Dutch and Hungarian

Door Christopher Joby

There has been relatively little contact historically between Netherlands and Hungary, which may explain why there are relatively few Dutch loanwords in Hungarian (about 50) and only a handful, if that, of Hungarian loanwords in Dutch. The area where speakers of Hungarian are concentrated, i.e. modern day Hungary and parts of surrounding countries such as Romania, are some distance from the sea and so Hungarian has not incorporated some of the seafaring loanwords that many other languages have adopted. A couple of exceptions are jacht and matróz. Jacht (‘Yacht’) comes from the Dutch jachtboot. Hungarian also has jachtozó for yachtsman. Matróz comes from the Dutch matroos, sailor, possibly via another language. It forms many hybrid words in Hungarian such as matrózdal, a sea shanty (dal is Hungarian for song).

Nicoline van der Sijs notes that in the Middle Ages a sort of fabric called genti in Hungarian took its name from the town of Ghent in Flanders. In the wake of the Reformation, there was significant contact between Dutch and Hungarian Protestants. A Hungarian bible compiled by a team led by Gáspár Karolyi was printed in Amsterdam in 1590. Religious words such as Mennonita have been adopted by Hungarian. This comes from the Dutch Mennoniet, derived from the name of the leader of the Mennonites (a branch of Anabaptists), Menno Simonsz (1496-1561) from Friesland.

As for Hungarian words in Dutch, there are at least two. One of these, which has become an international loanword is koets (‘coach’). This comes from the Hungarian word kosci, which derives from Kocs, the name of the village where the coach park for the Austro-Hungarian Emperor was situated. The other notable Hungarian loanword, again an international loanword is goulash. The authorative Dutch Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal tells us that this comes from the Hungarian gulyás, which is an abbreviation of gulyás hús `meat of the cattle herd’. This entered Dutch in the mid-19th century. Both koets and goulash (previously also spelt goulasch and goelasj) form hybrid words in Dutch. Koets forms over 20 hybrid words such as koetshuis (coach house) and koetspaard (coach horse) while ‘uit de koets vallen’ means ‘to come down to earth with a bump’. In the Van Dale dictionary there is an entry for goulashcommunisme, which it defines as ‘egoistic materialism’.

Further reading

Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse woorden wereldwijd. The Hague: SDU, 2010.

Dit stukje verscheen eerder op The History of Dutch.

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