Image Restoration Center Blog Logo

What Are The Most Common Hungarian Last Names And What Do They Mean?

Emily Hutton

Hungarian naming conventions are very different from the other countries in the region. Hungarian names are structured much like Chinese names, with the family name coming first and your given name last. Thus, for clarity’s sake, we’ll be using the terms “surnames” or “family names” rather than Hungarian “last names”.

Keep reading to learn more about the most common Hungarian surnames, their origins, and their meanings.

History Of Surnames In Hungary

Hungary has been a melting pot of cultures since the medieval period, and this history is reflected in their surnames. Many surnames are derived from where a person comes from – these names are more common in Hungary than they are in other areas in Europe. 

Originally, Hungarians just had given names. But as the population increased and people needed to differentiate between each other, they were given what’s called a “byname”. These bynames eventually evolved into surnames. 

These bynames were not typically hereditary. Instead, they would usually be place names explaining where the person was from, who their father was, or what their heritage is. The byname would change from generation to generation or even house to house, as in the case of a person who has moved from one town to another. For example, someone named Sam from Kecskemét would change their surname if they moved to Budapest.

A Note On Women’s Names

There is not a lot of information about women’s names in Hungary. Many sources exclude women completely. If they are mentioned, they are typically listed under their husband’s or father’s name.

Women’s surnames follow a special rule. Once a woman is married, she will use her husband’s name and add the suffix “-ne”. For example, a woman married to a man named János Kovács would be known in polite circles as János Kovácsne. In this sense, it’s very similar to the English practice of using “Mrs.” to denote marital status. 

The King’s Decree On Surnames

There is not a lot of information about women’s names in Hungary. Many sources exclude women completely. If they are mentioned, they are typically listed under their husband’s or father’s name.

Women’s surnames follow a special rule. Once a woman is married, she will use her husband’s name and add the suffix “-ne”. For example, a woman married to a man named János Kovács would be known in polite circles as János Kovácsne. In this sense, it’s very similar to the English practice of using “Mrs.” to denote marital status. 

Origins Of Hungarian Surnames

Hungarian names come from many sources. Surnames are often derived from nicknames, place names, or even the jobs that their ancestors performed. 

Ethnonym Surnames

It’s much more common in Hungary to have ethnonyms as family names – these are names that are derived from where you come from. Many of the most common Hungarian surnames mean “German” or “Slovak”, signaling that ancestors of the people who had these names were from these places.

Characteristic Surnames

This type of surname comes from an ancestor who had a nickname or particular trait that was memorable. A common Hungarian surname is “Fodor”, meaning “curly-haired”. This surname probably started as a nickname for someone with a fairly popular given name and who had curly hair.

Patronymic Surnames

Patronymic surnames are pretty common in Hungary, but, unlike other patronymics, there isn’t always a prefix or suffix to differentiate the name. These are called “unmarked patronymics”. 

The placement of the name is what makes it a surname. For example, Albert, son of Miklos, would be known as Miklos Albert, and his son Tamas would be Albert Tamas.

Another way to make a patronymic surname in Hungary is to add “-fi” to the end of the name. It comes from the word “fia” meaning “his son”. It can also be spelled -fi, -fia, -fy, or -fÿ. So Jakob son of Zoltan would be Zoltanfi Jakob. 

Occupational Surnames

Occupational surnames are names that come from what the bearer does for a living. One very common example is the surname “Szabó”, which means “tailor”.

Toponymic Surnames

These surnames come from place names. They usually denote where a person comes from or where they were born. In Hungarian, these names usually end in the suffix “-i”, which works a little like the Spanish or French “de”. So, “Kecskeméti Janos” means “Janos from Kecskemét”.

The Most Popular Hungarian Surnames

Below is a list of the most common Hungarian surnames:

  • Nagy: The most popular Hungarian family name, this surname means “great”.
  • Tóth: This surname means “Slovak”. The people who have this surname traditionally hail from the Tothorszag region, which is now part of Slovakia.
  • Szabó: This is an occupational surname that means “tailor”.
  • Kovács: “Kovács” comes from the Hungarian word for “smith”.
  • Varga: This is an occupational surname meaning “shoemaker” or “cobbler”.
  • Horváth: This is an ethnonym meaning “Croat” or “one from Croatia”. The bearer of this name is likely to have been a Croatian refugee running from the Ottoman empire.
  • Kiss: Coming from the Hungarian word “kis”, meaning “small”, this name is a characteristic surname for someone with small stature. 
  • Molnár: Molnár is an occupational surname meaning “miller”.
  • Németh: Nemeth comes from the Hungarian word “nemet”, which means “German”.
  • Farkas: This comes from the Hungarian word for “wolf”.
  • Takács: This is an occupational surname meaning “webster” or “weaver”.
  • Balogh: Derived from the word for “left-handed”, this surname means “left-handed” or “clumsy”.
  • Papp: Meaning “priest”, the origins of this surname are murky. It could be the occupational surname of one who works for or as a priest or a characteristic surname of a particularly pious person.
  • Juhász: This occupational surname means “shepherd”. It comes from the Hungarian word for sheep, “juh”. 
  • Szilágyi: “Szilágyi is habitational and is derived from the place named the Szilágyság.
  • Mészáros: “Mészáros” is an occupational surname that means “slaughterer”.
  • Simon: This name is most likely a patronymic of the name “Simon”.
  • Szűcs: This is an occupational surname of a tanner or furrier, someone who works with hides.
  • Fekete: This surname is characteristic and means “dark-featured”.
  • Török: Derived from the word for “Turk”, this surname is an ethnonym for someone of Turkish descent or who participated in the Turkish conflict.

Closing Thoughts

These common Hungarian surnames have a lot of history baked into them. You can learn so much about where you come from by digging around in your family name. Even if your name is one of the most common surnames out there, you might find out something exciting about your family tree. Everyone’s surname has an interesting story to it – find yours today!

photo restoration how to scan your photos thumbnail video

Your Billing Information

Unfortunately your payment just failed. We're unable to see on our end why your order failed - please try again or contact your payment provider.

Order Total

mothers day photo gift ideas

Lightroom Preset Pack

x1
$54.99

Commercial Rights

x1
$19.95

TOTAL

$109.93USD

Do you want to delete your uploaded photo?