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Polish surnames - Origin and Meaning

ArcticPaul 38 | 233    
15 Apr 2008  #1

Polish Surnames: Do they all mean something?
I met someone called Gruszka (sp?) and, in my dictionary's definition, it meant 'Peartree'.
Also Wałęsa (possibly the worlds most famous Polish surname) means 'wanderer' or something similar....I don't have it with me as I write this.

British surnames usually stem from a persons occupation or place of origin.
Example. Spittle (my surname) has a dictionary definition of 'Saliva' (I know! Lovely name!) But the origin is Spittler. Or a type of Inn keeper a few centuries ago.

Hospitality is a derivative.
My surname is most often seen spelt 'Spittal'. It's exactly the same root but English spelling was only standardised around 120 years ago. It's just luck that I was in a part of the family that chose the same spelling as the bodily fluid.

It's even worse when one considers my initial is 'P'.

Often a persons surname will be a place. John Wakefield, James Newcastle, Jennifer York....

Do Polish surnames follow a similar history?

15 Apr 2008  #2

check this one out: ]surname analysis of Poland.
polishcanuck 7 | 462    
15 Apr 2008  #3

I used this website it the past to get info on my surname. The webmaster used to give surname info free of charge but the site appears to have changed considerably and that option doesn't seem to be available.
William F. Hoffman

Or you can buy his book:

Hospitality is a derivative

Maybe. The word for hospital in polish is szpital. I think in german it is something similar.
Polonius3 996 | 12,038    
16 Apr 2008  #4

Polish and probably all otehr european surnames following a similar pattern. Polish ones are based on ia the following:
1) Occupation (eg Piekarz = baker)
2) Place of origin (Brzeziński = the bloke from Brzezina/Birchville)
3) Characteristic (Cimięga = duffer, clumsy oaf)
4) Common household and barnyard objects, animals, food, etc. -- typical of peasant names: £opata = spade; Wróbel = Sparrow)
5) Nationality (Niemiec = German)
6) Polonised foreign names (Michejda derived from Scottish McCleod) -- BTW itinerant Scots traders were once so common in the sprawling Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that a (now obnolete) English saying once referred to "a Scots pedlar's pack in Poland" - meaning everything but the kitchen sink.
OP ArcticPaul 38 | 233    
17 Apr 2008  #5

The peasants names (Spade, Sparrow) reminded me that CAPONE is Italian for capon. A castrated chicken!
It's not surprising Alphonse had something to proove!

Maybe. The word for hospital in polish is szpital. I think in german it is something similar.

That you for that, Polonius3. I'm always interested to learn anything about my surname. maybe I have Polish relatives?

Pawol Szpital.
Polonius3 996 | 12,038    
17 Apr 2008  #6

You may be interested to know that there is only 1 person in Poland currently using the Szpital surname, but 31 people are named Szpitalak (a patroynmic meaning son of the bloke called Szpital).

Szpital nowadays means hospital but back when the surname was emerging it had a broader range of meanings including: poorhouse, homeless shelter, hostel for travellers, etc. BTW etymlogically the words host, hospital, hotel, hospice as well as the Germanic Gast, the English guest and the Polish go¶ć all go back to the same Indo-European root.
NO 14 4 | 44    
17 Apr 2008  #7

Ive heard that Polish people with names ending in "Ski" or "Ska" originate from a family that has had wealth.I dont know how true this is though.
Patrycja19 63 | 2,703    
17 Apr 2008  #8

I heard that too, but there is quite a few last names with Ski/Ska on the end.
NO 14 4 | 44    
17 Apr 2008  #9

Maybe they all were/are wealthy then, my wife told me this, but her name also ended in Ska.
Kowalski 7 | 624    
17 Apr 2008  #10

Those who had Ski or Sksa ending were not necessary wealthy but rather noblemen (szlachta) - at least according to "popular history".

WALERIAN TREPKA in 16th/17th century had written LIBER GENERATIONIS PLEBEANORUM, It contains a list of people of plebeian origin who attempted, by one illegal means or another, to become members of the nobility.

Trepka on Podgurski:
Polonius3 996 | 12,038    
18 Apr 2008  #11

The -ski, -cki and -dzki in Polish surnames are adjectival endings (that is why they must agree with the person they describe: Mańkowski for males and Mańkowska for females). In the majority of cases, these are surnames of toponymic origin, ie they were derived from the name of a region, town, village or, in the case of nobility, estate.

In general, the -ki ending surnames were used by more people of noble stature than other surnames. In the olden days a nobleman owning the village and/or estate of D±bków (Oakville) would have been known as Jan z D±bkowa (John of Oakwood), but in time it got adjectivalised into Jan D±bkowski (in English tradition the ‘of’ got dropped and it became simply John Oakwood).

But peasants living in the village would also be referred to by the D±bkowski nickname which eventually evolved into a bona fide surname..
According to rough estimates, at various times in Polish history up to 10% of the population enjoyed noble status. The percentage among the bearers of ski-ending names would be somewhat higher.

The main reason for many non-ski-type surnames amongst the nobility was the practice of ennobling entire villages in exchange for defending the local prince’s castle or performing some service to the Crown. We therefore got a whole class of impoverished gentry who differed little from peasants in a neighbouring village in terms of wealth but had a coat of arms and sword to prove their noble status. This was especially true of the Podlasie region along the Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian borderlands. That area’s castle-towns were frequently attacked by the pagan Jadvingians and the local peasantry had to be enlisted to fend off the assault.
19 Dec 2011  #12

Merged: The Prefix "Omel" in surnames

What does it mean?
Polonius3 996 | 12,038    
20 Dec 2011  #13

??? Never heard of it ???
20 Dec 2011  #14

^Does it not sound a bit Semitic?
Polonius3 996 | 12,038    
20 Dec 2011  #15

Can you gave some examples of surnames with the omel prefix?
20 Dec 2011  #16

np. Omelan
Polonius3 996 | 12,038    
23 Dec 2011  #17

Your calling Omel a prefix threw me off, becasue there is no such prefix in Polish. (Typical prefixes are za, u, od, przy, nad,. na. w, etc.) However upon closer inspection I have found the Omel and Omelan do exist in Polish as variant forms of the first name Emilian, derived from the Latin Aemilianus. In fact, it is quite a prolific root generating such spin-offs as Omelańczyk, Omelańczak, Omelańczuk, Omelanowski and otehrs.
Wojteknology - | 3    
23 Jan 2016  #18

Merged: Polish surname meaning and origin

I am looking for the meaning and origins of:


Thank you for any help,
Polonius3 996 | 12,038    
23 Jan 2016  #19

Both surnames are of oatronymic origin meaning they were derived from a father's first name.
GRZE¦KOWIAK: from Grzegorz (Gregory), hence "son of Grzegorz"; Anglo-Celtic equivalents: Gregson, McGregor.

KUBIAK: from Kuba (diminutive of Jakub = James or Jacob); English equivalents: Jamesson, Jacobson.

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