Hungary: Traditional Roma names; name-changing practices after marriage; languages spoken by Roma, including variations in spoken Hungarian (2015-December 2017) [HUN106036.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Traditional Roma Names

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, Tamás Farkas, a linguist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (Országos Doktori Tanács 2017), indicated that the most common and typical surnames of Roma in Hungary are linguistically of Hungarian origin (Farkas 21 Dec. 2017). The same source added that "it is not so easy" to distinguish between Roma names and the rest of the Hungarian population "as in the case of other national or ethnic minorities" (Farkas 21 Dec. 2017). However, the same source indicated that, when looking at someone's full name, there are some personal names for which "it is quite obvious that the person belongs to the Roma population" (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017). The same source gave the names "Kolompár Ramóna" and "Lakatos Rikárdó" as examples (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017).

A 2013 article on the prevalence of ethnonymic surnames in the Hungarian language written by Farkas indicates that the most common surname of "Romanian/Gypsy/Hungarian origin" in Hungary is "Móré," which means "Romanian, Gypsy" (Farkas 2013, 506). According to the same source, however, the name "Móré … can be of Hungarian, Romanian or Gypsy origin" and it "can come from a variety of donor languages" (Farkas 2013, 506). The proportion of bearers of the name "Móré" relative to the whole population of Hungary is 0.01 percent (Farkas 2013, 506). Farkas indicated that, in addition to "Móré," the names "Bangó," "Lolé," "Pusoma" may, linguistically, be of Roma origin, "but all of them may have come from the Hungarian language as well, and they are not so frequent names [in Hungary]" (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017).

Farkas stated that "society thinks that the most typical Roma surnames" are the following: "Horvát(h)," "Balog(h)," "Lakatos," "Orsós," "Oláh," and "Kolompár" (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017). He further noted that the surnames "Horvát(h)" and "Balog(h)" are not characteristically borne by Roma, as they are common in Hungary in general (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017). The names "Lakatos" and "Oláh" are, according to the same source, "quite frequent," but "seem to be overrepresented among the Roma in Hungary" (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017). The names "Orsós" and "Kolompár" are "really known as Roma surnames" (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017).

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. For information on traditional Roma names in Hungary prior to April 2006, see Response to Information Request HUN101156 of April 2006.

1.1 Change of Name After Marriage

Sources note that, in Hungarian, the family name precedes the first name (Fercsik 2010, 1; INTERPOL Mar. 2006, 15). The Lonely Planet guide for Budapest and Hungary notes that many Hungarian women "follow the practice of taking their husband's full name" (Lonely Planet July 2017). Sources indicate that Hungarian women can take their husband's full name after marriage and add the suffix "né" to the husband given name (INTERPOL Mar. 2006, 15; Fercsik 2010, 1). In a 2010 paper on traditional and modern forms of Hungarian female matrimonial names, Erzsébet Fercsik, a linguist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (Országos Doktori Tanács 2013), explains that, for example, should "Nagy Mária" marry "Kis János," her full name would become, according to this practice, "Kis Jánosné" (Fercsik 2010, 1).

A 2006 publication, A Guide to Names and Naming Practices, produced by the UK and published by INTERPOL, indicates that married Hungarian women have several options concerning the change of their names:

  • keeping their maiden name;
  • using their husband's given name, with the suffix "né," and keeping their whole maiden name;
  • using their husband's surname, adding the suffix "né" to it, and using their whole maiden name;
  • using the initials of their husband's surname and keeping their whole maiden name;
  • using their given name and their husband's surname (INTERPOL Mar. 2006, 15).

Lonely Planet states that the practice of adding the suffix "né" to the husband's surname and keeping the whole maiden name is increasingly popular among professional women in Hungary (Lonely Planet July 2017).

Farkas indicated that once an individual change her or his name after marriage, official documents should be changed to reflect the new name (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Languages Spoken by Roma

The Hungarian Central Statistical Office (Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, KSH) indicates that, according to the 2011 census, 54,339 individuals had either Romani [Romany] or Bea as their mother tongue, whereas 48,438 individuals did in 2001 (Hungary 2011). The same source states that, in 2011, 61,143 individuals spoke either Romani or Bea with family members or friends; 53,075 did so in 2001 (Hungary 2011).

According to sources, Hungarian Roma fall into three linguistic groups: the Romungros [Rumungri], the Vlach Gypsies and the Boyash (Kemény 200, 282; Hungary n.d.). Farkas indicated that the "three major groups" of Roma in Hungary are the Romungros, the Olah and the "Boyash or Romanian" Roma (Farkas 20 Dec. 2017).

Sources indicate that most Romungros [Rumungri, Rumungro], a Roma community in Hungary, speak Hungarian as their native language (Marushiakova and Popov 2016; Lakatos 2008, 45; Farkas 20 Dec. 2017). According to a 2016 paper on the Roma population in Hungary by István Zoltán Pásztor et al. [1], the Romungros are also called the "Hungarian Roma," they have inhabited Hungary for centuries and they constitute approximately 70 percent of the Roma population in Hungary (Pásztor et al. 2016, 8). According to the same source, Hungarian has been their native language for many generations and, "[a]t the time of the censuses, their majority declares themselves not Roma but Hungarians" (Pásztor et al. 2016, 8). Sources indicate that some Romungros, mostly in northeastern Hungary, speak Romani (Marushiakova and Popov 2016) or that "members of some [Romungros] groups still speak the Carpathian dialect of the Romany language" (Lakatos 2008, 45).

A 2008 article written by Szilvia Lakatos, an adjunct professor at the University of Pécs (University of Pécs n.d.), and published by the University of Pécs as part of the research project on Society and Lifestyles (SAL), a research project of 15 partners in 10 countries that studies the values and beliefs of different communities, including Roma, in Eastern Europe (SAL 20 Mar. 2009), indicates that the Carpathian dialect of the Romani language can also be found in two "traditional communities [of Roma]" in Csobánka, Pest County, and in Versend in the Baranya County (Lakatos 2008, 45). A chapter of a 2005 book, Roma of Hungary, written by István Kemény, a Hungarian sociologist (IdRef n.d.), states that the Carpathian dialect is also spoken, together with Hungarian, by some Roma in Nógrád county, Baranya county and in the Pilis hills (Kemény 2005, 15).

According to sources, the Vlach [Vlachi, Vlah, Vlax] Roma are a bilingual group (Hungary n.d.; Kemény 2002, 28), 21 percent of which speak dialects of the Romani language (Hungary n.d.). According to Rombase, a website on "the socio-cultural and socio-historical situation of the Roma" that is supported by the European Community and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Rombase Jan. 2004), the Vlach are also called the Walachian Roma (Rombase Feb. 2003, 6). Lakatos explains that the Lovari [Lovara] dialect of the Romani language is spoken by most Wallachian Roma, including by those who use another dialect within their family, and it is "widely known and recognized as the lingua franca of several different groups" (Lakatos 2008, 45). Similarly, the article by Pásztor et al. explains that

Wallach Roma moved to Hungary from Wallachia mainly during the 19th century, and they constitute approximately 21 [percent] of the total Roma population in Hungary. Their language - the Lovari dialect of the Romani language - is spoken by most of them even today. (Pásztor et al. 2016, 8)

Without providing further details, Kemény states that the Gurvari dialect of Romani is spoken in Szabolcs County and in the Szatmár region (Kemény 2005, 15). Romlex, an electronic lexical database that covers the basic lexicon of the Romani language (Romlex n.d.a) [2], explains that the Gurvari dialect of Romani "has absorbed many Vlax influences and can thus be regarded as a transitional variety" (Romlex n.d.b).

The Boyash [Bayash] are also bilingual and speak Hungarian and Romanian (Kemény 2002, 28) or Hungarian and "archaic" dialects of the Romanian language (Hungary n.d.). The article by Pásztor et al. states that the Boyash account for approximately 8 percent of Roma in Hungary (Pásztor et al. 2016, 8). A 2014 article by Vera Messing, a research fellow in sociology at the Center of Policy Studies of the Central European University (CEU) and a research associate of the Institute of Sociology at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (CEU n.d.), indicates that the Boyash Roma are also known as the Beás (Messing 14 Nov. 2014, 813).

Lakatos indicates that the Beás speak Ticsan, Muncsan and Argyelan, which are "archaic" dialects of Romanian (Lakatos 2008, 45). Ticsan is a "living dialect" in some villages of the Tiszántúl region, while Muncsan and Argyelan are "living dialects" spoken by the Beás in the villages of Baranya County (Lakatos 2008, 45). According to Messing, the Beás speak Boyash, which is "a language based on archaic dialect of Romanian" (Messing 14 Nov. 2014, 813). The article by Pásztor et al. specifies that the language of the Boyash "is the archaic Banat dialect of Romanian" (Pásztor et al. 2016, 8)

According to Pásztor et al., the Sintos and Vend Roma live along the western border of Hungary (Pásztor et al. 2016, 8). Kemény states that they live in Transdanubia (Kemény 2005, 15). According to Pásztor et al., together, the Sintos and Vend Roma account for 1 percent of the Roma population in Hungary (Pásztor et al. 2016, 8). A document titled "Roma and Travellers Glossary," published by the Council of Europe, explains that the Sintos Roma speak Sinto, a "Germanised version of the Romani language" (Council of Europe 11 Sept. 2008, 3). Romlex states that the Hungarian Vend Romani is a language found in southwestern Hungary (Romlex n.d.b).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


[1] István Zoltán Pásztor, János Pénzes and Ágnes Pálóczi are researchers affiliated with the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development Planning of the University of Debrecen, while Patrik Tátrai is a researcher affiliated with the Geographical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Pásztor et al. 2016, 5).

[2] Romlex is supported by the Austrian Science Fund [Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, FWF], "Austria's central funding organization for basic research" (FWF n.d.), by the Open Society Foundations, an organization that promotes governments' accountability and openness to the participation of all people in societies in over 100 countries around the world (Open Society Foundations n.d.), and by the Bundeskanzleramt Österreich [Federal Chancellery of Austria] (Romlex n.d.a).


Central European University (CEU). N.d. "Vera Messing." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Council of Europe. 11 September 2008. Claire Pedotti and Michael Guet. Roma and Travellers Glossary. [Accessed 20 Dec. 2017]

Farkas, Tamás. 20 December 2017. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Farkas, Tamás. 2013. "Surnames of Ethnonymic Origin in the Hungarian Language." Numele Şi Numirea: Actele Conferinței Internaționale de Onomasticǎ. Edited by Oliviu Felecan. Mega Edition and Argonaut Edition. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Fercsik, Erzsébet. 2010. "The Traditional and Modern Forms of Hungarian Female Matrimonial Names." Atti del XXII Congresso Internazionale Antroponomastica. Edited by Maria Giovanna Arcamone, Donatella Bremer, Davide De Camilli and Bruno Porcelli. Ets Edition. [Accessed 11 Dec. 2017]

Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF). N.d. "FWF Austrian Science Fund." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]

Hungary. 2011. Közpoti Statisztikai Hivatal. Population Census 2011. "National Data." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]

Hungary. N.d. Igazságügyi Minisztérium, Emberi Jogi Munkacsoport Titkársága. "The Roma of Hungary." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Identifiants et Référentiels (IdRef). "Kemény, István (1925-2008)." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). March 2006. A Guide to Names and Naming Practices. [Accessed 13 Dec. 2017]

Kemény, István. 2005. "History of Roma in Hungary." Roma of Hungary. Edited by István Kemény. Social Science Monographs. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Kemény, István. 2002. "Linguistic Groups and Usage Among the Hungarian Gypsies/Roma." The Gypsies/the Roma in Hungarian Society. Edited by Ernő Kállai. Teleki László Foundation. [Accessed 11 Dec. 2017]

Lakatos, Szilvia. 2008. "Gypsy Languages in Baranya Country." Society and Lifestyles - Hungarian Roma and Gypsy Communities. Edited by Katalin R. Forray and Zoltán Beck. University of Pécs. [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]

Lonely Planet. 3 July 2017. Steve Fallon and Anna Kaminski. Budapest & Hungary. Lonely Planet Publications.

Marushiakova, Elena and Vesselin Popov. 2016. "Identity and Language of the Roma (Gypsies) in Central and Eastern Europe." The Palgrave Handbook of Slavic Languages, Identities and Borders. Edited by Tomasz Kamusella, Motoki Nomachi and Catherine Gibson. Palgrave Macmillan.

Messing, Vera. 14 November 2014. "Methodological Puzzles of Surveying Roma/Gypsy Populations." Ethinicities. Vol. 14. No. 6.

Open Society Foundations. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]

Országos Doktori Tanács. 2017. "Tamas Farkas - ODT Personal Data Sheet." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]

Országos Doktori Tanács. 2013. "Erzesbet Fercsik - ODT Personal Data Sheet." [Accessed 13 Dec. 2017]

Pásztor, István Zoltán, János Pénzes, Patrik Tátrai and Ágnes Pálóczi. 2016. "The Number and Spatial Distribution of the Roma Population in Hungary - In the Light of Different Approaches." Folia Geographica. Vol. 58, No. 2. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Rombase. January 2004. "Rombase." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Rombase. February 2003. Milena Hübschmannova. "Roma - Sub Ethnic Groups." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Romlex. N.d.a. "Welcome to Romlex." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]

Romlex. N.d.b. "Romani Dialects." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

Society and Lifestyles (SAL). 20 March 2009. "Society and Lifestyles: Towards Enhancing Social Harmonisation Through Knowledge of Subcultural Communities." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2017]

University of Pécs. N.d. "Dr. Lakatos Szilvia." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Adjunct Professor with interests in Roma at the University of Pécs; European Roma Rights Centre; Minority Rights Group International; Professor of anthropology who specializes in Roma and Hungary at Christopher Newport University; Professor of linguistic at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest; Professor with interests in Romology and the Sociology of Education at the University of Pécs; Professor with interests in sociolinguistics, minority language usage and the Boyash language at the University of Pécs.

Internet sites, including:; Minority Rights Group International; UN – Refworld.

Associated documents