Hungarians, also known as Magyars (Hungarian: magyarok), are a nation and ethnic group native to Hungary and historical Hungarian lands who share a common ancestry, culture, history and speak the Hungarian language. There are an estimated 13.1–14.7 million ethnic Hungarians and their descendants worldwide, of whom 8.5–9.8 million live in today's Hungary (as of 2011).[101] About 2.2 million Hungarians live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before the 1918–1920 dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Treaty of Trianon, and are now parts of Hungary's seven neighbouring countries, especially Romania, Austria, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine. Significant groups of people with Hungarian ancestry live in various other parts of the world, most of them in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, and Argentina. Hungarians can be classified into several subgroups according to local linguistic and cultural characteristics; subgroups with distinct identities include the Székelys, the Csángós, the Palóc, and the Jász people.


The Hungarians' own ethnonym to denote themselves in the Early Middle Ages is uncertain. The exonym "Hungarian" is thought to be derived from "Ugor". Prior to the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 895/6 and while they lived on the steppes of Eastern Europe east of the Carpathian Mountains, written sources called the Magyars "Hungarians", specifically: "Ungri" by Georgius Monachus in 837, "Ungri" by Annales Bertiniani in 862, and "Ungari" by the Annales ex Annalibus Iuvavensibus in 881. The Magyars/Hungarians probably belonged to the Onogur tribal alliance, and it is possible that they became its ethnic majority.[30] In the Early Middle Ages the Hungarians had many names, including "Węgrzy" (Polish), "Ungherese" (Italian), "Ungar" (German), and "Hungarus".[31] The "H-" prefix is a later addition of Medieval Latin.

Another possible explanation comes from the Old Russian "Yugra" ("Югра"). It may refer to the Hungarians during a time when they dwelt east of the Ural Mountains along the natural borders of Europe and Asia before their conquest of the Carpathian Basin.

The Hungarian people refer to themselves by the demonym "Magyar" rather than "Hungarian".[30] "Magyar" is Finno-Ugric[32] from the Old Hungarian "mogyër". "Magyar" possibly derived from the name of the most prominent Hungarian tribe, the "Megyer". The tribal name "Megyer" became "Magyar" in reference to the Hungarian people as a whole.[33][34][35] "Magyar" may also derive from the Hunnic "Muageris" or "Mugel".

The Greek cognate of "Tourkia" (Greek: Τουρκία) was used by the scholar and Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII "Porphyrogenitus" in his De Administrando Imperio of c. AD 950,[36][37] though in his use, "Turks" always referred to Magyars.[38]

The historical Latin phrase "Natio Hungarica" ("Hungarian nation") had a wider and political meaning because it once referred to all nobles of the Kingdom of Hungary, regardless of their ethnicity or mother tongue.


Pre-4th century AD

During the 4th millennium BC, the Uralic-speaking peoples who were living in the central and southern regions of the Urals split up. Some dispersed towards the west and northwest and came into contact with Iranian speakers who were spreading northwards.[84] From at least 2000 BC onwards, the Ugrian speakers became distinguished from the rest of the Uralic community. Judging by evidence from burial mounds and settlement sites, they interacted with the Indo-Iranian Andronovo culture.[39]

4th century to c. 830

In the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the Hungarians moved from the west of the Ural Mountains to the area between the southern Ural Mountains and the Volga River known as Bashkiria (Bashkortostan) and Perm Krai. In the early 8th century, some of the Hungarians moved to the Don River to an area between the Volga, Don and the Seversky Donets rivers.[40] Meanwhile, the descendants of those Hungarians who stayed in Bashkiria remained there as late as 1241.

The Hungarians around the Don River were subordinates of the Khazar khaganate. Their neighbours were the archaeological Saltov Culture, i.e. Bulgars (Proto-Bulgarians, Onogurs) and the Alans, from whom they learned gardening, elements of cattle breeding and of agriculture. Tradition holds that the Hungarians were organized in a confederacy of seven tribes. The names of the seven tribes were: Jenő, Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer, Nyék, and Tarján.

c. 830 to c. 895

Around 830, a rebellion broke out in the Khazar khaganate. As a result, three Kabar tribes[84] of the Khazars joined the Hungarians and moved to what the Hungarians call the Etelköz, the territory between the Carpathians and the Dnieper River. The Hungarians faced their first attack by the Pechenegs around 854,[40] though other sources state that an attack by Pechenegs was the reason for their departure to Etelköz. The new neighbours of the Hungarians were the Varangians and the eastern Slavs. From 862 onwards, the Hungarians (already referred to as the Ungri) along with their allies, the Kabars, started a series of looting raids from the Etelköz into the Carpathian Basin, mostly against the Eastern Frankish Empire (Germany) and Great Moravia, but also against the Balaton principality and Bulgaria.[84]

Entering the Carpathian Basin (c. 895)

In 895/896, under the leadership of Árpád, some Hungarians crossed the Carpathians and entered the Carpathian Basin. The tribe called Magyar was the leading tribe of the Hungarian alliance that conquered the centre of the basin. At the same time (c. 895), due to their involvement in the 894–896 Bulgaro-Byzantine war, Hungarians in Etelköz were attacked by Bulgaria and then by their old enemies the Pechenegs. The Bulgarians won the decisive battle of Southern Buh. It is uncertain whether or not those conflicts were the cause of the Hungarian departure from Etelköz.

From the upper Tisza region of the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarians intensified their looting raids across continental Europe. In 900, they moved from the upper Tisza river to Transdanubia (Pannonia), which later became the core of the arising Hungarian state. At the time of the Hungarian migration, the land was inhabited only by a sparse population of Slavs, numbering about 200,000,[40] who were either assimilated or enslaved by the Hungarians.[40]

Archaeological findings (e.g. in the Polish city of Przemyśl) suggest that many Hungarians remained to the north of the Carpathians after 895/896.[84] There is also a consistent Hungarian population in Transylvania, the Székelys, who comprise 40% of the Hungarians in Romania.[84][103] The Székely people's origin, and in particular the time of their settlement in Transylvania, is a matter of historical controversy.

After 900

In 907, the Hungarians destroyed a Bavarian army in the Battle of Pressburg and laid the territories of present-day Germany, France, and Italy open to Hungarian raids, which were fast and devastating. The Hungarians defeated the Imperial Army of Louis the Child, son of Arnulf of Carinthia and last legitimate descendant of the German branch of the house of Charlemagne, near Augsburg in 910. From 917 to 925, Hungarians raided through Basle, Alsace, Burgundy, Saxony, and Provence.[84] Hungarian expansion was checked at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, ending their raids against Western Europe, but raids on the Balkan Peninsula continued until 970.[84] The Pope approved Hungarian settlement in the area when their leaders converted to Christianity, and St. King Stephen I (Szent István) was crowned King of Hungary in 1001. The century between the arrival of the Hungarians from the eastern European plains and the consolidation of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1001 was dominated by pillaging campaigns across Europe, from Dania (Denmark) to the Iberian Peninsula (contemporary Spain and Portugal).[48] After the acceptance of the nation into Christian Europe under Stephen I, Hungary served as a bulwark against further invasions from the east and south, especially by the Turks.

At this time, the Hungarian nation numbered around 400,000 people.[40] The first accurate measurements of the population of the Kingdom of Hungary including ethnic composition were carried out in 1850–51. There is a debate among Hungarian and non-Hungarian (especially Slovak and Romanian) historians about the possible changes in the ethnic structure of the region throughout history. Some historians support the theory that the proportion of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin was at an almost constant 80% during the Middle Ages.[9][10][106][12] Non-Hungarians numbered hardly more than 20% to 25% of the total population.[9] The Hungarian population began to decrease only at the time of the Ottoman conquest,[9][10][12] reaching as low as around 39% by the end of the 18th century. The decline of the Hungarians was due to the constant wars, Ottoman raids, famines, and plagues during the 150 years of Ottoman rule.[9][10][12] The main zones of war were the territories inhabited by the Hungarians, so the death toll depleted them at a much higher rate than among other nationalities.[9][12] In the 18th century, their proportion declined further because of the influx of new settlers from Europe, especially Slovaks, Serbs and Germans.[53] As a consequence of Turkish occupation and Habsburg colonization policies, the country underwent a great change in ethnic composition as its population more than tripled to 8 million between 1720 and 1787, while only 39% of its people were Hungarians, who lived primarily in the centre of the country.[9][10][106][12]

Other historians, particularly Slovaks and Romanians, argue that the drastic change in the ethnic structure hypothesized by Hungarian historians in fact did not occur. They argue that the Hungarians accounted for only about 30–40% of the Kingdom's population from its establishment. In particular, there is a fierce debate among Hungarians and Romanian historians about the ethnic composition of Transylvania through these times.

In the 19th century, the proportion of Hungarians in the Kingdom of Hungary rose gradually, reaching over 50% by 1900 due to higher natural growth and Magyarization. Between 1787 and 1910 the number of ethnic Hungarians rose from 2.3 million to 10.2 million, accompanied by the resettlement of the Great Hungarian Plain and Voivodina by mainly Roman Catholic Hungarian settlers from the northern and western counties of the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1715 (after the Ottoman occupation), the Southern Great Plain was nearly uninhabited but now has 1.3 million inhabitants, nearly all of them Hungarians.

Spontaneous assimilation was an important factor, especially among the German and Jewish minorities and the citizens of the bigger towns. On the other hand, about 1.5 million people (about two-thirds non-Hungarian) left the Kingdom of Hungary between 1890–1910 to escape from poverty.[54]

Population growth of present-day territory of Hungary, regardless to ethnicity (900–1980)

The years 1918 to 1920 were a turning point in the Hungarians' history. By the Treaty of Trianon, the Kingdom had been cut into several parts, leaving only a quarter of its original size. One-third of the Hungarians became minorities in the neighbouring countries.[56] During the remainder of the 20th century, the Hungarians population of Hungary grew from 7.1 million (1920) to around 10.4 million (1980), despite losses during the Second World War and the wave of emigration after the attempted revolution in 1956. The number of Hungarians in the neighbouring countries tended to remain the same or slightly decreased, mostly due to assimilation (sometimes forced; see Slovakization and Romanianization) and to emigration to Hungary (in the 1990s, especially from Transylvania and Vojvodina).

After the "baby boom" of the 1950s (Ratkó era), a serious demographic crisis began to develop in Hungary and its neighbours.[57] The Hungarian population reached its maximum in 1980, then began to decline.[57]

For historical reasons (see Treaty of Trianon), significant Hungarian minority populations can be found in the surrounding countries, most of them in Romania (in Transylvania), Slovakia, and Serbia (in Vojvodina). Sizable minorities live also in Ukraine (in Transcarpathia), Croatia (primarily Slavonia), and Austria (in Burgenland). Slovenia is also host to a number of ethnic Hungarians, and Hungarian language has an official status in parts of the Prekmurje region. Today more than two million ethnic Hungarians live in nearby countries.[108]

There was a referendum in Hungary in December 2004 on whether to grant Hungarian citizenship to Hungarians living outside Hungary's borders (i.e. without requiring a permanent residence in Hungary). The referendum failed due to insufficient voter turnout. On 26 May 2010, Hungary's Parliament passed a bill granting dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside of Hungary. Some neighboring countries with sizable Hungarian minorities expressed concerns over the legislation.

Ethnic affiliations and genetic origins

Magyars (Hungarians) in Hungary, 1890 census

Thanks to Pál Lipták's researches it has been known for almost half a century that only 16.7 percent of 10th century human bones belong to the Euro-Mongoloid and Mongoloid types.[63] The European characteristics in the biological composition of the recent Hungarian population and the lack of Asian markers are not solely due to the thousand years of blending.[63] Biologically, the population around 1000 AD in Hungary was made up almost exclusively of Europeans.[63]

According to a 2008 publication from the European Journal of Human Genetics, the Y-DNA haplogroup Haplogroup R1a1a-M17 was found amongst 57% of Hungarian male samples, genetically clustering them with that of their neighboring West Slavic neighbors, the Czechs, Poles, and Slovaks.[111] Another study on Y-Chromosome markers concluded that "modern Hungarian and Székelys (a subgroup of Hungarians living in the Székely Land in modern-day central Romania) are genetically related, and that they share similar components described for other Europeans, except for the presence of the Haplogroup P (M173) in Székely samples, which may reflect a Central Asian connection from at the time of the Hungarian migration from the Urals to Europe.[115]

Neparaczki argues, based on new archeogenetic results, that the Conqueror Hungarians were mostly a mixture of Hunnic, Slavic, and German tribes and this composite people evolved in the steppes of Eastern Europe between 400 and 1000 AD.[116][117] This research group also established that "genetic continuity can be detected between ancient and modern Hungarians".[118]

Another study on Y-Chromosome markers concluded that "modern Hungarian and Szekler populations are genetically closely related", and that they "share similar components described for other Europeans, except for the presence of the haplogroup P*(xM173) in Szekler samples, which may reflect a Central Asian connection, and high frequency of haplogroup J in both Szeklers and Hungarians".

According to Dreisziger, there were not genetic anthropological and linguistic connections between the conquerors of 895 and modern Hungarian population and Hungarian language.[119]

According to a 2008 study, the mitochondrial lines of the Hungarians are indistinct from that of neighbouring West Slavs, they are distinct from that of the ancient Hungarians (Magyars). Four 10th century skeletons from well documented cemeteries in Hungary of ancient Magyar individuals were sampled.[120] Two of the four males belonged to Y-DNA Haplogroup N confirming their Uralic origin. None out of 100 sampled modern Hungarians carried the haplogroup, and just one of about 94 Székelys carried it. The study also stated that it was possible that the more numerous pre-existing populations or substantional later migrations, mostly Avars and Slavs, accepted the Uralic language of the elite.[120]

An autosomal analysis,[122] studying non-European admixture in Europeans, found 4.4% of admixture of non-European and non-Middle Eastern origin among Hungarians, which was the strongest among sampled populations. It was found at 3.6% in Belarusians, 2.5% in Romanians, 2.3% in Bulgarians and Lithuanians, 1.9% in Poles and 0% in Greeks. The authors stated "This signal might correspond to a small genetic legacy from invasions of peoples from the Asian steppes (e.g., the Huns, Magyars, and Bulgars) during the first millennium CE.".

Compared to the European nations, Andrea Vágó-Zalán's study determined that the Bulgarians were genetically the closest and the Estonians and Finns were among the furthest from the recent Hungarian population.[31]

According to Pamjav Horolma's study, which is based on 230 samples and expected to include 6-8% Gypsy peoples, the small Hungarian haplogroup distribution study from Hungary is as follows: 26% R1a, 20% I2a, 19% R1b, 7% I, 6% J2, 5% H, 5% G2a, 5% E1b1b1a1, 3% J1, <1% N, <1% R2.[123] According to another study by Pamjav, the area of Bodrogköz suggested to be a population isolate found an elevated frequency of Haplogroup N: R1a-M458 (20.4%), I2a1-P37 (19%), R1a-Z280 (14.3%), and E1b-M78 (10.2%). Various R1b-M343 subgroups accounted for 15% of the Bodrogköz population. Haplogroup N1c-Tat covered 6.2% of the lineages, but most of it belonged to the N1c-VL29 subgroup, which is more frequent among Balto-Slavic speaking than Finno-Ugric speaking peoples. Other haplogroups had frequencies of less than 5%.[125]

Among 100 Hungarian men, 90 of whom from the Great Hungarian Plain, the following haplogroups and frequencies are obtained: 30% R1a, 15% R1b, 13% I2a1, 13% J2, 9% E1b1b1a, 8% I1, 3% G2, 3% J1, 3% I*, 1% E*, 1% F*, 1% K*. The 97 Székelys belong to the following haplogroups: 20% R1b, 19% R1a, 17% I1, 11% J2, 10% J1, 8% E1b1b1a, 5% I2a1, 5% G2, 3% P*, 1% E*, 1% N.[127] It can be inferred that Szekelys have more significant German admixture. A study sampling 45 Palóc from Budapest and northern Hungary, found 60% R1a, 13% R1b, 11% I, 9% E, 2% G, 2% J2. A study estimating possible Inner Asian admixture among nearly 500 Hungarians based on paternal lineages only, estimated it at 5.1% in Hungary, at 7.4 in Székelys and at 6.3% at Csangos.[128] It has boldly been noted that this is an upper limit by deep SNPs and that the main haplogroups responsible for that contribution are J2-M172 (negative M47, M67, L24, M12), J2-L24, R1a-Z93, Q-M242 and E-M78, the latter of which is typically European, while N is still negligible (1.7%). In an attempt to divide N into subgroups L1034 and L708, some Hungarian, Sekler, and Uzbek samples were found to be L1034 SNP positive, while all Mongolians, Buryats, Khanty, Finnish, and Roma samples showed a negative result for this marker. The 2500 years old SNP L1034 was found typical for Mansi and Hungarians, the closest linguistic relatives.

Anthropologically, the type of Magyars of the conquest phase shows similarity to that of the Andronovo people,[67] in particular of the Sarmatian groups around the southern Urals.[68] The Turanid (South-Siberian) and the Uralid types from the Europo-Mongoloids were dominant among the conquering Hungarians.[11] Excavations of several Sarmatians showed that they belong to Haplogroup G2a, J1, J2 and R1a-Z93.

The following information is inferred from 433 Hungarian samples from the Hungarian Magyar Y-DNA Project in Family Tree (29 May 2017):[129]

  • 26.1% R1a (15% Z280, 6.5% M458, 0.9% Z93=>S23201 "Altai/Tian Shan", 3.7% unknown)
  • 19.2% R1b (6% L11-P312/U106, 5.3% P312, 4.2% L23/Z2103, 3.7% U106)
  • 16.9% I2 (15.2% CTS10228, 1.4% M223, 0.5% L38)
  • 8.3% I1
  • 8.1% J2 (5.3% M410, 2.8% M102)
  • 6.9% E1b1b1 (6% V13, 0.3% V22, 0.3% M123, 0.3% M81)
  • 6.9% G2a
  • 3.2% N (1.4% Z9136 "Ugric/Proto-Magyar", 0.5% M2019/VL67 "Siberia and Baykal", 0.5% Y7310 "Central Europe", 0.9% Z16981 "Baltic")- note: only unrelated males are sampled
  • 2.3% Q (1.2% YP789 "Huns/Turkmens", 0.9% M346 "Siberia", 0.2% M242 "Xiongnu")
  • 0.9% T
  • 0.5% J1
  • 0.2% L
  • 0.2% C

Other influences

Origin of word roots in Hungarian
Latin and Greek
Other known

Besides the various peoples mentioned above, the Magyars assimilated or were influenced by subsequent peoples arriving in the Carpathian Basin. Among these are the Cumans, Pechenegs, Jazones, West Slavs, Germans, Vlachs (Romanians), amongst others. Ottomans, who occupied the central part of Hungary from c. 1526 until c. 1699, inevitably exerted an influence, as did the various nations (Germans, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and others) that resettled depopulated territories after their departure. Similar to other European countries, Jewish, Armenians, and Roma (Gypsy) minorities have been living in Hungary since the Middle Ages.

Hungarian diaspora

Hungarian diaspora (Magyar diaspora) is a term that encompasses the total ethnic Hungarian population located outside of current-day Hungary.

Maps of the Hungarian diaspora
Hungarians in Romania (according to the 2002 census) 
The Treaty of Trianon: Kingdom of Hungary lost 72% of its land and 3.3 million people of Hungarian ethnicity.
Hungarians in Vojvodina, Serbia (according to the 2011 census) 
The place of origin for the regional groups of Hungarians in the conquest period according to Kinga Éry
Hungarians in Slovakia (according to the 2001 census) 


Folklore and communities

See also


  1. Though the number is based on the recent 2011 census data, it is a lower estimate, as both in Hungary and in Slovakia census participants had the option to opt out and not declare their ethnicity, hence about 2 million people decided to do so.
  2. This number is a lower estimate, as 1.44 million people opted out declaring ethnicity in 2011.
  3. Native Hungarian-speakers.
  4. This number is a lower estimate, as 405,261 people (7.5% of the total population) did not specify their ethnicity at the 2011 Slovak Census.