Which Languages Are Most Similar To Hungarian? (Not A Lot Really..)

avatarMille Larsen
4 mins read

The Hungarian language is a language in the Finno-Ugric language family. It's one of the rare European languages that doesn't belong to the Indo-European language family, making it almost completely unrelated to English or even the languages of Hungary's neighboring countries. Except for the loan-words, that is!

Hungarian, the language of the central European language of Hungary is strangely known for being related to the languages of Finnish and Estonian, two languages spoken in the North of Europe, quite far from Hungary.

Hungarian on one side and Finnish and Estonian on the other aren't but very remotely related, however. It's theorized that the languages broke apart several thousand years ago when the peoples who spoke a much earlier version of Finno-Ugric, left their ancestoral territories close to the Ural-mountains in Siberia. (To learn more about the origin of Hungarian, go read the article I wrote about it here).

Finnish and Hungarian don't share much of a ressemblance in fact. Finnish belongs to the "Finno" part of the Finno-Ugric language tree and Hungarian is on the Ugric side.

As a comparison, think of English as belonging to the European branch of the Indo-European language tree whereas Hindi belongs to the Indic part.

What Other Languages Ressemble Hungarian, Then?

To find the languages that are closer related to Hungarian, we need to look at languages that belong to the Ugric branch of the Funno-Ugric language family. While Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian are established languages spoken by millions, the remainder of the languages in the Finno-Ugric family are only spoken by minorities.

The languages Khanty and Mansi are spoken in the Russian region of Khanty-Mansi. Together they have a little over 11,000 speakers which isn't a lot. Add to that that each language has multiple dialects that aren't intelligible between one another.

Since Khanty and Mansi speakers can't even understand the different dialects of their own languages, it would be quite a stretch to assume that they bear a lot of resemblance to Hungarian, a distant cousin that have been isolated for hundreds, if not thousands and years almost 3,000 miles away.

The Khanty and Mansi languages have been influenced by Russian for a long time, meaning that they have a lot of Slavic loan words. Hungarian on the other hand, has loanwords from many of the languages that it has been into contact with historically, especially the Turkic languages. This further distinguishes the individual languages from one another.

Comparison between Hungarian, Mansi, Estonian and Finnish

To further illustrate how different the "closest" languages to Hungarian really are, let's try and compare a sentence translated between the different languages.

While I've been able to find a sample sentence for Mansi, I haven't found any examples for Khanty, so this language will be left out of the comparison..

EnglishA black horse is slowly walking on the side of the lake
HungarianFekete ló lassan megy a tó szélén
MansiPetge luv lasinen mini tou szilna
FinnishMusta hevonen kävelee hitaasti järven puolella
EstonianJärve ääres kõnnib aeglaselt must hobune

And here's another sentence:

EnglishThree women are catching twenty fish with a net from the water
HungarianHárom nő a vízből hálóval húsz halat fog
MansiHurem né vitnel huligel husz hul pugi
FinnishKolme naista saavat kaksikymmentä kalaa verkolla vedestä
EstonianKolm naist püüavad veest võrguga paarkümmend kala

As you can see, Hungarian and Mansi have points in common. Some words look alike and some are almost the same. As for Finnish and Estonian? Not so much.

Hungarian Isn't Really Similar To Any Other (Big) Language

So, as you might have been able to gather from the above, the Hungarian language is pretty unique. Even through it is related to Finnish and Estonian, it is very different. When looking at the above examples, however, you can see that Hungarian and Mansi have some things in common. Still, the languages are far from intelligeble, and the small number of native Mansi and Khanti speakers makes the comparison mostly anecdotal.

If you're interested in learning the Hungarian language, I recommend that you go read my article about "How To Learn Hungarian By Yourself". It'll be a blast!