Hurray Family Photos


There are many conflicts among the American Hurray's as to the proper pronunciation of the surname "Hurray".   Much of the controversy may lie in the fact that in Hungary (Austria-Hungary), and "Slovakia", the meaning of Hurray is not as explicit as it is in America.  In America, the tendency is to pronounce it as a cheer, as in the phrase "Hip Hip Hurray" (it may not refer to a cheer, unsure).   However, in Slovakia, the pronunciation of words can also vary a lot, and mean different things.  Also, there is the confluence of many languages in one spot, such as German, Czech, Polish, Austrian, Moravian, Hungarian.  Many of those languages spell things differently.  In Slovakia, at times, many of the Slovakian folks were forced to use "magyar" names for things instead of Slovakian names.  There is also the hard rolled "r" that most Eastern Europeans can pronounce with ease.  The spelling of "Hurray" has also been spelled "Huraj" which has been known to be the Slovakian spelling of the word.  Many of the Hurray ancestors also went by the last name "Huray" when they first immigrated to the U.S., which could have been done for many reasons. (see note 2 below)

When hearing an Eastern European pronounce the name "Hurray", it seems that a cheer or a shout is not in their minds at all, and almost sounds similar to the term Hurry (as in "Hurry up!"), however,  the hard rolled "r's" make it sound different.

There is some folklore regarding the name.  The term "Huraj" is purely Slavonic, and when used as a cheer, it means "To Paradise", the underlying meaning being, the belief being that valiant fighters went straight to heaven if killed.

Another legend has been said by Helen Hurray who was once asked where we got the name "Hurray" and she said in her trademark manner (somewhat joking but also very serious), that when her ancestors came over on the boat they saw land (The U.S./America) and shouted "Hurray".  The insinuation being that that's how they must have got the name.

It has been said the "Huraj" is the Slovakian spelling and that "Huray" is the Hungarian spelling, and that adding another "r" makes it more germanic.  The word "Huraj" can also mean the top a mountain. (The word Zahuranyecz can mean "behind the mountain").

The spelling "Hurray" is much more prevalent in most baptism certificates of the Hurray family, and was probably around a long time.  Again, during the 1800's there were several conflicts with "magyarization" and also with immigrants wanting to be American, and to "anglisize" their surnames to fit in.  Other factors, such as not being able to speak English, and Ellis Island scribes mis-spelling or writing down the wrong information.  There was also some discrimination against some immigrants, that might have been a catalyst for some changing their surnames.

The Hurray's from Dobsina (who settled in N.Y.C.) have apparently always pronounced their names like the cheer.  It's unclear how the Spisske Podhradie Hurray's spelled or pronounced their last name in the "old country",  but several of these Hurray's did settle in the same North Side 'Woods Run" neighborhood of Allegheny City (Pittsburgh, PA.), for a time, but somehow the last name ended up being pronounced (AND spelled) differently.  The spelling was "Huray" in Pittsburgh, then changed to "Hurray" when Joseph and Anna moved to Monaca, PA., with the other "Hurray's" who had settled there.  When hearing a native speaker pronounce Hurray, it sounds almost monosyllabic, yet with rolled "r"'s and it's understandable that it could be either Hurray (like Hurry up or like "Murray") or Hurray (as in the cheer).

However, in Slovakia, the first syllable of a word is almost always the accented syllable, unless you are closer to Poland, in which the  second to the last syllable of a multiple syllable word is usually the accented syllable (see footnote 1. below). "Hurray" being only two syllables, that would not apply.

Breaking it down, in Slovak, the letter "H" is pronounced substantially as it is in English.  The letter "U" is pronounced like "oo" as in the word "book" (as you can already surmise the letter "U" in english has a lot more variations to it, such as the short U, the Long U, which varies depending on the consonants, such as "Super" and "Supper". So the Slovak U sound, as in book, does not appear as much in english.  The letter "r" is rolled hard, something english and german speakers do not use as much.  The letter "a" is pronounced as in the word "what", and the letter "y", is close to the sound of a long "e" in english, it is pronounced like it appears in the word "pity".  The combination "ay" and "aj" are interesting.  "Ay" is the hungarian spelling and "aj" is the Slovakian spelling.  "Ay" is the extension placed on many nobilities in Hungary, and "aj"'s literal meaning is "to paradise".  "Ay" and "aj" are pronounced somewhat similar to a long "i" in english, or as in the word "eye", however, it's unclear whether the ending would end in the long "e" sound like the letter "Y" has or if the combination of the letters makes it just one syllable.

In the manuscript written about Stephen Hurray's life, (translated from the German to the Slovak language), the spelling of Stephen's last name never veers from "Huraj", and the spelling of his first name never veers from "Stefan".  Stephen's birth record named him originally as "Stephanus Andreas Hurray".   "Huraj" appears to be the Slovak version of "Hurray".

The Hurray family considered themselves very Slovak, having been part of many Slovak organizations and clubs. The Census records and Immigration records that say something different than Slovak are understandable, because Slovakia was in the northern part of what was dubbed, mainly, "Austria-Hungary", or "Hungary".  It (Slovakia) has gone through many variations, but the Slovakian people have inhabited that area since long, long ago (regardless of what it was named Politically, or Geographically).
1.) "In Slovak and Czech all names are stressed on the first syllable. In the Polish the penultimate is always stressed; whereas, in Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Slovene it may fall on any syllable, and in Serbo-Croat on any syllable except the last. The Slovak is a phonetic language giving the stranger no difficulty with unsounded letters." --from the book "The Slovaks" by Peter Yurchak (1946).
2.) Jozsef Huraj (Joseph Huray) had purchased property with his wife in Allegheny, and signed the papers with an "x" which is very, very common for folks who cannot either read or write.  It's not known if Joseph could not write english, but using an "x" as a "his mark" is an indicator, because it makes the document legal.   Huray could have been the name he went by, or perhaps whomever filled out the papers just transcribed Huraj/Hurray into "H-U-R-A-Y".  It is not known at this point.