There's no doubt that the Hungarian language is incredibly hard to learn, but these few words are probably the most important to master while in Budapest. Not only that, trying to speak a few words to a local in Hungarian might help get a better answer out of them, or a smile at the very least. We've provided a not-very-technical pronunciation guide and some information on exactly how to use your new Hungarian words. Have fun and good luck!
EDITOR’S NOTE: For a more comprehensive list of crucial Hungarian phrases, check out our more recent article on the topic, 36 useful Hungarian phrases for varied occasions in Budapest:
How to pronounce it: See-yaw
What it means: Basically it means 'hi!' but it can also mean goodbye. Double it up for a friendly 'szia-szia' when you're leaving friends.
How to pronounce it: Haw-j Vah-j (j as in joke)
What it means: Literally 'how are you?' Make sure you ask this only if you really want to know how the other person is as this question is likely to elicit a long, detailed explanation of everything happening in their life - good or bad.
How to pronounce it: Me ooh-y-shaarg? (y as in yolk)
What it means: Basically this means 'what's news?' It generally gets a much simpler response than 'hogy vagy?' A typical response is 'minden ok,' which means 'everything's ok.' If your Hungarian lessons are progressing well you can even just ask 'mizu?' (pronounced: me-zoo), which is slang for 'mi újság?' If you're using 'mizu?' then ten gold stars for you!
How to pronounce it: Choc-ohly mag! (y as in yolk)
What it means: 'Kiss me, beneath the milky twilight, Lead me out on the moonlit floor.' Well actually it just means 'kiss me' and if things are progressing well during your stay in Budapest this could be one of the best phrases you learn. But beware: if you've just met the person, this phrase could either get you kissed or punched in the face.
How to pronounce it: Chee-nosh vah-j (j as in joke)
What it means: 'You're pretty.' You would normally say this to a girl. Spread the love! If you see a pretty girl, let her know.
How to pronounce it: Yoh cap-ooh vah-j (j as in joke)
What it means: 'You're good looking.' You would normally say this to a boy. He'll be very flattered.
Hol vannak a lányok?
How to pronounce it: Whole vahn-knack aw lun-nok
What it means: 'Where are the girls?' Don't worry! There are plenty of people out and about, especially in the heart of District VII, particularly on Kazinczy and Király streets.
Mennyi az idő?
How to pronounce it: Man-yee aw-z id-err
What it means: 'What time is it?'
How to pronounce it: Whole vah-j-ork (j as in joke)
What it means: 'Where am I?' Maybe it's time to ask for directions or to consult your map.
Kérek egy sört / bort / pálinkát.
How to pronounce it: Keh-rack a-j (a as in apple, j as in joke) cher-t (Cher as in the singer) / bore-t / pah-lin-cart
What it means: 'I'd like a beer / wine / pálinka.' And that brings us to what is possibly THE most important word in the Hungarian language: pálinka. This is a Hungarian fruit brandy that comes in flavours like plum, honey, cherry, apricot etc. It's a potent spirit that you'll either love or hate, but no matter what you must try it at least once while in Budapest.
How to pronounce it: Eh-hash Vah-j-ork (j as in joke)
What it means: 'I'm hungry!!!!' Well you won't be for long! Budapest is full of great culinary options and traditional Hungarian food is hearty to say the least.
How to pronounce it: Ag-esh-sheg-ad-reh
What it means: 'Cheers!' Make sure you clink glasses and say this before taking the first sip of your alcoholic beverage. And make sure you look the person in the eye! It's considered rude not to in Hungary.
How to pronounce it: Yoh-ehrt-vah-jot (y as in yolk, j as in joke)
What it means: 'Bon appetit!' Waiters often say this when placing meals on the table, and if you're eating a meal with a Hungarian they'll definitely say this before starting to eat.
How to pronounce it: Te-le Vah-jork
What it means: 'I'm full!' You'll probably say this more than once, while you're in Budapest especially because what we call street-food snacks like lángos will literally keep you full for the whole day. Also if you're trying things like Hungarian gulyás soup there's no way you'll be left hungry.
How to pronounce it: Fee-nom vault
What it means: 'It was yummy!' You can say this to the waiter when he asks how your dish was, or just say 'finom!' while eating as an exclamation of delight - 'yum!'
How to pronounce it: Whole lah-come?
What it means: 'Where do I live?' Let's hope you never have to ask this. But if you do, it's probably a sign of a good night. We'd be so proud of you if you forgot where you lived but remembered all your Hungarian words.
Merre van a Szimpla?
How to pronounce it: Meh-reh vahn aw Seem-plah
What it means: 'Which way is Szimpla?' If you haven't yet heard, Szimpla is Budapest's first and most famous ruin pub. It's a favourite of tourists and Erasmus students.
How to pronounce it: Ser-at-lack
What it means: 'I love you!'
Nem kérek csipőst és hagymát.
How to pronounce it: Nam keh-rack chee-persht ersh haw-j-mart
What it means: This phrase means: 'I don't want chilli or onions.' If you can say this while ordering a gyros at midnight after a few shots of pálinka well good on you, sir! Whether you're a boy or a girl you'll definitely be asked if you want chilli and onions on your gyros. Most people will say no to both in the hope of getting to say 'csókolj meg!' to someone later in the evening.
Találkozzunk egy kávéra.
How to pronounce it: Ta-lahl-cozz-oonk eh-j kah-veh-ra (j as in joke)
What it means: 'Let's meet for a coffee.'
How to pronounce it: Men-yee-beh ker-ool
What it means: 'How much is it?'
Van egy cigid?
How to pronounce it: Vahn eh-j cig-eed (j as in joke)
What it means: 'Do you have a cigarette?' This implies that you don't have one and would like to scrounge one.