Why is tobacco called Dohány in Hungarian and not Tütün?

When I visited Hungary in the summer, the language was totally alien to any other language I am remotely familiar with. Being from the Finno-Ugric group, it is remotely related to Finnish, and little else.

From the signs in the airplane, I learned that the word "dohány" means "smoke", i.e. tobacco. This was confirmed from shops, and even the name of a street in the Jewish section of the city.

The word is almost identical to the Arabic word Dukhan (دخان) which is classical Arabic for smoke. It is even the name of a chapter in the Quran (44), named in verse 10 of that chapter.

What is strange is that there is no way Arabic directly influenced Hungarian throughout history. The Arabs never invaded that part of Europe, nor there were significant trade links.

The use of tobacco did not spread in Europe until the 16th century, after it was brought from the New World, centuries after the Arab empires ceased to exist.

The only Oriental influence was via the Turks and the Ottoman Empire who ruled Hungary for close to two centuries. However, the word for tobacco in Turkish is Tütün and not Dokhan. The surname Tutunji توتنجي is common in the Turkish and Arab world today, meaning "[descendant of] tobacco merchant". Even Muhammad Ali of Egypt was known as Tutunji due to his profession prior to his military and political career.

So, how did tobacco ge the name dohány?




I checked the Hungarian etymological dictionary and according to Hungarian linguists the word "dohány" comes from Osman-Turkic duhãn = smoke < Arabic < most likely via Persian. Several other languages in the region adopted this word (Bulgarian, Serb-Croatian, Albanian). Into Hungarian it most likely came from Osman-Turkish directly.


It is amazing that Turkish borrowed the Arabic word duhãn for smoke, yet created a different word for tobacco (tütün).

Note that Dukhan is native Arabic, meaning "smoke". It is not borrowed from Persian.
Khalid Baheyeldin

All that I can tell You is

All that I can tell You is that in all Slavic languages (Hungarian is NOT Slavic, but they are geographgically surrounded by them) ... the Slavic word "duh", or "duha" means 'ghost', 'spirit' ("Sveta Duha" means "Holy Ghost" in Serbian; or "David Duchovny", the actor: his name means 'David the spiritual' -- kinda fits in with his role). And "dusha" means 'soul'.

And, of course, 'spirit[us]', which is a Latin word, means 'breath' (as in: re-spiration, ex-spiration, in-spiration, etc.); "pneuma", its Greek equivalent, also means the same things: 'ghost', 'spirit', 'breath' (hence: pneumonia, pneumatic, etc.).

Hope this helps a bit.

Dush means in turkish soul,

Dush means in turkish soul, dream. It will happen during dream. Dua means to pray. ıt is spritual. While smoking, one feel spiritual.

Dohány from Osmanlica

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish government sponsored a thorough "language reform", which attempted to construct a pure "Turkish" language from the language of the Anatolian countryside. Words like duhan, and other words of Arabic and Persian origin were purged. Hungarian has many words derived ultimately from Arabic, but most came either through Latin or Osmanlica.

Unlikely ...

This is unlikely.

As I mentioned before, the name in Turkish for tobacco is Tutun, and has been in use before the language reforms. For example, the founder of modern Egypt, and its last monarchy, Muhammad Ali, was known as Tutunci (Tobacco merchant).
Khalid Baheyeldin

But Muhammad Ali wasn't even

But Muhammad Ali wasn't even Turkish, he was Albanian. In Albanian, as mentioned here the word for tobacco is "duhan".

Turkish was the language of the empire

Yes, Muhammadd Ali was Albanian, but the predominant language then was Turkish.

The question here is about Hungary, which was under Ottoman control for centuries, not Albanian control.

Hence the name duhan is unexplained.


The source for this should be quite obvious. Definitely Arabic and not Persian. In fact in Iran we use "Dokhkhaniyat" and "Tadkhin". The inflexion from the root "Dakhan" is a flag for the source.
Tutoun and Tanbakoo however are also used. The second an obvious derivative of tobacco. An explanation of the Hungarian idiom can be that tutun was coined at a later date than the introduction of the substance into the Ottoman empire and specifacally Hungary.