the two banks of a lake or river. You can catch the most beautiful golden bridges in Hungary at Lake Balaton – you will almost feel like at the sea with the right mindset. See for yourself below!
The term for the reflection of the moon on the other hand is “ezüsthíd” which literally means silver bridge. Isn’t that lovely?!
Example Sentence: Az aranyhíd a nap tükröződése a vízen, amely fényes sávot képez az egyik parttól a másikig.
Meaning: A golden bridge is the reflection of the sun in the water which creates a shiny path from one bank to the other.
Literally: The golden-bridge the sun reflection-of the water-on, which shiny path(acc.) generates the one bank-from the other-to.
5. Báty, Öcs, Nővér and Húg (n.) – Four Shades of Siblings
In Hungary, we don’t say elder or younger brother or sister. We instead have a separate word for each of them. Your “báty” is your elder brother and your “öcs” or “öcsi” is the younger one. Your elder sister is your “nővér” (which is also the word for nurse, by the way) and – you guessed right – your younger sister is your “húg”. The word for sibling on the other hand is “testvér”, literally translating to “body-blood”. A typical example for three words with one stone!
Example Sentence: A húgom (öcsém / bátyám / nővérem) a legjobb barátom.
Meaning: My younger sister (younger brother / older brother / older sister) is my best friend.
Literally: The younger-sister-my (younger-brother-my / older-brother-my / older-sister-my) the best friend-my.
6. Hiányérzet (n.) – The Feeling that Something that You Cannot Really Name is Missing
Hiányérzet describes a feeling of missing something that you cannot really pinpoint. Imagine you just read a book that was good, but somehow not outstanding. If someone asks you what you didn’t like about it, you cannot even tell – you missed something – maybe a better ending or better characters. That’s when you have “hiányérzet”.
I’m sure you know that feeling when you just packed your backpack and left the flat for your next travel, but you have the feeling and you’re almost sure that you forgot something. That’s another kind of “hiányérzet”. It’s the intuition that something’s missing, but you are not sure, what.
Example Sentence: Hiányérzetem van; tuti otthon hagytam valamit.
Meaning: I have hiányérzet; I’m sure I left something at home.
Literally: Hiányérzet-my is; sure at-home left-I something(acc.).
7. Káröröm (n.) – The Happiness About Someone Else’s Harm / Misfortune
Do you know that feeling when you are secretly happy if something bad happens to someone else? Don’t worry, you’re not the only evil person! Seems like lots of Hungarians felt the same and therefore created an own word for for this: “Káröröm” literally translates to “damage-joy”. It’s usually accompanied by the feeling of envy though – don’t we wish only bad luck to those who are usually on a lucky stream their whole entire life and rub it in our faces the whole time?!
Example Sentence: A legszebb öröm a káröröm.
Meaning: The greatest joy is “damage-joy”.
Literally: The most-beautiful joy the damage-joy.
8. Elmosolyodik (v.) – The Act of Starting to Smile (in a Really Subtle Way)
“Mosoly” is the word for smile, but to “elmosolyodni” is something a lot more subtle than a full, bright smile. It’s rather a microexpression forming around your lips which usually happens when you didn’t find something funny in the first place, but somehow still can’t help but smile at the end.
Example Sentence: A végén mégis elmosolyodtam.
Meaning: In the end, I had started to smile after all.
Literally: The end-on, nevertheless started-to-smile-I.
9. Bezzeg (adv.) – A Filling Word You Use When You Name Examples of How Others Were Treated Differently Than You (Unjustly)
“Bezzeg” is super hard to describe and we’re actually struggling as we’re writing this, so if you can come up with a better explanation, don’t hesitate to comment it!
Anyways, here we go:
Let’s say a colleague of yours gets a salary raise and you don’t – unjustly, as you feel. In Hungarian, you would tell your friends something like “I didn’t get a raise, bezzeg my colleague did!” In this case, “bezzeg” would be similar to “but”, but in English you would need a certain tone in your voice to make your dissatisfaction clear. Bezzeg already bears this negativity of being treated unjustly.
But bezzeg can also mean so many things more – Hungarians use it to highlight certain claims or to teach a lesson in a subtly teasing way, as in: “You didn’t want to date me back then, bezzeg now that I became famous you do!” Here again, it’s similar to “but”, but bears a certain kind of negativity and has an educational tone.
Then there is also the verb”bezzegezik” (to “bezzeg”) which means to frequently and repeatedly say “bezzeg”, meaning that you can’t stop comparing your situation to others’ and feel that you’re worse off. But it can also mean that simply everything is bad nowadays, as compared to the past: “Bezzeg 20 years ago people were more polite!”, “Bezzeg when I was young, everything was more affordable!” The latter is mostly done by older people, who cannot accept that life changes over the years.
This is one of those words you probably need to get a certain feeling in order to use it correctly.
Example Sentence: Már megint nem kaptam fizetésemelést, bezzeg a kollégám kapott.
Meaning: I didn’t get a salary raise again, but my colleague did, of course.
Literally: Again not did-get-I salary-raise(acc.) but-of-course(ironic) the colleague-mine got.
10. Házisárkány (n.) – Domestic Dragon, aka your Better Half
Házisárkány literally translates to domestic dragon and is a lovely nickname for your wife at home. Don’t worry, though – we don’t know of anyone who would earnestly use this word to describe his better half. It’s rather ironic and a harmless joke and we strongly encourage you to keep treating it as such! This word probably emerged because of the stereotype of the nagging and constantly dissatisfied housewife.
Example Sentence: A házisárkány soha nincs megelégedve.
Meaning: A domestic dragon is never satisfied.
Literally: The domestic-dragon never is-not satisfied.
11. Mentegetőzik & Szabadkozik (v.) – To Explain Oneself After a Lazy or Improper Behaviour
Here is a prime example of even two Magyar words for which English has none: “Mentegetőzik” and “szabadkozik” both mean the same thing: the attempt to explain oneself after behaving improperly or conducting a lazy work or being accused of such.
We all know that situation when you call someone on their faults and mistakes and that person starts to come up with a thousand words and excuses for why he has done things that way. Still, in the end, none of the excuses is legit and a weird and awkward situation emerges.”Mentegetőzik” and “szabadkozik” are the words for describing this chain of explanations, words and excuses.
You can “mentegetőzni and “szabadkozni” also legitely, though! That happens when someone accuses you for behaving improperly, like talking behind someone’s back or doing lazy work, although you are not actually guilty of any of this. To explain yourself, even if you haven’t done anything wrong is another form of “mentegetőzni and “szabadkozni”.
Example Sentence: A kollégám állandóan csak mentegetőzik / szabadkozik, ahelyett, hogy rendesen dolgozna.
Meaning: My colleague is constantly excusing himself instead of working properly.
Literally: The colleague-my constantly only excuse-himself, instead-of, that orderly working-would-he.
12. Nincs & Sincs (v.) – The Words for Non-Existence
Nincs & sincs both fill a gaping hole by describing the same and – as far as we know – only exist in Hungarian. Nincs means the lack of something, while sincs describes the lack of something further. They literally translate to “there isn’t something” and “there isn’t that other something either”. Confused? The following example will do the trick:
Example Sentence: -Van kávé? -Nincs. -És tea? – Az sincs.
Meaning: -Is there coffee? -No, there isn’t. -And tea? – No, there isn’t tea either.
Literally: – Is there coffee?- No, there isn’t. -And tea? -That isn’t either.
Note that both nincs & sincs also have a plural, which are “nincsenek” & “sincsenek”. In that case, you’re referring to the lack of multiple things, and multiple further things.
13. Irgum-Burgum (interjection) – An Expression of Playful Anger, mostly Used with Children
We love irgum-burgum – it’s such a nice and playful word! It’s one of the so-called Hungarian interjections and is a word of simulated anger and one for an empty threat. If your child behaves improperly, you will call on him saying irgum-burgum! What you actually mean is “stop doing that, right now”, but your tone will reveal that you actually cannot be angry. We have no idea of the origin of the word, but if you say it out loud it sounds like the humming of a bear. Awesome!
Example Sentence: Irgum-burgum, mindjárt megharagszom.
Meaning: Irgum-burgum, I’m gonna be mad soon.
Literally: Irgum-burgum, soon mad-going-to-be-I.
14. Piszmog (v.) – to Work only Seemingly and without a Real Purpose
This is probably the colleague that gets on the nerves of everyone. We all know that person in the office who spends half of his working hours on facebook and is busy but not productive the other half. Still, nobody really seems to notice, because he or she is hiding this pretty well. That’s exactly the act of “piszmogás” – to always keep up appearances but actually not contributing anything useful work-wise. To “piszmog” doesn’t always happen on purpose, though – some people are just too detail-oriented and get lost in the unimportant things way too much, so that they are simply incapable of working productively and in a result-oriented way.
Example Sentence: Ne piszmogj, dolgozz rendesen!
Meaning: Stop piszmog-ing and start working properly!
Literally: Not piszmog-you, work-you properly!
15. Bumfordi (n. & adj.) – Someone who is Slow and Inept in Both Mind and Physical Movement
Bumfordi is another word you definitely shouldn’t aim for. It describes someone whose movement is inept and slow, while his or her mind is mostly not the sharpest, either. It’s used for people who simply cannot get it right – neither mentally, nor physically. This doesn’t mean that they have bad intentions but somehow they were among the last when dexterity and savvy were distributed.
This word is also often used for people, animals or things that are simply huge. A dog can be bumfordi, as well as a 2m-high and 1m-wide person. And even a big cupboard from grandma’s times.
Example Sentence: Egy bumfordi folyamatosan rálépett a lábamra a buszon.
Meaning: A bumfordi was constantly stepping on my feet on the bus.
Literally: One bumfordi constantly stepped the feet-my-on the bus-on.
16. Nebáncsvirág (n.) – A Super-Easily Offended Person
A “nebáncsvirág” officially is a touch-me-not plant, but in Hungarian, this botanical term literally translates to hurt-me-not-flower. As you sure have thought thought, Hungarians don’t only use the term in its botanical sense. A “nebáncsvirág” is also a person, who is offended super-easily, starts crying really quickly and is simply not made for this cruel world that we live in. We use it also for people who blush really quickly and don’t have a sense for dirty jokes and humour.
Example Sentence: A kis nebáncsvirág azonnal sírva fakadt, amikor emelt hangon szóltak hozzá.
Meaning: The little hurt-me-not-flower started to cry instantly, when someone talked to her with a raised voice.
Literally: The little hurt-me-not-flower instantly cry started, when elevated voice-on talked-they to-her.
17. Kertel (v.) – to Talk Your Way Around Something; to Avoid the Answer to a Certain Question
To “kertel” literally means to garden – we guess this means that instead of doing the house, you do the garden and don’t get to the core of things. A person who “kertel” will answer a very simple question with 100 sentences of which none will make actual sense. Another way of “kertel” is to constantly change the topic and avoid a certain issue. A very popular and common activity among politicians!
Example Sentence: A politikus kertel, amikor a tavalyi választási ígéreteiről kérdezik.
Meaning: The politician is kertel-ing, when asked about last year’s election promises.
Literally: The politician kertel, when the last-years election-y promises-of ask-they.
18. Pihentagyú (n. & adj.) – A Person Who Has a Very Tiring Sense of Humour
We all know that person who tells super lame jokes all the time and never seems to tire of them? In Hungarian we have a word for them! Pihentagyú literally translates to “well-rested brain”, probably meaning that these people’s brains will never get tired of their own jokes. Still, they will know how to tire you very quickly and effectively.
On the other hand, a pihentagyú person is also known for finding somehow weird but innovative solutions for everything – they simply think in a way other people probably wouldn’t. The term is not entirely negative after all – somehow, everyone needs a pihentagyú person in their lives.
If “pihentagyú” is too long for you, you can simply go with “pihent” which means “rested”. You can apply it to tiring jokes, tiring people and everything else that is just lame but somehow still funny.
Here are 19 things only a pihentagyú person would do – they will sure give you a good idea about what this term is all about!
Example Sentence: A pihentagyúak mindenből viccet tudnak csinálni és mindenre van megoldásuk.
Meaning: The pihentagyú persons can make a joke out of everything and they have solutions for everything.
Literally: The pihentagyú-s everything-of joke(acc.) can-they make and everything-for have solutions.
19. Megcsörget – To Ring Someone on Their Cell only Once So That they Call You back and You Don’t Get to Spend Any Money
With ever-decreasing call-prices and free roaming this is a rather diminishing term but trust us – it played a really big role a few years ago! To “megcsörgetni” someone means to ring their cellphone only once or twice and hope for a call back, so that the ringer doesn’t get to spend any money on minutes.
Fun fact: a few years ago, you could even send a free text message to someone asking for a ringback. Very popular at times when most of us went with pre-paid SIM-cards!
Example Sentence: A barátom már megint csak megcsörgetett – biztos nincs már pénz a telefonján.
Meaning: My friend just “megcsörget” me again – I guess he doesn’t have any money left on his phone.
Literally: The friend-my again just rang-me-up – sure there-is-no money phone-on-his.
20. Ügyeskedő (n.) – A Master of the Art of Living with Sometimes Questionable / Shady Methods
Do you know these people who somehow always have money but never work? Who always manage to sneak through life somehow, but nobody knows exactly what and how they are doing it? Their ingredients are usually really good social skills, a dash of wit, the art to twist people around their finger and dexterity. A dexterous person is exactly what “ügyeskedő” literally translates to. They are likeable but shady, outspoken but mysterious and always right at or across the border of the law. The term is somewhat similar to the English “wangler”, except that an ügyeskedő is not necessarily someone who works with deception, although it can be one part of his methods. It’s rather about smuggling your way through life with many shades of grey, a pinch of black, little effort, cleverness and dexterity.
Example Sentence: Egy ügyeskedő mindig talál magának utat ott, ahol más nem.
Meaning: An ügyeskedő always finds a way, where others wouldn’t.
Literally: An ügyeskedő always finds for-himself way there, where other not.
21. Rosszarcú (n. & adj.) – A Person with an “Evil Air”
“Rosszarcú” literally translates to “bad-faced” and describes a person who simply looks dodgy. You can see on his face and in his expressions that he’s felon, although you don’t know exactly why you would think that. These people simply have a creepy air around them that you cannot really pinpoint – you just hope that you won’t meet them on the dark streets alone, at night.
Example Sentence: Ne menj abba az utcába, mert tele van rosszarcúakkal!
Meaning: Don’t go down that road because it’s full of “rosszarcú-s”.
Literally: Not go-you in-that the street-in, because full is rosszarcú-s-with!
22. Meghazudtol (v.) – To Make Someone Appear as a Liar by Lying about what they Did or Didn’t Say
Sounds confusing? Because it is! This is one of the expressions I really-really miss in English. Luckily, it isn’t something I have to use often but when I do I’m angry and in search for words.
To “meghazudtol” someone means to lie in the face about what a person did or didn’t say. Imagine that you ask a friend of yours to not mention one specific topic in front of your girlfriend or boyfriend. For example a thing from your past you aren’t proud of or a girl or boy you used to have a crush on. The first (or second) thing he or she does when the three of you meet is to start talking exactly about that very topic. When you get angry and call them upon this later, they outright deny that you ever asked them to not talk about that issue. That’s when your friend is “meghazudtoling” you. He betrays you by lying about what you both know you asked him for. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s a word you need in a really fierce and emotionally loaded situation – I’m actually a bit passive aggressive as I’m writing this.
Example Sentence: Egy igazi barát soha nem hazudtolna meg.
Meaning: A real friend would never meghazudtol you.
Literally: A real friend never not hazudtol-would-you meg.
23. Szöszmötöl (v.) – to Do Something Lengthily and with Uttermost Care
Do you know that feeling when you get so entirely lost in the details of your action that you stop seeing the bigger picture? That’s when you szöszmötöl. A really good example for that would be to try solving a technical problem – you get from one issue to the other which in the end leads to a whole labyrinth of little things to solve and the next thing you know is that you’ve been sitting there for hours without actually being closer to the solution of your original problem. Who doesn’t know that situation? We most certainly do and think that everyone is somehow prone to szöszmötöl every once in a while. The good news though is, that a few hours os szöszmötöl-ing will teach you a lot in the end, even if it feels like utter frustration at first.
Example Sentence: Órákig szöszmötöltem, és mégsem sikerült megoldanom.
Meaning: I was szöszmötöl-ing for hours and still couldn’t solve it.
Literally: For-hours szöszmötöl-did-I, and still-not managed solve-I-it.
And now it’s your turn: We want to make this list as complete as possible, so don’t hesitate and give us every Hungarian word you know and love because it fills a gap in English. Let’s all learn from each other!
Is there a word in this list that exists in your mother tongue (if it’s not English)? Shoot it below!
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