Simplified Grammar of the Hungarian Language/Etymology

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Etymology treats of the forming of words.

Words are formed in two ways: (a) by means of affixes called formatives; (b) by putting together of words. The first class are called derivatives; the latter compounds.

Formatives (Hungarian: képző) are particles or affixes which are joined to the word in order to give it another signification.

A distinction is to be made between the affixes used for declension and conjugation, and the formatives (affixes for forming new words). Those modify only the meaning expressed in the crude (uninflected) form; while the latter create new ideas; as, ház, house; házaló, pedlar; házasság, matrimony, marriage, &c.

Furthermore, a word being inflected cannot take a formative, and so form new ideas; while a word with a formative affix constitutes a new word, capable of being inflected according to the part of speech to which it then belongs.

Derivatives may also take formatives and form again new words, in which case the derivative is called the primitive of the new word. In the following example each preceding word is the primitive or stem-word of the following derivative:—

harc (substantive), battle.
harci (adjective), pertaining to battle.
harcias (adjective), valorous, warlike.
harciaskod-(ni) (verb), to battle, to be engaged in war.
harciaskodás (abstract substantive), struggle, the state of being in war, challenging.
harciaskodási (adjective), pertaining to struggle, war or fighting.

By this it will be seen how rich the Hungarian language is in its capacity for forming words and expressing the finer shades of meaning.

In the following the principal formatives only are given. To give all of them would exceed the limits of this book, and would be, moreover, quite superfluous, as most of the derivatives are to be found in the dictionaries.

I. Substantives are formed:

(a) by adding ság, ség to adjectives; as, szépség, beauty; jóság, goodness.

(b) by adding -ás, -és to verbs: alvás, sleeping; állás (from áll(ni) to stand), position, standing;

(c) by adding -as, -es, -ös, or -ár, -ér to substantives, new substantives are formed; as—

asztal, table; asztalos, joiner.
kés, knife; késes, cutler.
kád, coop, tub; kádár, cooper.

(d) All present participles of the verb may be used as substantives:—

olvasó, reader; arató, reaper.

(e) Diminutives of substantives are formed in different ways. The principal forms are:—

-ka, -ke; lány-ka, a little girl.
-ocska, -ecske; ablak-ocska, a small window.

II. Adjectives are formed by adding:—

(a) -as, -os, -es, -ös, to substantives; as—

hely, place; helyes, proper (i.e. in the right place).
ágy, bed; ágyas, furnished with beds.
arany, gold; aranyos, golden, or covered with gold.

(b) -talan or -telen are the negatives of the foregoing; as—

helytelen, improper.
ágytalan, without beds.
aranytalan, without gold.

(c) -i, mostly used after names of places. It denotes "pertaining to," or may be rendered in English by "of"; as—

Budapesti, of Budapest, or pertaining to Budapest.
házi, domestic.

(d) Diminutives are derived by adding -s, to adjectives ending with a vowel; or -es, -ás, -os to those ending in a consonant; as—

sárga, yellow; sárgás, yellowish.
öreg, old; öreges, elderly.

III. Verbs are formed by adding:—

(a) -al, -ol, -el, or -oz, -ez, to substantives, which become then active verbs; as—

házal(ni),[1] to peddle. vasal(ni), to iron.
ablakoz(ni), to furnish with windows.

(b) -it, -úl, -űl, to adjectives; the former for transitive, and the latter for intransitive verbs; as—

kékit, he makes blue;
kékül, it is getting blue (by itself).

(c) -oz, -öz, -ez, -áz, to postpositions; as—

aláz(ni), to humble.
túlozni, to exaggerate; &c.

(d) -etlen, -atlan, will negative a verb; as, varatlan, unsown; and the word becomes then an adjective.

These are the principal formatives, and all which is necessary to know, all other derivatives being found in the dictionaries.

Derivatives may also be formed by the putting together of words. But a distinction must then be made between compounds and derivatives. To the former belong all compounds retaining the primitive meaning of the respective words; as, for instance, vasajtó, an iron door (made of vas = iron, and ajtó = door).

To the derivatives belong compounds forming new ideas; e.g.,—

Szépanya, great-grandmother.

If written separately—szép anya—it would mean "a pretty mother."

Nagybátya, uncle; but nagy bátya means "a tall (elder) brother."

  1. The ending -ni belongs to the class of suffixes, and not to the formatives.