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Polish Last Names

Polish Last Names

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.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
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
Czarnecki From Czarnecki
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'
Jabloñski Apple tree
Jasiñski Kin of Jan, One who lived near or worked with ash trees
Jaworski Of the sycamore
Kaczmarek Innkeeper
Kalinowski Guelder rose or cranberry tree
Kamiñski One who came from a rocky place
Kowalczyk Son of Smith
Kowalski Blacksmith
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'
Michalski Of Michael
Nowak New guy in town, new or from the root now.
Nowakowski From village Nowaki, Nowakowo
Nowicki New
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
Wieczorek Little evening
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.
  • Nowak
  • Kowalski
  • Wiśniewski
  • Wójcik
  • Kowalczyk
  • Kamiński
  • Lewandowski
  • Zieliński
  • Szymański
  • Woźniak
  • Dąbrowski
  • Kozłowski
  • Jankowski
  • Nowaczek
  • Wojciechowski
  • Kwiatkowski
  • Krawczyk
  • Kaczmarek
  • Piotrowski
  • Bagiński
  • Grabowski
  • Mazur
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.