33 Useful Hungarian Expressions to Learn Before Visiting Budapest
tjsAdventures are to be had wherever you go in Budapest and it is for this reason that millions of travellers make the trip to the Hungarian capital each year. Although the younger generation is quickly becoming fluent, communication with Hungarian speaking natives can still be a challenge. One of the best ways to break down the communication barrier is to try your hand at the Magyar language. In this guide, we’ve compiled 33 handy Hungarian expressions to help you find your way if you are lost, introduce yourself to locals on a night out, ask for change from the cashier, navigate the streets of Budapest and more.
Greetings and Introductions
Szia / Sziasztok
(see-ya / see-ya-stoke)
You can say this as a super easy hello or goodbye to someone. ‘Szia’ is used when you are talking to only one person and ‘sziastok’ is for two or more. Funnily enough, you can also just say ‘hello’ for hello and goodbye. Which means that if you want to keep things interesting you’ll start using ‘szia’ for hello and ‘hello’ for goodbye.
This will usually be directed towards you when you are leaving a shop after paying. Don’t panic, it’s just another way to say goodbye. Nothing more, nothing less. Usually exclaimed: “viszlát!”. The á letter is a long aa sound, like when you are having a swab stick shoved down your throat at the doctor.
Köszönöm / Köszi
(keuwh-seuwh-neuwhm / keuwh-sea)
First things first: it’s not pronounced KOH-SOH-NOM. The Hungarian ö is a difficult one to pronounce correctly. You basically round your mouth like you are saying look or book, but round the sound out a bit and bring your octave a bit deeper and more guttural. You’ll get the hang of it eventually.
This is how you respond when someone says “Köszönöm” to you.
Igen / Nem
(ee-ghen / nehm)
Yes / No
Straight, sweet and to the point. Igen and nem. A match made in heaven.
Thank you very much!
‘Szép’ means lovely. So this is basically just a super nice way to say thank you. It will win you admiration and perhaps even a dash of respect.
What is your name?
You can also say “mi a neved” which is not as popular but perfectly fine.
Én (Willie) vagyok!
(Ayn (your name) vayj-oke)
My name is Willie!
“Én (blank) vagyok” is a suitable method for describing any number of things about yourself. ‘Én focista vagyok’ for instance, means ‘I am a footballer’.
How are you?
We’ve seen it a few times already and here we have it twice: the dreaded ‘gy’ sound. It’s actually its own letter in the Hungarian alphabet, and just like ‘ty’ and ‘ny’ it’s pretty much impossible for foreigners to pronounce. Pretend you have a mouth full of peanut butter and swirl the “j” from ‘Jeep’ with a dash of the ‘g’ from ‘girl’ and mix in bit of y in there somewhere. If someone asks you this question you can say “Jól vagyok!” I am good!!
Jó … reggelt / napot / estét / éjszakát
(yo … (rehg-ehlt / nah-pote / ae-shtaet / ae-saw-cat)
Good… morning / afternoon / evening / night
Yo, yo, yo. Yo means good. And depending on what time of day it is you’ll want to tack the appropriate greeting on the end. If you want to play it safe just stick with ‘Jó Napot’ as that means ‘Good Day’ and although it usually meant for the afternoon, it will still make sense most of the time. But if you want to be fancy try one of the more sophisticated time appropriate phrases.
Nice to meet you.
So many dots here that it’s out of control. Again we have the ö sound, but now the ü as well. The ‘ü’ is more like ‘ew!’. -ew-look. Not exactly, but we’re getting close. And close is all we need. Örülök literally translates to “I am happy”. And what a terrific way to start a budding relationship with you’re new Hungarian friends.
Eating and Drinking
Sör / Bor / Pálinka
(sher / bore / pal-inka)
Beer / Wine / Pálinka
Beer, Wine, Pálinka. What it says on the tin. The three most commonly drunken drinks. You can also order a “fröccs”, which is kind of, sort of pronounced like “fruhch”. because cs is ch like chocolate. Fröccs is wine spritzer and is absolutely beloved by Hungarians. There are all different ratios of soda and wine to go with. Why not try them all?
Kérek egy pálinkát.
(kehr-ehk ehj pal-in-cat)
I’d like a Pálinka.
Order your pálinka like a pro and throw in the accusative case for good measure. Ah, the good old accusative case. You sure you still want to learn Hungarian? Well, anyway, that’s where the ‘t’ at the end comes in. If you say “Kérek egy Pálinkat’ you’ll have heads spinning at the bar. Or perhaps no one will blink an eye because you might as well be Hungarian at that point.
Tetszik ez a kocsma?
(teht-seek ehz awe coach-ma)
Do you like this pub?
You can say ‘tetszik ez a…’ to ask ‘do you like this’ for pretty much anything. It’s not a super common expression but can be used effectively if you are ambling down the street looking for a suitable safe haven. Or just use the Like Locals app.
This is the one word you aren’t allowed to leave the country until you pronounce correctly. For your health, indeed.
Hol van ma jó buli?
(whole vaughn mah yoh booly)
Where is today’s party?
‘Hol van’ …. “where is” And ‘ma’ means today, Buli is ‘party’ Hip hip and hooray. Asketh this question, and go on your way.
There’s a lot of different words for a restaurant but this the most common.’Erem’ means hall, so just remember this phrase by thinking that you are going to a ‘hall’ where you can say you ‘ate’.
A számlát kérem.
(awe sawm-lat kay-rehm)
Can I have the bill?
It’s not a question in Hungarian, it’s a statement. The bill please, I’d like it now. I want to pay. I’ve had a lovely time dining at your establishment and I would like to be on my way. A számlát kérem. Or you can also say ‘fizetni szeretnék’ which is literally “I’d like to pay”,
There’s no word for this in English, its just bon appetit! You already know that ‘jó’ means good and ‘étvágyat’ is like ‘appetite’. A pretty direct translation here.
How much does it cost?
The only problem with using this expression is that the shopkeeper will respond in Hungarian because your pronunciation will be flawless. And you don’t know the numbers yet. Or maybe you do? 1-10 is as follows: egy, kettő, három, négy, öt, hat, hét, egy, kettő, három, négy, öt, hat, hét, nyolc, kilenc, tiz. Oh and száz (so much sass!) is hundred and ezer is thousand.
Fel tudja váltni?
(fehl tood-ya vaalt-knee)
Can I have change?
A fairly advanced piece of Hungarian here. Will come in handy if you get a 20,000 note back from the ATM and want it to be chopped up a bit. Although nobody likes changing a 20,000 so please be forewarned and ask very nicely. Köszönöm szépen, indeed.
Bocsánat / Elnézést
(bow-cha-not) / (ehl-nay-zaysht)
Sorry / Pardon
These can also be used as a way of getting someone’s attention in a shop or restaurant if you want to ask a question. Just say ‘bocs’ if you bump into someone on the tram or something like that. Excuse me, sorry, more or less.
Other Useful Terms To Know
Hol van a metróállomás?
(whole vaughn awe metro-aalomash)
Where is the metro station?
You can also ask ‘hol van a pályaudvar’ if you are looking for a larger train station such as Nyugati or Keleti.
Can you help me?
This is a basic way to ask for help. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but just in case, now you know how to get it.
Hány óra van?
What time is it?
Come on, just check your damn phone. Only kidding, only kidding. This is a nice way to strike up a conversation and show off your newfound Hungarian chops.
Milyen utca ez?
(mee-yen ootsa ehz)
What street is this?
Utca is a normal street, út is a big street, and körút is a big ole circular boulevard. There’s also a ‘köz’ which is like a tiny little alleyway. Milyen actually means “what kind of”, so you are pretty much saying “what kind of street is this”, but in this sentence, it is used the same “what” what would be in English.
Szeretnék egy jegyet
(szehr-eht-nake ejh yejh-et)
Can I have a ticket
Difficult to pronounce, but useful as anything. Particularly at the ticket office of a metro station where little English is spoken.
Probably the hardest word to pronounce ever. It’s not George Foreman, it’s jyohjy-foor-duhh. Eh, close enough. Check out our guide to Budapest’s best bathhouses and Go soak!
I speak Hungarian
You can alternatively say: “magyarul nem beszélek” for I don’t speak Hungarian, and “angolul beszélek” which means I speak English. This will come in handy if someone comes up to you on the street speaking in Hungarian and you want to let them know you can’t understand. Oh, and Nem Tudom is “I don’t know”.
Szép a szemed
(sayp awe seh-med)
You have beautiful eyes
This is a nice thing to say. A great way to flirt. Perhaps a bit corny, yes, but it has to impress someone out there.
Nyitva / Zárva
(gnyeet-vah / zaar-vah)
Open / Closed
You’ll see this hanging up on shops and bars and restaurants all over the city.
Don’t get trapped in the airport for too long. Follow these signs and explore the city. Enjoy yourself and stay safe. Szia!
After reading this guide, hopefully, you’ll be able to impress your friends and the locals with your newfound linguistic skills. Trust us, it’s very satisfying when you say something and you get a warm smile in return. Oh and don’t forget to download the Like Locals app if you’re in Budapest. You’ll be available to uncover hidden street art, quirky cafes, cool bars, historical monuments and homely restaurants in just a few taps. Available for free on both iOS and Android Devices.
Words and Pictures by: Willie Gevertz