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Hungarian Flag Terminology

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
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[Hungarian flag]
image by István Molnár, 25 June 2001

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So from my rather rudimentary understanding of the Hungarian language I understand that the draft constitution text contains two different words for flag:
- the already known zászló (in an inflected form)
- and "lobogója" (inflected form of lobogó?)
What is the difference in meaning of the two words? Would the term "zászló" be inappropriate in this context (state flag)?
M. Schmöger, 14 January 2011

Let us turn to some linguistic issues regarding the Hungarian flag terminology. First of all, I have to say that our language is a really complicated and difficult one. (But I think you have some experience in this field.)
Hungarian word zászló means flag in general term and specifically a flag attached to a flagstaff (flags used on land). Generally, all flag like objects are called as zászló. (we do not have so much phrases for flags of different purposes)
Word lobogó is a flag hoisted by rope on a flagpole, and this term is used for ensigns, flags used on sea. It is the Hungarian word for ensign.
In daily life, both terms are used as synonyms. People with non-vexillological knowledge use both words in same meaning, without consideration of using a flag on land or sea, of attaching it to a flagstaff or a flagpole. There is an other aspect using these words. Usually, we do not use the same word twice in one sentence, and we use synonyms frequently in order to avoid repetitions. So, it is very often when you discover both words in a Hungarian sentence with same meaning.

So there are the variations what we use in vexillology:
flag: zászló
ensign: lobogó
national flag: nemzeti zászló or nemzeti lobogó

civil flag: civil zászló or polgári zászló
civil ensign: civil lobogó or polgári lobogó
merchant ensign: kereskedelmi lobogó

state/government flag: állami zászló
state/government ensign: állami lobogó
There is no distinctive phrases for state flag (in case of federal states) or government flag, we use the same phrase: állami zászló.

war flag: hadizászló
war/naval ensign: hadilobogó or haditengerészeti lobogó

presidental standard: elnöki zászló
royal standard: királyi zászló
(we have a word standár, but it is not commonly used)

jack: orrlobogó
pennant: árbocszalag (on naval vessels)
masthead pennant: lengő
commissioning pennant: parancsnoki lengő (pennant indicates the personal authority of the captain)

(military) unit flag: csapatzászló
battle flag: csatazászló

(aircraft) marking: felségjel

Zoltan Horvath, 15 January 2011

The mixing up of the two terms is very much similar to the situation in German, as we have the terms Fahne (roughly equivalent to zászló) and Flagge (roughly equivalent to lobogó). The distinction in everyday language is never clear-cut, but even in the media and in legislation the terms are rather frequently mixed up.
A different question: Hungary having been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, I guess there is still a lot of tradition of using vertical variants of flags (in German Hängeflagge, Banner, Knatterflagge ...).
Are there specific terms for these?
M. Schmöger, 17 January 2011

Indeed there is a tradition to use the flags in hanging position or vertical variants. Even there are some municipal flags with only vertical versions. We do not have really a normal term for it, while we use two words, like a description: függöny zászló, which means curtain flag. (German: Vorhang Fahne)
The other case when we use flags vertically is the desk flag. It is very common both in international relation or in domestic (inter-city) relations. We call desk flag as asztali zászló (literally the same meaning).
Zoltan Horvath, 17 January 2011

We do have in French the same distinction between "drapeau" (on land) and "pavillon" (at sea). Therefore the name of the well-known "Album des Pavillons", which covers flags to be seen at sea.
Ivan Sache, 19 January 2011

Well, the distinction in German (and as it seems in a similar way in Hungarian) is not so much the distinction between on land and at sea, like in French. The common elements in the definition of Fahne/zászló in contrast to Flagge/lobogó is the way the cloth is attached to the staff or pole: Flagge is hoisted (and can be lowered), Fahne is permanently attached (e.g. nailed) to the staff.
This is the vexillological theory, at least ...
M. Schmöger, 21 January 2011