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It can be said without
exaggeration that szia is the most common form of
greeting in Hungarian. Good news for the Anglophones is that its
pronunciation is so close to the familiar 'See ya!' in
English, so it won’t be too hard to put it into practice.
Originally, szia comes from the Latin servus humillimus, which means 'your most humble servant'. Its usage was fairly common in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and this is how it made its way to everyday Hungarian. Nowadays, the serving aspect of the original word has completely faded away.
It’s a rather informal greeting mainly used among friends but the elderly might also use it if they’re on familiar terms with the other person. However, if you’re the younger participant of the conversation, don’t use it first as it can come off impolite. Leave the freedom of choice to your wiser, senior partner.
Now, let’s unwrap the mystery of
the two words. Szia is used when you greet one person
and sziasztok is for more people. As simple as that. You can
also say goodbye with szia or sziasztok,
they work both as a greeting and as a parting
salutation. But there is one more thing concerning this fabulous
While it’s possible to say 'Szia … !' (insert your friend’s name), sziasztok should be used by itself. Sziasztok, no object, full stop. And with this, you have greeted everyone.
Have fun with these universal Magyar phrases and sziasztok for today!