An Introduction to the Hungarian Language in 12 Phrases
The Hungarian language is challenging at the best of times, with a reputation as one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. Getting to know its idioms is a great place to start if you want to surprise someone with your knowledge of local phrases: check out these expressions which will help you on your way to total fluency!
Örül, mint majom a farkának
Translation: To be as happy as a monkey about its tail
Meaning: In Hungary, if you’re extremely happy about something then this is the expression you’d say – equivalent to the English idiom, to jump for joy.
Miért itatod az egereket
Translation: Why are you giving drinks to the mice?
Meaning: This expression is used to ask someone why they’re crying and is typically a question for young children. The idea is that their tears are providing a drink for mice!
Annyit ér, mint halottnak a csók
Translation: It’s worth as much as a kiss is to a dead person
Meaning: A phrase used to say that something is simply not worth the effort and won’t be appreciated.
Apád nem volt üveges!
Translation: Your dad wasn’t a glassmaker!
Meaning: If you want to tell someone they’re in your line of vision and are blocking your view, this is the phrase to say (and probably gets a lot of use come festival season!).
Majd ha piros hó esik!
Translation: When red snow falls!
Meaning: As red snow is more or less impossible, this expression is the same as saying ‘when pigs fly!’ in English and suggests that whatever it is that’s being spoken of is probably never going to happen.
Kutyaból nem lesz szalonna
Translation: You can’t make bacon out of a dog
Meaning: Used to suggest that a person can’t change their ways, in English the equivalent would be ‘once a thief, always a thief’. The idea is that just as it’s impossible to make bacon out of a dog, so it’s impossible for the person in question to change.
Nem kolbászból van a kerítés
Translation: The fence is not made from sausage
Meaning: This one depends on your views of sausage, but means that something may not live up to expectations.
Aki kíváncsi, hamar megöregszik
Translation: If you’re too curious, you’ll get old quickly
Meaning: A warning not to be too curious, just as in English the expression ‘curiosity killed the cat’ tells us not to be too inquisitive.
Egyik kutya, másik eb
Translation: One is a dog, the other is a hound
Meaning: This expression refers to two things which are more or less the same.
Eső után köpönyeg
Translation: After the rain comes the raincoat
Meaning: An expression used to refer to the gift of hindsight: a good idea which only occurs after the fact, just like wearing a raincoat once it’s stopped raining!
Ez nem az én asztalom
Translation: This is not my table
Meaning: In Hungarian if you say something is not your table, this means it isn’t your area of expertise – or your responsibility.
Ha lúd, legyen kövér
Translation: If it’s a goose, it should be fat
Meaning: In essence: if you’re going to do something, you should do it properly! This phrase is said to tell someone to do whatever it is they’re doing to the fullest.