Orbán was born on 31 May 1963 in Székesfehérvár into a rural middle-class family, as the eldest son of the entrepreneur and agronomist Győző Orbán (b. 1940) and the special educator and speech therapist Erzsébet Sípos. He has two younger brothers, both entrepreneurs, Győző, Jr. (b. 1965) and Áron (b. 1977). His paternal grandfather, Mihály Orbán, practiced farming and animal husbandry. Orbán spent his childhood in two nearby villages, Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút in Fejér County; he attended school there and in Vértesacsa. In 1977 his family moved permanently to Székesfehérvár.
Orbán graduated from Blanka Teleki High School in Székesfehérvár in 1981, where he studied English. After completing two years of military service, he studied law at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, writing his master's thesis on the Polish Solidarity movement. After graduation in 1987, he lived in Szolnok for two years, commuting to his job in Budapest as a sociologist at the Management Training Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
In 1989, Orbán received a scholarship from the Soros Foundation to study political science at Pembroke College, Oxford. His personal tutor was the Hegelian political philosopher Zbigniew Pelczynski. In January 1990, he left Oxford and returned to Hungary to run for a seat in Hungary's first post-communist parliament.
At the age of 14 and 15, he was a secretary of the communist youth organisation (KISZ) of his secondary grammar school (KISZ membership was mandatory for university admittance). Orbán said in a later interview that his political views had radically changed during the military service: earlier he had considered himself a "naive and devoted supporter" of the Communist regime.