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Learn everyday Hungarian for an easier stay in Budapest! Lesson 7: Szia vs Sziasztok!

Sziasztok, Ladies and Gentlemen! In the latest of our regular series of Hungarian phrases, we meet the little sisters of our previously discussed expression, halló. Szia ('see ya') and sziasztok ('see ya stock') are both common forms of greeting in Hungarian but what’s the difference between them? They look alike, so you might well suspect that they could be related. Follow along and you will be equipped with two key words for any stay in Hungary.

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 expression...

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!

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