Genealogy / Heritage / Surnames
- Meanings and Origins
The Origin of Polish Surnames
What do Polish Last Names mean?
As with most European surnames, Polish
surnames developed from four major sources:
- Geographical Surnames (Place Names) -
The most common type of Polish surname, these Polish last names are
derived from the location of the homestead from which the first bearer
and his family lived. In the case of nobility, the surnames were often
taken from the names of their estates. Other place names which were
adapted into surnames include towns, countries, and even geographical
features. While you might think that such surnames could lead you to
your ancestral village, that isn't often the case with Polish surnames
because so many places in Poland had the same name, changed names or
disappeared in the centuries since the surnames developed, or were
subdivisions of a local village or estate too small to be found on a
gazetteer or map.
Surnames ending in -owski usually derive
from place names ending in -y, -ow, -owo, -owa, and so on. (Marek
Gorzowski - Marek from the town of Gorzow).
- Patronymic & Matronymic Surnames -
Based on an ancestor's first name, this category of surnames is
usually derived from a father's first name, although occasionally from
the first name of a wealthy or well-respected female ancestor. Such
surnames can often be identified through the use certain endings
including -icz, -wicz, -owicz, -ewicz, and -ycz which usually mean
"son of." As a rule, Polish surnames which include a suffix
with -k- (-czak, -czyk, -iak, -ak, -ik, and -yk) also mean something
like "little" or "son of." More commonly found in
eastern Poland, the suffixes -yc and -ic also mean "son of."
There are also cases of patronymic surnames where the ending has been
dropped and only the original root word remains. (Szymon Adamicz -
Simon son of Adam).
- Occupational Surnames - these Polish
last names are based on the person's job or trade (Micha³ Krawiec -
Michael the tailor).
- Descriptive Surnames - Based on a
unique quality or physical feature of the individual, these surnames
often developed from nicknames or pet names (Jan Wysocki - John the
If you would like to discover more
about Polish genealogy or want to discover something about your own Polish
ancestry, a good place to start is: Polish
with Polish families on farms in Poland.
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