Jewish Name Magyarization in Hungary


  • Tamás Farkas Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest



Family Names, Surname Changes in Hungary, Hungarian Jews, Assimilation, Names as Ethnic Symbols


This article presents the surname changes of the Jews as formal acts which served as a means of assimilation, and which resulted in a characteristic phenomenon of the history of Jewish communities as well as of the surrounding society of the majority. Surname changes as the sign of forming cultural and national identities were used for an individual crossing of a conceptual borderline between ‘they’ and ‘us’ in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Hungarian society. The paper is based on research in different fields of scholarly studies, applying multi- and interdisciplinary standpoints. It focuses on the Name Magyarization process, but also makes comparisons with the name changes of the Jews in other countries. It applies different sources to investigate the social, historical, cultural and ideological background, context and the characteristics of the nominal assimilation of the Jews. It analyzes their names as ethnic symbols, and presents the reasons that made the surname changes so typical for them. It presents the assimilation process of Jewish persons and their personal names in general, and the history of their surname changes in Hungary. The characteristic features of the surnames chosen and their typical motivations are also analyzed, in comparison with those of the non-Jews in the country.

Author Biography

Tamás Farkas, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Tamás Farkas PhD (born in 1970) is a senior lecturer of the Institute of Hungarian Linguistics and Finno-Ugric Studies of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest. He studied Hungarian Linguistics, Literature and History, and defended his PhD thesis in the field of Onomastics (2001). He is involved in the research of linguistic and cultural history and the system of personal names, especially the surnames in Hungary, and other fields of interdisciplinary Name Studies as Socioonomastics and Applied Onomastics. His special field of interest is the phenomenon of official surname changes in Hungary. He completed his PhD thesis, directed an interdisciplinary research team, read papers and published several studies, including a monograph on different questions of this topic. His latest major works: Családnév-változtatás Magyarországon [Surname Changes in Hungary] (2009); Régi magyar családnevek névvégmutató szótára [Reverse Dictionary of Historical Hungarian Family Names] (2009). He is the editor of the periodical of Hungarian Onomastics (Névtani Értesítő), and the secretary of the Society of Hungarian Linguistics (Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság).






Cluster Articles: Hungarian Borders, Immigration, Diasporas