Like all European cultures, Polish last names are passed on from the father to his children. The following article will help you learn some of the surnames which are common in Poland. These last names are an important part in tracing the genealogy in Polish families.
Polish last names or nazwisko is used as a family name like all other European cultures. The personal name of an individual, imię, is always followed by this name. The original surnames were used to associate someone with something. For example, a profession was used as the basis of surname, like a carpenter was called Ciesla. In some cases, when a child was born, a suffix would be added to his name. For example, Symanski, as in son of Simon.
Origins of Surnames
The Polish surnames have been developed from four major sources. These four sources are as follows:
Description: A unique quality of an individual or a physical feature that was prominent, was used as a nickname. These nicknames slowly got converted into Polish surnames.
Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames: This was based on the first name of a well respected ancestor. Most of these were derived from the father’s name, though a few came from the first name of a well respected or wealthy female ancestor. These surnames often have endings with -icz, -wicz, -owicz, -ewicz, and -ycz. These endings usually mean ‘son of’. Other suffixes like -czak, -czyk, -iak, -ak, -ik, and -yk also mean something like ‘son of’ or ‘little’.
Places of Origin: This is one of the most common source of Polish last names. These were usually derived from the area or location where the first bearer of the family lived. The names of towns, countries, or geographical features were converted into Polish last names. However, not all surnames lead to the ancestral villages as most of the place names in Poland have been changed or disappeared over time. However, the suffix -owski is derived from place names that end with -y, -ow, -owo, -owa, etc.
Occupation: There are many last names that have been derived on the basis of a person’s job or trade. Thus, a person was recognized by his family profession.
Polish Surnames and Their Meanings
|Last Names||Last Names Meanings|
|Adamczyk||Son of Adam|
|Borkowski||From places with name like Borki, Borków, Borkowo|
|Chmielewski||One from the place of the hops|
|Czerwinski||One who came from Czerwinski|
|D’browski||From the oak grove|
|Duda||Bagpipes or bad musician|
|Dudek||Hoopoe – a type of bird|
|Gorski||Of, from, or pertaining to a mountain or hill|
|Grabowski||From a village beginning with the term ‘Grab’|
|Jasiñski||Kin of Jan, One who lived near or worked with ash trees|
|Jaworski||Of the sycamore|
|Kalinowski||Guelder rose or cranberry tree|
|Kamiñski||One who came from a rocky place|
|Kowalczyk||Son of Smith|
|Kozlowski||From a place named Kozlow, Kozlowo, etc.|
|Król Kucharski||Associated with cooks|
|Kwiatkowski||One from the place of little flowers, like Kwiatkow|
|Maciejewski||Kin of Matthias, From places with names meaning Matthias’s place|
|Majewski||From places with names beginning with ‘Maj’|
|Nowak||New guy in town, new or from the root now.|
|Nowakowski||From village Nowaki, Nowakowo|
|Oliszewski||From the place of the alder trees|
|Ostrowski||From places with names like Ostro~w, Ostrowek,Ostrowo|
|Pawlak||Son of Paul|
|Pawlowski||From Paul’s place|
|Piotrowski||Of, from the place of Peter, like Piotrow|
|Rutkowski||From places with names like Rutka, Rutki, Rutkowo|
|Sawicki||Son of Sawa|
|Sobczak||Son of Sob|
|Sokolowski||From place of the falcons|
|Symanski||Son of Simon|
|Szczepañski||Son of Szczepan|
|Tomaszewski||From places with name like Tomaszew or Tomaszow|
|Walczak||Son of Walka|
|Wiœniewski||From Wisniewo or Wisniew|
|Wojciechowski||One from Wojciechy|
|WoŸniak||Man who drives a cart|
|Wysocki||From places with names like Wysoka, Wysockie, Wysocice|
|Zajac||Hare or rabbit|
|Zawadzki||From a place called Zawada or Zawady|
|Zielinski||Associated with ‘green’|
Common Last Names
Polish last names have originated since the middle ages, but it was only about 200 years ago that the use of surnames became compulsory. Some of these names became popular over the years. They were derived from profession, some names came from trees, and few originated from place of origin. The following are a few popular and famous last names.
There are many Polish last names that I may have missed out in this article. However, you can find your family tree over the Internet through sites that offer information on genealogy and family history. I hope this article has helped you to spot the meaning of your Polish last name.