John von Neumann was born János Lajos Neumann on December 28, 1903, in Budapest, Hungary. He was the eldest of three brothers. Von Neumann’s ancestors had originally immigrated to Hungary from Russia. He was called Jancsi as a child, a diminutive form of János, then later he was called Johnny in the United States. His mother was Margaret Kann. His father, Max Neumann, was a top banker, and he was brought up in an extended family, living in Budapest where as a child he learned languages from the German and French governesses that were employed. Although the family was Jewish, Max Neumann did not observe the strict practices of that religion and the household seemed to mix Jewish and Christian traditions. Max Neumann was eligible to apply for a hereditary title because of his contribution to the then successful Hungarian economy and in 1913 he paid a fee to acquire a title, but he did not change his name. His son, however, used the German form von Neumann where the "von" indicated the title.
Von Neumann was a child prodigy who showed an aptitude for languages, memorization, and mathematics. By the age of six, he could exchange jokes in Classical Greek, memorize telephone directories, and displayed prodigious mental calculation abilities.