Hungarian alphabet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the non-Latin script descended from Old Turkic, see Old Hungarian script.

The Hungarian alphabet is an extension of the Latin alphabet used for writing the Hungarian language.

One sometimes speaks of the smaller and greater Hungarian alphabets, depending on whether or not the letters Q, W, X, Y are listed, which can only be found in foreign words and traditional orthography of names. [1]

The 44 letters of the greater Hungarian alphabet are:

A Á B C Cs D Dz Dzs E É F G Gy H I Í J K L Ly M N
Ny O Ó Ö Ő P Q R S Sz T Ty U Ú Ü Ű V W X Y Z Zs


Each sign shown above counts as a letter in its own right in Hungarian. Some, such as the letter ó and ő, are inter-filed with the letter preceding it when sorting words alphabetically, whereas others, such as ö, have their own place in collation rather than also being inter-filed with o.

While long vowels count as different letters, long (or geminate) consonants do not. Long consonants are marked by duplication: e.g. <tt>, <gg>, <zz> (ette 'he ate (det.obj.)', függ 'it hangs', azzal 'with that'). For the di- and tri-graphs a simplification rule normally applies (but not when the compound is split at the end of a line of text due to hyphenation): only the first letter is duplicated: e.g. <sz>+<sz>→<ssz> (asszony 'woman'), <ty>+<ty>→<tty> (hattyú 'swan'), <dzs>+<dzs>→<ddzs> (briddzsel 'with bridge (card game)').
An exception is made at the joining points of compound words, for example: jegygyűrű 'engagement ring' (jegy + gyűrű) not *jeggyűrű.


Further information: Hungarian phonology

Hungarian orthography generally follows the phonemic principle: most words can be read out correctly if one knows the pronunciation of the letters. However, there are also traditional, etymological and simplifying principles to the orthography which cause some deviations from an exact correspondence between spelling and sound.

The pronunciation given for the following Hungarian letters is that of standard Hungarian.

Letter Name Phoneme (IPA) Complementary allophones (IPA)[2] Close to Notes
A a /ɒ/About this sound    pod, call [ɑ̝̹] might describe it better (raised, more rounded; sign rendered probably incorrectly, containing two diacritical marks below). Still definitely not [ɔ], but more like [ɒ] (the o in General American English hot)
Á á /aː/About this sound    an extended father Not quite as open as the a in American English hat, but certainly closer to it than Hungarian a (without the accent mark)
B /b/About this sound    as by, absence etc.
C /ts/About this sound    like tsunami
Cs csé /tʃ/ as check, cheek, etching etc.
D /d/About this sound    deck, wide etc.
Dz dzé /dz/About this sound    like in kids rare. does not occur at the beginning of words. When neither post- nor preconsonantic, always realised as a geminate.
Dzs dzsé /dʒ/ jam, George, bridge, edge, fridge rare, mostly in loanwords. when final or intervocalic, usually realised as a geminate: maharadzsa /mɑhɑrɑdʒɑ/ [mɑhɑrɑd͡ʒːɑ] 'maharajah', bridzs /bridʒ/ [brid͡ʒː] 'bridge (card game)', but dzsungel /dʒuŋɡɛl/ [d͡ʒuŋɡɛl] 'jungle', fridzsider /fridʒidɛr/ [frid͡ʒidɛr] coll. 'refrigerator'
E e /ɛ/About this sound    like less, cheque, edge, bed about 40-50% of speakers also have a phoneme /e/ (see below at Ë). /e/ is not considered part of standard Hungarian, wherein /ɛ/ or /æ/ takes the place of /e/.
(Ë) ë /e/ like in "same", without the /ɪ/ part of the diphthong /eɪ/ Although not part of the alphabet, this symbol is sometimes used to denote the phoneme /e/, e.g. when noting down texts spoken or sung in a dialect where this sound is present.
É é /eː/About this sound    café, hey
F ef /f/About this sound    find, euphoria
G /ɡ/About this sound    get, leg, go etc.
Gy gyé /ɟ/About this sound    (not used in English; soft form of /d/. Mostly similar to during) denoting /ɟ/ by <gy> is a remnant of (probably) Italian scribes who tried to render the Hungarian sound. <dy> would be a more consistent notation in scope of <ty>, <ny>, <ly> (see there), as the <y> part of digraphs show palatalisation in the Hungarian writing system.
H /h/ 1. [ɦ]About this sound   

3. [x]About this sound   
4. [ç]About this sound   

Basic: hi
1. behind
2. <mute>
3. Loch, Chanukah
4. human
1. when in intervocalic position.
2. not rendered usually when in final position méh /meː/ 'bee', cseh /tʃɛ/ 'Czech (noun/adj.)'
3. seldom, in final position, such as in doh 'dampness', MÉH 'metal recycling facility'
4. seldom, such as in ihlet 'inspiration'
I i /i/ thick, thin Pronounced the same as Í, only shorter
Í í /iː/About this sound    leek, leave, seed, sea Vowel length is phonemically distinctive in Hungarian: irt 'he eradicates' ∼ írt 'he wrote'
J /j/About this sound    [ç], [ʝ] you, yes, faith allophones occur when /j/ occurs after a consonant; (voiceless after voiceless, voiced after voiced consonants). e.g. férj 'husband', kapj 'get! (imperative)'
K /k/About this sound    key, kiss, weak
L el /l/About this sound    leave, list
Ly elly, el-ipszilon /j/About this sound    hey, ray Orthographic tradition. Once /ʎ/, now /j/ in standard Hungarian (cf. yeísmo).
M em /m/About this sound    mind, assume, might,
N en /n/ [ŋ]About this sound   

[n]About this sound   

thing, lying (before k, g),
need, bone (anywhere else)
allophone before /k/, /ɡ/
Ny eny /ɲ/About this sound    new (in BE, not AE) niño/niña (Spanish)
O o /o/ force, sorcerer A shorter, more open variant of Ó. Unlike with short e, which is opened to /ɛ/ in standard speech, short o remains /o/, rather than opening to /ɔ/ where it would come close to clashing with short a.
Ó ó /oː/About this sound    go, sew, snow minimal pair to /o/: kor 'age' ∼ kór 'disease'
Ö ö /ø/About this sound    (Not used in English; corresponds to German Ö) similar to: Bird, Third, Heard A shorter, more open variant of Ő
Ő ő /øː/ (Not used in English; a longer, more closed variant of Ö, similar to Boeing.) Minimal pair to /ø/: öt 'five' ∼ őt 'him/her (Hungarian pronouns do not specify gender)'
P /p/About this sound    peas, apricot, hope
(Q) Q occurs only as part of the digraph qu in foreign words, realised as /kv/: Aquincum [ɑkviŋkum] (name of an old Roman settlement on the area of present-day Óbuda). Words originally spelled with qu are today usually spelled with kv, as in akvarell 'watercolor painting'.
R er /r/About this sound    The closest equivalent is r also called apical trill as pronounced by trilling the tip of your tongue (the apex) and not the uvula.
S es /ʃ/About this sound    share, wish, shout This notation is unusual for European writing systems where <s> stands for /s/ virtually everywhere. In Hungarian, /s/ is represented by <sz>.
Sz esz /s/About this sound    say, estimate
T /t/About this sound    tell, least, feast
Ty tyé /c/About this sound    tube
U u /u/ rude
Ú ú /uː/About this sound    do, fool minimal pair to /u/: hurok 'loop' ∼ húrok 'cords'
Ü ü /y/ (not used in English, corresponds to German Ü) A shorter, more open variant of ű
Ű ű /yː/About this sound    (not used in English)
V /v/About this sound    very, every
(W) dupla vé /v/About this sound    view, evolve, vacuum only occurs in foreign words and in Hungarian aristocratic surnames
(X) iksz occurs only in loanwords, and there only when denoting /ks/; [ɡz] is transcribed: extra, Alexandra, but egzakt 'exact'.
(Y) ipszilon /i/ happy in loanwords, usually rendered as /i/ or /j/. Occurs very often in old Hungarian aristocratic surnames where it stands for /i/ or /ʲi/: 'Báthory' [baːtori], 'Batthyány' [bɑcːaːɲi] or [bɑcːaːni] (<n>+<y> ∼ /n/+/ʲi//nʲi//ɲi/)
Z /z/About this sound    desert, roses
Zs zsé /ʒ/About this sound    pleasure, leisure, genre

The letter ë is not part of the Hungarian alphabet; however, linguists use this letter to distinguish between the two kinds of short e sounds of some dialects. This letter was first used in 1770 by György Kalmár, but has never officially been part of the Hungarian alphabet, as the standard Hungarian language does not distinguish between these two sounds. However, the ë sound is pronounced differently from the e sound in 6 out of the 10 Hungarian dialects and the sound is pronounced as ö in 1 dialect.

The digraph ch also exists in some words (technika, monarchia) and is pronounced the same as h. In names, it is pronounced like cs (see below).

  1. ^ In Northern Hungary, Ä was traditionally used instead of Á because of the accent.[citation needed]
  2. ^ List of complementary allophone variants possibly not complete.

Historic spellings used in names[edit]

Old spellings used in some Hungarian names and their corresponding pronunciation according to modern spelling include the following:

Historic spelling Pronounced like modern spelling
ch cs
ts cs
cz c
tz c
gh g
th t
Historic spelling Pronounced like modern spelling
aa á
ew ö, ő
ay ai
dy di
ey ei
(g)y ~ gÿ gi
(l)y ~ lÿ (l)i
(n)y ~ nÿ (ny)i or (n)i
(t)y ~ tÿ ti

Generally, y in historic spellings of names formed with the -i affix (not to be confused with a possessive -i- of plural objects, as in szavai!) can exist after many other letters (e.g.: Teleky, Rákóczy, zsy). Here are listed only examples which can be easily misread because of such spelling.


Name Pronounced as if spelled
Madách Madács
Széchenyi Szécsényi
Batthyány Battyányi
Thököly Tököli
Weöres Vörös
Eötvös Ötvös
Kassay Kassai
Debrődy Debrődi
Karczagy Karcagi
Vörösmarty Vörösmarti
Cházár Császár
Czukor Cukor
Balogh Balog
Vargha Varga
Paal Pál
Gaál Gál
Veér Vér
Rédey Rédei
Soós Sós
Thewrewk rök
Dessewffy Dezsőfi

Historic spellings of article and conjunctions[edit]

In early editions the article a/az was written according to the following rules:

° before vowels and haz: az ember, az híd;

° before consonantsa’: a’ csillag.

The abbreviated form of the conjunction és (and), which is always written today as s, was likely to be written with an apostrophe before — ’s (e.g. föld ’s nép).


The di- and the trigraphs are capitalised in names and at the beginning of sentences by capitalising the first glyph of them only.

  • Csak jót mondhatunk Székely Csabáról.

In abbreviations and when writing with all capital letters, however, one capitalises the second (and third) character as well.

Thus ("The Rules of Hungarian Orthography", a book edited by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences):

  • A magyar helyesírás szabályai
  • MHSZ (not *MHSz)

Alphabetical ordering (collation)[edit]

While the characters with diacritical marks are considered separate letters, vowels that differ only in length are treated the same when ordering words. Therefore, for example, the pairs O/Ó and Ö/Ő are not distinguished in ordering, but Ö follows O. In cases where two words are differentiated solely by the presence of an accent, the one without the accent is put before the other one. (The situation is the same for lower and upper-case letters: in aphabetical ordering, varga is followed by Varga.)

The polygraphic consonant signs are treated as single letters.

csak <cs> comes after <c>
folyó <ó> is sorted as <o>
and <ő> is sorted as <ö>,
födém but <ö> comes after <o>

The simplified geminates of multigraphs (see above) such as <nny>, <ssz> are collated as <ny>+<ny>, <sz>+<sz> etc., if they are double geminates, rather than co-occurrences of a single letter and a geminate.

könnyű is collated as <k><ö><ny><ny><ű>. tizennyolc of course as <t><i><z><e><n><ny><o><l><c>, as this is a compound: tizen+nyolc ('above ten' + 'eight' = 'eighteen').

Similar 'ambiguities', which can occur with compounds (which are highly common in Hungarian) are dissolved and collated by sense.

e.g. házszám 'house number (address)' = ház + szám and of course not *házs + *zám.

These rules make Hungarian alphabetic ordering algorithmically difficult (one has to know the correct segmentation of a word to sort it correctly), which was a problem for computer software development.

Keyboard layout[edit]

The standard Hungarian keyboard layout is German-based (QWERTZ). This layout allows direct access to every character in the Hungarian alphabet.

Hungarian keyboard layout

The letter "Í" is often placed left of the space key, leaving the width of the left Shift key intact. "Ű" may be located to the left of Backspace, making that key smaller, but allowing for a larger Enter key. Ű being close to Enter often leads to it being typed instead of hitting Enter, especially when one has just switched from a keyboard that has Ű next to backspace.ű

Letter frequencies[edit]

The most common letters in Hungarian are e and a.[1] The list below shows the letter frequencies for the smaller Hungarian alphabet in descending order (excluding the rarest letters ty, dz, dzs).

Letter Frequency
e 12.256%
a 9.428%
t 7.380%
n 6.445%
l 6.383%
s 5.322%
k 4.522%
é 4.511%
i 4.200%
m 4.054%
o 3.867%
á 3.649%
g 2.838%
r 2.807%
z 2.734%
v 2.453%
b 2.058%
d 2.037%
sz 1.809%
j 1.570%
h 1.341%
gy 1.185%
ő 0.884%
ö 0.821%
ny 0.790%
ly 0.738%
ü 0.655%
ó 0.634%
f 0.582%
p 0.509%
í 0.499%
u 0.416%
cs 0.260%
ű 0.125%
c 0.114%
ú 0.104%
zs 0.021%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ – Letter frequencies. Retrieved 10 June 2008.

External links[edit]