No doubt, the Hungarian language is rich and wonderful no matter when it comes to describing everyday things, giving someone a piece of our mind, or telling a friend to take a cautious step back. We garnered a couple of common Hungarian proverbs that are passed down from generation to generation. However, to mix things up a little, we also threw in some fairly new hilarious expressions to everyone’s amusement. Enjoy!
1. Bagoly mondja verébnek, hogy nagyfejű – “It’s the owl calling the sparrow the one with a big head”
This Hungarian proverb is often used when two people bicker with each other or engage in a banter. It’s a common way to say that the other person ignores his/her own shortcoming while blaming us for the very same thing. It’s a relatively mild expression so one can safely use it without being rude.
2. Kevés vagy, mint mackósajtban a brummogás – “You’re as insignificant as the growling in Mackó cheese”
Well, that’s certainly a level-up when it comes to calling someone out on their behavior. To fully grasp the meaning of this Hungarian proverb, you also need a bit of background knowledge. Mackó is a beloved retro cheese among the locals, which comes with distinctive packaging depicting a bear. You may want to think twice, however, before using this proverb.
3. Apád nem volt üveges! – “Your dad wasn’t a glassmaker!”
Now, that’s a rather odd one. Unless you are a native speaker, you will probably never figure out that this Hungarian proverb basically means ‘you’re blocking my view’. You may hear this funny expression in the cinema when someone walks in front of the screen in the cross aisle without a single care in the world, annoying the other viewers.
4. Ha lúd, hát legyen kövér – “If it’s a goose, it ought to be fat”
It practically means that someone should enjoy an event (let’s say a party or a gathering among friends) to the fullest without fretting about what tomorrow might bring. Hungarians love their traditional dishes made of goose, especially the fatty liver of the bird, therefore, it’s no surprise that this animal also appears in some proverbs.
5. Majd ha piros hó esik – “When red snow falls!”
The English equivalence of this proverb can be “when pigs fly!”. Even though red snow can indeed occur in some parts of the Alps or other mountain ranges caused by a specific alga, it’s not something you’ll likely see in Hungary since the country’s highest peak, Mt. Kékes, is only 1,104 m above sea level.
6. Nem kolbászból van a kerítés – “The fence isn’t made of sausage”
One of the first things expats who move to Hungary notice is the locals’ general pessimistic outlook on life. This Hungarians proverb, depending on the context, can serve as a word of caution, warning the other person that they shouldn’t get their hopes too high as things may not be as good as they appear. It’s commonly used regardless of whether there is a valid reason to be careful or not.
7. A baj nem jár egyedül – “Problems never come alone”
Talking about famous Hungarian pessimism, here is another proverb that well expresses the nation’s approach to life, especially that of the older generation who grew up in the weathered Communist era. Things are slowly changing though, so it shouldn’t discourage you from visiting our beautiful country.
8. Ki koran kel aranyat lel – ‘Who gets up early will find the gold’
This Hungarian proverb refers to the virtuous early bird who springs out of bed at the break of dawn to have enough time to get all the important daily chores and work done. It’s also the favorite saying of Hungarian parents to nag their children about the importance of getting up early and making it to school on time.
9. Bámul mint borjú az új kapura – “He stares at the gate like a young calf”
Has it ever happened to you that your mind just wandered off while being in the presence of other people? Hungarians often say this proverb at times when one appears clueless or when he/she lost track of the conversation.
Main picture: canva.com
– Eleonora Jobst –