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This article is about the Magyar people. For the Magyar language, see Hungarian language.

Magyars are an ethnic group primarily associated with Hungary. In English they are usually called Hungarians, except in some historical texts.

The word Hungarian has a wider meaning, because - especially in the past - it referred to all inhabitants of the Kingdom of Hungary irrespective of their ethnicity (i.e. not only Magyars). Specifically, the Latin term natio hungarica referred to all nobles of the Kingdom of Hungary irrespective of their ethnicity.

There are around 9,416,000 Magyars in Hungary (2001). Magyars have been the main inhabitants of the Kingdom of Hungary that existed through most of the second millennium. Following its disappearance with the Treaty of Trianon, Magyars have become minority inhabitants of Romania (1,400,000; see: Hungarian minority in Romania), Slovakia (520,500), Serbia and Montenegro (293,000), Ukraine (170,000), Croatia (16,500), the Czech Republic (14,600) and Slovenia (7,700).

There was a referendum in Hungary in December 2004 on whether to automatically grant Hungarian citizenship to all Magyars living outside Hungary's borders. The referendum failed, because of lack of interest on the part of the population.



The Magyar leader Árpád is believed to have led the Hungarians into the Carpathian Basin (and the Pannonian plain) in 896. Magyar expansion was checked at the Battle of Lechfeld. Hungarian settlement in the area became blessed by the Pope by the crowning of Stephen I the Saint (Szent István) in 1001 when the leaders accepted Christianity. The centuries between the Magyars arriving from the eastern European plains and the consolidation of the Hungarian Kingdom in 1001 were dominated by pillaging campaigns across Europe, from Dania (Denmark) to the Hispanic peninsula (Spain).

Since the end of the 13th century (except for the period 1538/1541 - early 18th century) the multiethnic Kingdom of Hungary, founded by the Magyars in the 10th century, occupied the whole Carpathian Basin. Despite its name, in sum the state was inhabited by far more other nationalities than Magyars (e.g. in 1780 by 71,1% other nationalities). After WWI the ancient Kingdom was divided through the Treaty of Trianon in many successor states.

Origin of the word "Hungarian"

The word derives from the old Slavic word og(ъ)r- for the proto-Magyars. Through Germanic languages, the word got into other European languags ((H)ungarus, (H)ungarn, Vengry etc.). The Slavic word is thought to be derived from the bulgaro-turkic Onogur, which could have arisen because the proto-Magyars were neighbours of the Empire of the Onogurs in the 6th century, whose leading tribal union was called the "Onogurs" (meaning "ten tribes").

The H- in many languages (Hungarians, Hongrois, Hungarus etc.) is a later error. It was taken over from the word "Huns", which was a similar semi-nomadic tribe living some 400 years earlier in present-day Hungary and having a similar way of life. In ancient times and in the middle ages such false identifications (Huns=Hungarians) often occurred in history and literature.

Magyar is today simply the Hungarian word for Hungarian. In English and many other languages, however, Magyar is used instead of Hungarian in certain (mainly historical) contexts, usually to distinguish ethnic Hungarians (i.e. the Magyars) from the other nationalities living in the Hungarian kingdom.

Still, Hun names like Attila and Réka are popular among Hungarians, and forms derived from Latin Hungaria are used like in the racetrack Hungaroring (mostly due to the strong English language pressure in tourism and international matters).

An equivalent use in English would be using Britannia, Hibernia and Erin besides the Anglo-Saxon words.

Origin of the Magyar people

By one of the Hungarian legends, the Hungarians were descendants of Magor , the son of Nimrod of the Hebrew Bible. (Other sources call the father "Menrót" (Persian); and "Nimrod" was a very popular name among ancient kings, so he could have been any of them.)

Together with his brother Hunor, patriarch of the Hun race, Magor set out on a hunting trip chasing an elusive white stag for many weeks. They eventually found themselves far from home, and decided to settle down where they were, the Crimean peninsula. There, they blended with the Turkic and proto-Mongolian races.

Around year 400, the Hun tribes decided to leave the sheltered peninsula for more conquest and land, eventually finding themselves in the Hungarian plain. 400 years later, the Hungarians followed their Hun brethren whom they found living peaceably in modern-day Transylvania.

See also

External links

  • On the origins of the Hungarians by Marcell Jankovics
  • On the origins of the Magyars

Last updated: 02-08-2005 10:26:39
Last updated: 05-01-2005 03:04:22