How to pronounce this Hungarian town?átoraljaújhely

Sátoraljaújhely is my great grandmother’s hometown. I haven’t a clue about how to pronounce it. It looks like Sat-oral-jah-jh-heelie but that can’t possibly be right. I am completely unfamiliar with Hungarian or German.

Shaht-hor-hoy-hey, approximately.

Sounds to an English-speaker’s ear like SHOT-u-ra-YOWL-yay. Go to Google translate, choose Hungarian, copy and paste in the name, and click the audio button in the lower right corner of the text entry box, you;ll hear a sexy lady say the name in Hungarian.

Great. Thanks.

OK, so we know what it sounds like, what does it mean?

It’s something like SHAH-tor-aw-yaw-UY-hey. (I speak some of the language conversationally, but I am not fluent. The IPA agrees with that approximation, although it depends on how you want to transcribe the deep “a”'sound into English. I use the “aw” convention.) The “új hely” part means “new space/place.”

IIRC “New town under the tent”. The “tent” is a large hill that looms over it and after the town was destroyed and rebuilt it was dubbed as “new”.


Yeah, “sátor” is “tent,” and “alja” means something like “rump/bottom.” According to Wikipedia, it’s “under the tent,” as you say.

Also, Forvo to the rescue with actual audio samples of the town name.

My only quibble is that “hely” is more generic than “town” (which is város or even “village,” which is falu) and is closest in meaning in English to something like “site/place/locality.”

(ETA: And I don’t know what’s up with the second Forvo pronunciation. The first one is the one that sounds correct to me. The second seems to be adding a “p” sound for some reason. It sounds like he’s saying “sátorpiaújhely.” I wonder if he’s making some kind of pun/joke or something. “Pia” is slang for “drink(ing).”)

Quibble away, I do not speak Hungarian. I do think the spoken language sounds fascinatingly strange to my very American ear.


Yeah, it really is a funky language. I love the sound of it, but it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing with English speakers.

Now that I look at it more closely, it looks like “sátoralja” should be broken down as “sátor” (tent) + “alj” (skirt/lower part/bottom) + “a” (third person possessive). So, “bottom of the tent” or something like that. So, literally “tent’s bottom new place.” (and, yes, the possessive ending goes on “bottom” in Hungarian, where in English it goes on “tent.” Think of the “-a” ending as “of,” even though the word order is jumbled from the perspective of an English speaker, so “tent bottom of.”) Ergo:

Sátor - tent
alj - lower part/bottom/skirt
a - of
új - new
hely - place/site

And pronunciation tips, “ly” is almost always a “y” as in “yellow” sound in Hungarian. “S” is always an “sh.” “Á” is “ah.” “Lj” is an oddball, but in this case is pronounced the same as the Hungarian “ly,” in other words like the “y” in “yellow.” “O” is similar to the English long o, but as a pure vowel instead of diphthong. “A” is somewhat like an “aw.” It’s a deep, back of the throat “ah” sound. “Ú” is a long “oo” sound, as in “Booooo!” “J” is also pronounced the same as Hungarian “ly,” like the “y” in “yellow.” “H” is an English h. “E” is an English short e.

That is just darn hard to say


All I know is lofus a shegedbeh. God knows how this is spelled. Also, Hungarians, I suppose.

Welcome to Hungarian! :slight_smile: Hungary has plenty of long place names, but it helps when you learn a bit of Hungarian and are able to figure out where the word breaks are. It’s a bit like looking at an English place name like “Stratforduponavon” instead of “Stratford-upon-Avon.” Once you can figure out how to say the individual words, saying the whole isn’t that bad.

Took me a second to figure out what that was. For some reason I was seeing “loofah” and something that looked vaguely Gaelic. Then I realized, oh, that’s the phonetic representation of lófasz a seggedbe. (“A horse dick up [literally, “into”] your ass.”)

pulykamell, can you say “we” like the 'mericans? My father, who could voice double for Lugosi Bela, to this day says “oo-ee.” Is that really such a bitch for Hungarians?
ETA: The Puli is a cute (by looks) Hungarian dog. Part of your name?

Pulis are cute. My name breaks down to “pulyka” ("turkey) and “mell” (“breast.”) It was just an arbitrary name that comes from when I first signed up for yahoo mail and gave myself a challenge of finding a username that consists of a single word in any language, without special characters, numbers, etc. After going through several dozen words, “pulykamell” popped into mind as I had just moved to Hungary and saw it on menu after menu (which somewhat surprised me.)

ETA: I’m actually not Hungarian myself–my parents are both Polish, and my Polish is much better than my Hungarian, although there are areas of my Hungarian vocabulary (mostly food-related, like names of herbs and spices) that are much better than my Polish. You know, I never noticed difficulty in Hungarians saying “we,” but I never was specifically looking for it. Occasionally, "w"s and "v"s will get mixed up (a common issue for speakers even in languages like German or Polish which both contain “w” and “v” sounds), but I never noticed “w” being pronounced as “oo.”

Ack! That should just be Polish, not “German or Polish.” German doesn’t normally have a “w” sound. But what I do hear a lot in German (and sometimes Hungarian) is the substituting of a learned English /w/ sound where a /v/ is indicated. It’s sort of like a hypercorrection. So a word like “very” might come out as “wery.”

Mild Hijack

German has the same kind of stuck together words, I speak a little but can get through the long ones by breaking them apart.

I was Tour Manager for the Latin Rock band on their first German tour and on our first full day off in Nuremburg they are ready to explore. They boys are more than a little nervous because they haven’t realized that almost everyone speaks English yet.

So I buy them U-Bahn(subway) day passes from the front desk of the Hotel, there is a station 100 meters from the Hotel and gather the boys in the lobby. The station is Gemeinshafthaus, please forgive the spelling. Give out passes and they are looking at me like I am about to abandon them, which I am, it is my day off and I am over babysitting.

Me: "Ok Boys, time to explore. To get back to the Hotel find the UBahn sign and get on the Rot (Red)line and get off at Gemeinshafthaus.

Boys: ::look around in panic, thinking ‘he said what???’

Me: " This is really easy, repeat after me, You-Ban"

B: “You-Ban”

Me “Ge-Mine”

B: “Gay-Mine”

Me: “Shaft”

B: “Shaft”

Me: “House”

B: “House”

Me: “Ok, lets put it all together, Gemeinschafthaus”

B: “Gay-mine-shaft-house”

We repeat this a few times and I send them on their way. Look over at the front desk clerks and they are barely holding it together trying to keep from laughing.

Note, it helps if you read the boys part in a slight Texas drawl

End of hijack


[hijack extension]

You’re aware of the (truly) famous Mineshaft bar in NYC? Maybe you remember Al Pacinogettin down there.

[/hijack extension]