Welcome to our second mini session where we try to help you learn some of the nuts and bolts of the Hungarian language with witty learning cards, useful words and funny sayings. This time we take on the topic of animals, which might sound childish at first, but you’ll be surprised at how common animal names are in certain sayings, and also at how interestingly some of them are constructed.

Keep in mind that we are not linguists in any way, we’re just as dazzled by the curiosities of the Hungarian language as foreigners are. So this series doesn’t aim to explain the etymology of words, it’s more of a fun take on our language. We try to bring Hungarian closer to you with witty learning cards made by Daily magyar, a language-enthusiast person, whose posts give an insight into the complexity of the Hungarian grammar. But don’t worry, it’s all done in an easy-going way, so that it can make learning fun.

In the previous article we focused on Hungarian greetings, basic sayings and their slang versions. Now we take a turn and face the beautiful world of animals. Most language courses cover this topic quite early on, because we can encounter names of animals or sayings with animals in our everyday lives, plus thematic learning is always easier. Especially in the case of the Hungarian language, which loves to operate with animal names in different contexts, sayings, expressions etc.

Let’s start with a list of Hungarian-English animal name-pairs. We’re not going into too much detail about species, subspecies etc., but rather focus on basic words you might want to know. You could visit the Budapest Zoo or one of the many zoos all over the country and practice the words by connecting them to the actual animals.

  • dog = kutya
  • cat = macska
  • horse =
  • lion = oroszlán
  • tiger = tigris
  • rabbit = nyúl
  • fish = hal
  • bird = madár
  • pig = malac
  • cow = tehén
  • chicken = csirke
  • snake = kígyó
  • monkey = majom
  • parrot = papagáj
  • butterfly = pillangó
  • bee = méh
  • bear = medve
  • elephant = elefánt
  • giraffe = zsiráf
  • squirrel = mókus

Naturally, the list could go on, but this is probably enough for now. If you’re interested in any other animal related word, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment below.

Now comes the fun part: there are several animal names in the Hungarian language which have literal meanings that are completely different from their commonly used, abstract meanings. These are compound words mostly, or just Hungarian curiosities 🙂

First of all, we have a little table with some of them:

Then, Daily magyar also made fun memes for these animals:

teknősbéka [ˈtɛknøːʃbeːkɑ] – turtle; tortoise

teknő [ˈtɛknøː] – carapace; shell

béka [ˈbeːkɑ] – frog

meztelencsiga [ˈmɛztɛlɛntʃˈiɡɑ] – slug

meztelen [ˈmɛztɛlɛntʃˈiɡɑ] – naked; nude [Literally::: dressless]

csiga [ˈtʃiɡɑ] – snail

víziló [ˈviːziloː] – hippopotamus

vízi [ˈviːzi] – water-; of the water; aquatic; watery

víz [ˈviːz] – water

[ˈloː] – horse

szitakötő [ˈsitɑkøtøː] – dragonfly

szita [ˈsitɑ] – sieve

kötni [ˈkøtni]

1) to knit

2) to bind, tie (to attach or fasten with string)

mosómedve [ˈmoʃoːmɛdvɛ] – raccoon

mosó [ˈmoʃoː] – washing

mosni [ˈmoʃni] – to wash

medve [ˈːmɛdvɛ] – bear

When talking about lions in Hungarian, you should pay attention to the ending of the word, because it can easily have a different meaning:

oroszlán [ˈoroslaːn] – lion

orosz lány [ˈoros laːɲ] – Russian girl

Oroszlány – a city in Northwest Hungary

orosz [ˈoros] – Russian

lány [ˈlaːɲ] – girl

Some animals can be called in different names in our language. One of the most outstanding example is the dog:

eb [ˈɛb] – dog

kutya [ˈkucɑ] – dog

We reached the perfect point to switch to a few sayings, expressions with animal names. We have thousands of sayings in Hungarian and consequently very thick books that cover the topic of sayings. If we were to divide them into groups, one would definitely be based around animals. Many of these sayings, expressions have been incorporated into everyday speech throughout history. A thorough overview would be impossible, so we decided to highlight some of the most popular sayings, expressions connected to animals.

Egyik kutya, másik eb. – One of them is a dog, the other is a dog.
[Meaning::: They are equally bad. / Six of one, half a dozen of the other.]

Bagoly mondja verébnek, hogy nagyfejű. – The owl tells the sparrow that it has a big head.
[Meaning::: Someone guilty reprimands someone who is less guilty than him/her./ The pot calls the kettle black.]

Béka nő a hasadban! – A frog will grow in your belly!
[Meaning::: Don’t drink so much (water)!]

Itatja az egereket. – Someone is watering the mice.
[Meaning::: Someone is crying./ To pipe one’s eyes.]

Elefánt a porcelánboltban. – Elephant in the porcelain shop.
[Meaning::: Someone is very clumsy./ Bull in a china shop.]

Várja a sült galambot. / Várja, hogy a sült galamb a szájába repüljön. – Someone is waiting for the roasted dove.
[Meaning::: Someone doesn’t do anything to achieve his/her goals, but waits for a miracle instead.]

Él, mint hal a vízben. – Someone is living like fish in the water.
[Meaning::: Someone lives well, feels good, enjoys his/herself./ As sound as a roach.]

Vén kecske is megnyalja a sót. – Even old goats lick the salt.
[Meaning::: Older people also like to make love, have fun.]

Két legyet üt egy csapásra. – To kill to flies with one hit.
[Meaning::: To kill two birds with one stone.]

Örül, mint majom a farkának. – As happy as a monkey about his tail.
[Meaning::: Somebody is jumping for joy.]

Gyáva nyúl. – Shy rabbit.
[Meaning::: Someone is a coward, very shy.]

Okos enged, szamár szenved. – The smart one let’s go, the donkey suffers.
[Meaning::: Sometimes it’s wise to let the other ‘win’ even though he/she is not right.]

This is the end of our second mini Hungarian session. We hope that you found it useful, learned something knew, or just had fun scrolling through the pictures. We can only encourage you to visit Hungarian zoos and maybe practice the words and sayings while having fun. 🙂


Copy editor: bm

Source: Daily News Hungary

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