after carefull consideration I have decided to put my question here. I contacted several people well-known in history/antropology of languages and so on. Nobody answered or wasnt willing to help.

As I am strongly interested in studying of history, I would love to know something more about a history of the surname Szakal. As far as I know, surname is of Hungarian origin meaning "beard", also I found that it might be of Turkic origin as they influenced Hungarian language.

Also, i have my own theory in which this surname may have a connection to ancient tribes Scythians whereas Persians called them "Saka" (possible Szaka - Szakal?).

Can anybody known a bit of history/ethnology/anthropology share more upon this? :)


  • Welcome to Linguistics.SE! Please clarify your question. Asking for "a bit of history/ethnology/anthropology" sounds too broad. – bytebuster Aug 8 '17 at 14:58
  • 1
    Is your family of Hungarian origin? Or Polish? – fdb Aug 8 '17 at 16:39

Also, i have my own theory in which this surname may have a connection to ancient tribes Scythians whereas Persians called them "Saka" (possible Szaka - Szakal?).

Unlikely, because surnames only became a convention in Central Europe in the middle of the last millennium, and the peoples of Hungary, like most peoples, took their current surnames even more recently, based on:

  • their occupation (Lakatos, Pásztor, Kovács, Szabó)

  • their ethnicity as understood in the 19th or 20th century (Görög, Nemet, Tót, Székely, Örmény, Oláh, Rácz) OR country of origin

  • their city or region of origin (Kecskeméti, Visontai)

  • the Hungarian rendering of their original non-Hungarian surname (Liszt, Kossuth, Dóczi)

  • the original rendering of their original non-Hungarian surname (Wigner, Neumann)

  • the translation of their original non-Hungarian surname (Hidegkuti)

  • the personal name of their father or ancestor (Ádám, Lázár, Benes)

  • some personal characteristic (Féher, Nagy)

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_common_surnames_in_Europe#Hungary and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magyarization#The_Magyarization_of_personal_names

Often what happened was that people chose a name with a meaning in the new bureaucratic language because it sounded similar to their original name, by a very loose definition of similar, for example Kohn was Magyarised to Kun, Purczeld to Puskás, Günszberg to Gábor, Engländer to Erdős.

Therefore, the name in the case of a family could have an actual origin distinct from the origin of the current Magyarised surface form.

So why would somebody in Hungary have chosen Szakal (Sakal in other orthographies) in the 18th, 19th or 20th century?

According to ancestry.com, Sakal is a Jewish (Sephardic): occupational name for someone who polished wood, gems, metals, or armor, from Arabic ?saqqal ‘polisher’. Hungarian (Szakál): descriptive nickname from Hungarian szakál ‘beard’, Turkish sakal.

(For those who do not know, Szakál in Hungarian orthography would be Sakal in many other orthographies.)

It also lists a Szalmon Sakal, which is Polish orthography. (The same name in Hungarian would be something like Salmon Szakal.) Given that there were very very few Sephardim north of Hungary, the given etymologies seem not to apply.

Other ideas: In Latin sacal meant Egyptian amber. Szakál is also the Hungarian name of the Săcal River in Transylvania.

  • thank you very much for your answer, I found on the internet a post from someone who also mentioned that it might have been of Jewish origin. Logically, it could fit as jews very known for their long beards (mainly in Chasidic movement spread in the whole middle/eastern europe. but who knows.. – Vladimír Szakál Aug 9 '17 at 7:41
  • moreover, i found some information about the district in Romania called Szekély (Szekely people) but im not a lingvist so i dont now if there is a difference between Szakál and Szekély so considerable. – Vladimír Szakál Aug 9 '17 at 7:42
  • @VladimírSzakál The origin of the Szekely people is not perfectly understood, but Szakál and Szekély are unrelated. – Adam Bittlingmayer Aug 9 '17 at 8:38
  • This otherwise excellent answer would be even better without the nonsense pasted from “ancestry.com”. The correct transcription of the Arabic word for “polisher” is saqqāl سقال. It is possible that this is the source of a family name used by Sephardim, but the Jews in Hungary are Ashkenazim. So I do not really see the relevance of the Arabic term in this context. – fdb Aug 9 '17 at 11:23
  • @fdb My sense is that the OP got his information from that site, so it's worth addressing its claims directly. In the Lechitic case, yes, it seems unlikely. But... – Adam Bittlingmayer Aug 9 '17 at 12:26

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