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. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 14:58
  • 1
    Is your family of Hungarian origin? Or Polish?
    – fdb
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 16:39
  • My own theory that if you are looking for words to describe basic human anatomy, then don't look for them in different languages, because if a language does not include them and you need to import them from other languages, then it is not a language at all. So I think all of this szakáll came from Turkish is just nonsense. For example áll is chin in Hungarian, so it is evident that it is related. Szakember is sort of somebody who is experienced in a profession, experience comes with age and old men have long beard. So it is the chin of old experienced men. I hope this answers your question.
    – inf3rno
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 22:38

5 Answers 5


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.. Commented Aug 9, 2017 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. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 7:42
  • @VladimírSzakál The origin of the Szekely people is not perfectly understood, but Szakál and Szekély are unrelated. Commented Aug 9, 2017 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
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 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... Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 12:26

All right, you got some excellent answers, let's check and extend them!

So first of all, Szakál (currently written as szakáll, names often use archaic forms, e.g. Kovács-Kováts, Kis-Kiss, Tót-Tóth, Horvát-Horváth) means beard, that was already established, also this form uses the Hungarian alphabet ("SZ" is quite telling). The word itself exists in the Turkish language as well, but I'm not sure where it came from. Hungarians met with Turks before they came to the Carpathian basin, and there was also the 150 year long occupation. They created their version of the Latin alphabet based on Hungarian in the later period, so the direction was two-way. Nevertheless, there are many common words.

I've found this in an online ethimology dictionary (link in Hungarian). My rough translation: Ótörök eredetű: ujgur, türk, tatár, kun szakal, oszmán sakal (‘szakáll’). A szóvégi al ⇨ áll nyúlás a magyarban következett be. Old(ancient) turkish origin: uyghur, turk, tatar, kun: szakal, osman sakal (‘szakáll’). The elongation at the end of the word al ⇨ áll happened in Hungarian.

I think your Persian theory is a bit far-fetched. After all, "Úr" means "Lord", "Uruk" means "their Lord", and although Isthar is not a Hungarian word, however "Isten" is (means "God"). Despite that, noone suggested we came from Mesopotamia or something, coincidences are a thing.

@Adam: That "personal characteristic" matches this perfectly. This is very common, Nagy (Big) and Kis (in various forms) (Small) are among the most common names (I think only after Kovács (Smith)). Balog is an old term for left-handed. But names about hair are common as well. Kopasz (Bald), Szőke (Blonde), Bajusz (Mustache), Hajas (Hairy - the hair on the top of the head, not the other one). So Szakál(l) fits into this line well.

Szekély is probably a misspelling, the tribe in Transylvania is called Székely, and yes, that's unrelated.

I've had a coworker whose name was Szakál, he wasn't Jewish. Also, he was the only one among the Android developers who didn't have beard. :) (but again, it isn't a rare name, so one example doesn't really matter)

@Eva: Given names are a lot easier. The Academy has a language group, they keep up-to-date two lists: one with girls' names, the other for boys (there is no third yet, the progressive party fell apart). Parents can choose names from these lists, or - mostly for minorities - get a permit to choose something from their culture. There are also books with all the allowed given names and origins, etc. Vladimír is on the list (written like this). As far as I know, it came from Russia, so I agree.


I went to school with an Eva Szakal in Lethbridge, (Central School) Alberta, Canada. We both played on the basketball team, along with a girl called Toth Marika. The name Szakal does mean, if taken literally, beard, but it could have come about because of some misidentification. I have thought about Eva off and on throuogh the years, and lately. My first name is the same as hers, and we both came from Hungary after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. I note that your first name is Vladimir, which is not Hungarian.

The "szekely" people of Transylvania were Hungarian origin and speak Hungarian. But I don't see the name derived from there. Did you try going to Hungary and looking for the name? There are quite a lot of websites for various families or names. The acute accent mark is correct on your name, if it is of Hungarian origin, but Vladimir is not a Hungarian given name, but who knows about marriages and so on. I really would try Hungary, just type in the name and see if there is a response. There should be.

Probably you know more than I do about searches, but I found that there are sites that are ready to interpret your name, find it or a variant that is usually some noble person originating in some country complete with estate and title and even crest. I do think most of these are a kind of business, from my experience. I wish you luck, and in case you have anything to do with the Eva Szakal I mentioned, it would be good to know.

Slovakia and Czechia, quite a lot of territories which also had Hungarians, could be a good name to look for birth records. Hungarians I found related to a name I looked for were at Liptovsky Jan, and Mihalovce. (The latter was Nagyszentmihaly at one time.)

  • Dear Eva, thank you very much for your answer. Vladimir is russian name but it doesnt matter. More important thing is the surname. My research goes back to the18th century when Austria-Hungarian empire had existed. I was in touch with a man from Hungary who explained me that our surname is probably of Turkic origin. Moreover Szakal people we were located more-less near by locations in Slovakia close to our capital Bratislava. He also sent me a very detailed family tree that he had made throughout the years of his own research. Commented May 21, 2019 at 7:37

For what it worth, szakal means jakal in Polish: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szakal


Szakal can be at origin Sokol a surname of Slavic-language origin (meaning "falcon"). In Hungarian Szakal sounds not far from Sokol.

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