I don’t know how many people out there are interested in Ugric (the part of the Finno-Ugric family more closely related to Hungarian), but The Friday Circle, a group blog focused on “Hungarian studies in London” (read about the members here), has a series of posts on it: II, III, IV. (Don’t ask me what happened to Ob-Ugric I is here—thanks, Gwen!) Even if you don’t have a special interest in the languages, you can pick up nuggets like “the word ‘Ural’ itself comes from Mansi: ur (mountain) + ala (roof)” and “Mansi for clitoris translates into Hungarian as picsanyelv, that is, c*nt-tongue.” Also, Dan Abondolo taught me how to make coffee, thirty-odd years ago in New Haven, so he deserves special respect. Check out this lively blog (named, if you’re curious, after the Sunday Circle, “a group of young philosophers, musicians and artists whose weekly meetings provided a forum to discuss questions of ethics and aesthetics, from 1915 to 1919”).

Update (Sept. 2020). Having provided archived links for the long-dead site, I’ve discovered that they kept the series going through Ob-Ugric, XI – Khanty (Tsingala); the Ob-Ugric contents page is here.


  1. Ob-Ugric I is here!
    Thanks for the mention, and much more is to come!
    Szeretettel, (I don’t yet know what that is in Mansi or Khanty, sorry)

  2. Wow, that was fast! I’ve added it to the post.

  3. RSS reader obliterates distinctions between minority and majority languages, boom!

  4. Hm. Their map claims Yukaghir as a Finno-Ugric-Samoyed language. Finno-Yugric-Samoyed imperialism must be stopped!

  5. The examples showing the relationship between Mansi and Magyar are really well chosen… I once took care of a group of Mansi who visited Budapest in 1990 to perform a Bear Ceremony at the Academy of Sciences. I spoke no Russian… and they spoke no English. The women wanted to go shopping… and all the while they would point to something and ask for the word in Hungarian. Eye… (szem…sam…) nose, etc. The big winner was “ass” (Hungarian segg…. Mansi “shonk”… or something like that.)
    Gwen is not only a master Uralic linguist… she kicked shonk as a Budapest bartender as well.

  6. Wow, zaelic and I each know members of the Friday Circle — what are the odds?

  7. …”the word ‘Ural’ itself comes from Mansi: ur (mountain) + ala (roof)”…
    This is a version among others. There are Turkic theories too.
    AFAIK, when the Russians came to the (Nothern) Urals, they called it “Каменный пояс” or “Камень” or “Пояс”. The word “Ural” was first used as “Оралтова гора” that corresponded to Bashkir “Уралтау” and the name first applied only to the Uraltau chain in the Southern Urals (modern Bashkortostan). Only later it came to mean the Urals as whole. BTW Bashkirs believe that Uraltau mountain chain were created by Ural batyr, their epic hero.

    The Finno-Ugric information center/centre
    The electronic library (not much in the way of Mansi, I’m afraid, but it has a Komi-Russian dictionary, for instance:

  9. Incidentally, the word ‘Ural’ itself comes from Mansi: ur (mountain) + ala (roof).
    I’ve been asked before, and have always wondered. Great!

  10. Here is what Matveyev writes on the word “Ural”
    (Матвеев А.К. Южный Урал//Матвеев А.К. Вершины Каменного Пояса: Названия гор Урала. -2-е изд.,а перераб. и доп.-Челябинск:Юж.-Урал.кн.изд-во,1990.-С. 10-13, 187-227.)
    “О топониме Урал написано множество работ, однако, вопрос до конца так и не решен. Давно и серьезно обсуждаются две версии происхождения этого названия – финно-угорская (мансийская) и тюркская.
    Создателями финно-угорской (мансийской) версии были известные исследователи Северного Урала Э. К. Гофман и М. А. Ковальский. Они – сравнивали название Урал с мансийским словом ур – “гора”. Уже в наши дни венгерские ученые Б. Кальман и Я. Гуя развили мансийскую версию и сопоставили слово Урал с мансийским ур ала – “вершина горы”. При всей внешней убедительности этой версии она не выдерживает критики, так как сами манси называют Урал только Нер – “Камень” и никогда не употребляют по отношению к Уралу в целом и к отдельным горам выражение ур ала – “вершина горы”.
    Сторонники второй версии утверждают, что название Урал по происхождению связано с тюркскими языками – башкирским, татарским, казахским. За эту версию многое: и внешние приметы слова Урал, характерные для тюркских языков, например, ударение на последнем слоге, и записанное П. С. Палласом еще в XVIII в. наименование водораздельного хребта Урал-Тау, который протянулся через всю Башкирию с СВ на ЮЗ чуть ли не на 300 км, и, наконец, древние формы – Арал(ь)това и Орал(ь)това гора, зафиксированные в “Книге Большому Чертежу” 1627 г. и явно относящиеся к Южному Уралу.”

  11. Interesting. I hope someone from the Circle will respond to the argument, which seems pretty damning, that the Mansi don’t in fact apply the phrase ur ala to the Urals or any part thereof and call the Urals only Ner (‘stone’). The Turkic version sounds more appealing at the moment.

  12. Oh no! Repetition of received etymology sparks furious debate! What’s most interesting to me here is that what’s most interesting to y’all is the etymology of ‘Ural’.
    Of course the Mansi don’t refer to that particular mountain range as ur ala, and neither does one find ur ala in texts: it is the stuff of etymological dictionaries and Mansi verse anthologies.
    From D. Abondolo:
    “there are various Mansi compounds (with /ur/ as first or second member) that are glossed in dictionaries (e.g. Kálmán’s) as ‘Ural’. But the specific compound ‘/ur+ala/’ cited by most etymological dictionaries I have never seen in anything but etymological dictionaries, and I have yet to come across it in a text.
    The Turkic etymology may well be correct.
    One should remember that the Urals are not a particularly imposing range, especially up at the northern end where the Mansi are and have been for quite some time.”
    And you get what you pay for, too: the map was swiped from Wikipedia’s Uralic languages page because in this day and age, there just aren’t the free detailed maps online that there were in my day …

  13. Thanks, Gwen, and one of the great lessons I’ve learned here at LH is that you never know what people are going to fixate on.

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