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Ethnic backround of suffixes of Polish surnames

Paulina 16 | 4,373
7 Nov 2014 #1
I was inspired by some comments in one of the threads to make a general thread on this topic. I'm no expert on surnames so maybe some other people will join in and share their knowledge (or I will add something later), but I can provide some basic info.

The most common suffix in Poland and considered typically Polish is, of course, the suffix -ski.
The most common Polish surname with this suffix (and the second most common of all Polish surnames after surname "Nowak") is "Kowalski" and its English equivalent is the surname "Smith".

Other suffixes in this group are -cki and -dzki.
(Btw, suffixes similar to Polish -ski can be found also in Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Czech and Macedonian surnames).

Now I'd like to write a bit about the suffix -owicz since Nickidewbear wrote something that I was also explained once - one Russian guy wrote that surnames ending in -ovich are surnames of Jews coming from the Belarus and Ukraine area. But he also claimed that all of the liberal opposition in Russia consists of Jews lol or that most of the members of NKVD were Jewish, so, you know, I've decided to check it myself :)

So, the suffix -owicz isn't typically Jewish. Jews lived in a multicultural territory and their surnames were often getting suffixes used in the area they inhabited, apparently.

From what I've read suffixes like -icz, -owicz, -ewicz denote Eastern origin, namely - Ukraine or Belarus.

They were often connected to a father's first name (so it was a kind of "son of" - example in today's Poland - a Polish MP, Krystyna Pawłowicz). So yes, someone with the surname ending with -owicz could be Jewish, but not necessarily. If your surname has the suffix -owicz you may very well have Tatar roots like, for example, a Polish sculptress Magdalena Abakanowicz, who's father, Konstanty Abakanowicz, came from a Polonized Tatar family.

But it could also denote Armenian roots, examples of such surnames with Armenian backround: Agopsowicz, Awedykowicz, Axentowicz, Isakowicz, Torosowicz (example in Poland nowadays: a priest of the Catholic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church, father Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zalewski).

Robert Makłowicz, a Polish journalist and culinary critic, has, among others, Armenian and Ukrainian roots.

Or you could have Lemko roots (Mankowicz, Pankowicz).

From what I've read even the biblical root of the surname can be confusing because Armenians and Tatars were using them too.

Other typical suffixes of the Ukrainian group are -uk, -czuk (Andrzejuk, Antoniuk, Chilimoniuk, Filipiuk, Grygoruk, Jasiuk, Kononiuk, £ukaszuk, Pawluczuk, Pietruczuk). Example: a Polish singer Maciej Maleńczuk, a Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk.

Also, for example: -on, -enko (for example: Tymoszenko, Poroszenko in Ukraine), -czenko (Iwanczenko, Pawluczenko), -iszyn, -yszyn (coming from Western Ukraine, example of such surname in Poland: a Polish MP Joanna Senyszyn).

The most common Belarusian suffixes (at least in Podlasie area in Poland, I guess):
-icz, -wicz (Alfierowicz), -ski, -cki (Błahuszewski, Lewoniewski), -ko (Aniśko, Chwiećko, Mojsiuszko, Panasko, Rećko), -ejko (Dubiejko, Guziejko, Litwiejko, Siergiejko), -uszko (Klimuszko, Popiełuszko), -ik (Aksiucik, Auchimik, Dzienisik, Hawrylik, Himik, Hościk, Kondrusik, Wojciulik), -uć (Gryguć, Trypuć), -ul (Kiercul, Szczesiul, Taudul), -un (Brechun, Ciesiun), -enia (Bielenia, Hajduczenia, Jurczenia), and also -yk (Aluszyk, Amielanczyk) and -uk (Ciwoniuk, Hanczaruk).

Famous surnames of Belarusian origin are, for example: Sapieha, Mickiewicz, Sienkiewicz, Iwaszkiewicz, Bartosiewicz, Kościuszko, Moniuszko.

Suffixes of Lithuanian origin are, for example: -as, -us, -is (examples in Poland: a Polish sociologist and political scientist Jadwiga Staniszkis, a Polish actress Maria Pakulnis).

Surnames of Russian origin usually end with -ow, -ew, -jew, -iew, -in (Pushkin, Putin - in Russia). But there are apparently exceptions from this rule, for example, Grzegorz Miecugow, a Polish journalist, is of Armenian-Georgian origin.

Examples of suffixes of Jewish origin: -owicz, -sztajn, -stein, -er, -man, -berg, -el, -baum (examples in Poland: a Polish journalist Seweryn Blumsztajn, a Polish journalist Bronisław Wildstein, a Polish film director Jerzy Hoffman, etc.) Of course there are people of Jewish origin with surnames ending in -ski too.

So, as you can see, the surname or its suffix alone may not be enough to find out what exactly is your ethnic backround, often you have to dig a little deeper :)

One of our certificates of belonging to the national or ethnic communities are without a doubt the names. As far as first names are changing constantly, even under the influence of seasonal fashion, the name remains a more durable element that indicates the origin of a person or his ancestors. It often happens that the owner did not realize the connection between the name and his own origin.

Nickidewbear 23 | 609
7 Nov 2014 #2
So, the suffix -owicz isn't typically Jewish.

It was from a Jewish or Polish source comparing "owicz" and "czyk". I just cannot find it.
Veles - | 201
14 Nov 2014 #3
I just want to point that the surnames claimed to be of Belorussian origin were present before the existance of Belarus and Belorussian nation. So how could these surnames be of this origin?
Nickidewbear 23 | 609
14 Nov 2014 #4
Belorussian Jews and ethnic Belorussians existed back then, despite that the modern State of Belarus did not.
Bieganski 17 | 890
14 Nov 2014 #5
I just want to point that the surnames claimed to be of Belorussian origin were present before the existance of Belarus and Belorussian nation.

As I'm sure you know those lands have a very long and complex history.

The predominant influence in this region over the centuries and right up to the present has come from Slavic and Orthodox Russia.

In earliest times most people were peasants who worked the land. Surnames often weren't used and they are actually a rather modern convention around the world in terms of human history.

For the longest time under tsarist laws only the ruling elite were permitted to use a patronymic following their first name such as Russia's Peter the Great whose full name was Pyotr Alexeyevich (Russian: Пётр I Алексеевич; Polish: Piotr I Aleksiejewicz).

In Russia proper an actual surname (be it geographic, occupational or ornamental in nature) evolved in addition to the first name and patronymic; for example, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

As far as Belarus and Ukraine there are very practical reasons why it may seem a name ending -icz, -owicz, -ewicz are considered to be unique to these countries. These lands were also at times part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for centuries so any new Russian naming conventions would not have spread. Polish rule allowed the local populations to either enjoy their names as they stood at the time or they would increasingly have become Polonized.

Of course Polish influence itself largely ceased in Belarus and Ukraine when these lands were lost to Russia in their subsequent tsarist and Soviet wars of aggression against Poland.

And particularly during Soviet times Russification was of great importance in solidifying control over the oppressed populations. The frequent forced movement of these suffering people between Soviet republics was also commonplace. A good example of the effects from all of this was seen in the case whereby the pro-Russian Wiktor Fedorowycz Janukowycz (with ancestors from Belarussian lands) was at one time the president of Ukraine while the pro-Russian Alaksandr Ryhorawicz £ukaszenka (with ancestors from Ukraine) still holds a steel grip over Belarus.

So as Paulina correctly pointed out "suffixes like -icz, -owicz, -ewicz denote Eastern origin, namely - Ukraine or Belarus." and the influence comes from Russia.
Veles - | 201
14 Nov 2014 #6
I know, but I was "pointing" something strictly different. What I wanted to say, at times of existance of such surnames there was no Ukraine nor Belarus. People who lived there, and in Eastern Poland, were called Ruthenians - not Belarussians or Ukrainians. So I would rather say that these surnames are of Ruthenian origin. But it is a detail, in general I agree with you. I have Eastern Slavic surname myself (as I assume) - suffix "-uk" and Eastern name.
Bieganski 17 | 890
17 Nov 2014 #7
People who lived there, and in Eastern Poland, were called Ruthenians - not Belarussians or Ukrainians.

The topic of Ruthenian identity can be thread all on its own.

It would important to look at what point such surnames came into existence. They may have emerged when there was no Ukraine or Belarus but there was never a Ruthenia proper either even if certain groups were referred to as Ruthenians.

From what I gather it all goes back to Kievian Rus' and the evolution of their language which eventually split between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (then subsequently the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) and the Grand Duchy of Moscow.

Linguistically, both states continued to use the regional varieties of the literary language of Kievan Rus', but due to the immense Polish influence in the west and to the Church Slavonic influence in the east, they gradually developed into two distinct literary languages.

I know some regard modern Ukrainians and Belarusians and descendants of peoples called Ruthenians but this is not a universally shared opinion. Indeed, Ruthenian is now often used as an umbrella term for those minority groups along the Carpathian mountain range who still use cyrillic for their alphabet and are largely adherent to the Uniate tradition for their religious practices.

Since Ruthenian as a language was so heavily influenced by either Polish or Russian there could be certain elements to surnames regarded as Ruthenian which survived even though the language itself went from being one of court to one marginalized to the provinces. Alternatively, as Ukrainian and Belarusian identity arose then it is also feasible that such surnames are unique to these two groups rather than Ruthenian in origin.
26 Nov 2014 #8
I have a question I think goes here. I know a woman who is called by a matronymic, not a patronymic (which I know is strange for someone from Eastern Europe). Her mother is Janina, and her middle name is Janinowna. I understand that this is a matronymic version of Janowna, meaning unmarried daughter of Jan, and that the Owna suffix is archaic but still in use just about. Yet someone else has told me that that can't be her name because it is a) a matronymic and b) uses a suffix no longer accepted.

Can anyone help me with this? Am I calling her the wrong thing?
23 Jul 2015 #9
I am getting very confused and somewhat very lost trying to find any leads and details in relation to my GG Grandfather who immigrated to NZ in 1874/5. I am beginning to wonder if his surname was altered as in 'an English wriitten version'. He obviously would have had to have learnt English when living in New Zealand, and he did learn to write I believe as he was able to sign his name nicely.

So here in NZ his name was recorded as Boyer. Could this be an altered version and shortened maybe, (as this happened a lot here in NZ)... Borja/Boyar/Bojar/Bojarwicz/Bojarwiez?? He left from a Port in Memel, (now renamed Klaipedia, Lithuania). Even though the place was once under German Rule I do not believe he was actually German. His name was John August Herman Boyer on his death cert. Sadly their is no mention of any parents.. tsk tsk... I am lost in finding anything info in regards to where he was really from, his true surname spelling. Wondering if DNA testing may help if other Boyer/Boyar/Bojar etc etc folk have done testing ?? Could be a way of matching up I guess..some clues??
archiwum 13 | 125
24 Jul 2015 #10
I didn't see the suffix czyk.
24 Jul 2015 #11
What about the suffix "zek"
InPolska 9 | 1,816
25 Jul 2015 #12
"zek"? I have never seen it in Poland. Must be from somewhere else.
Looker - | 1,134
25 Jul 2015 #13
'zek' suffix may be from 'czek' or 'szek' - some surnames in Poland have such ends. ('czyk', 'czak, 'czuk', 'czok', 'szak' and similar endings are also known here)
archiwum 13 | 125
25 Jul 2015 #14
I always thought the suffix czyk was lemko.
16 Nov 2015 #15
What about Bernatowicz? Would that be Jewish?
coco jumbo
16 Nov 2015 #16
Bernatowicz - from German: Bernhardt, Eng: Bernard.

Probably :son of Bernat(Bernhardt)
jon357 74 | 22,054
17 Nov 2015 #17

Armenian, though that's the root rather than the suffix
Grzegorz Jan
24 Nov 2015 #18
I have noticed that there are a group of surnames in Poland with the suffix -dys. Such as Hołdys, Berdys, Tondys, Kondys etc. Does anyone know of the origin of these surmanes or know anything about this type of surmane suffix?
25 Nov 2015 #19
jon, I have noticed that you always insist that the surname is Armenian. I have been told by my father that we are of German/Austrian descent, which would indeed make sense that my surname is of German origins.
Poleboy765 - | 66
7 Jun 2016 #20
What about the surname Kurek? I've been told I look Russian, as well as Polish. My family is from Poland.
OP Paulina 16 | 4,373
8 Jun 2016 #21
Poleboy765, your looks don't really matter much in this case, because the origin of your surname is known and documented. Surname Kurek is related to the surname Kur, which is, as you already know, a surname of a Polish knighthood family that originated from Mazovia in medieval Poland:

Kurowie were a medieval chivalric clan from Mazovia region in Poland that gave rise to a vast heraldic family:

Among the surnames within this heraldic family with the same root are: Kur, Kurek, Kurski, Kurzewski, Kurak, Kurakowski, Kurowski, Kurzecki, Kurzyk, Kurzyna. Most of those families have also a common genealogical root since they have one common ancestor that bore a nickname known in Mazovia - "Kur".

The word "kur" is an old Polish word for a rooster (it's still used in some regions in Poland apparently).
You probably already know the legend explaining the origin of the surname Kur and of the coat of arms of your family: one night a knight noticed enemies approaching his king's camp and he alarmed the camp - he woke them up as a rooster wakes up everyone in the morning with his "Cock-a-doodle-doo!". In gratitude the king granted him this coat of arms.

According to an article on Wikipedia your knightly ancestors ended up in Mazovia in order to defend it from the Baltic Prussians - Konrad I of Masovia asked the first missionary bishop of Prussia, Christian of Oliva, to set up a military chivalric order that would protect the borders of his lands from the attacks of Prussian pagans and so the bishop created the Order of Dobrzyń:

The cadre of the order consisted of 14 knights-monks, some of which came from the city Basedow in Mecklenburg (a historical region in northern Germany). For this mission the knights were picked by the Duke of Mecklenburg, John I, from among knights connected to a powerful aristocratic family Hahn-Basedow:

The coat of arms of this family was a Rooster. This powerful chivalric family was of Slavic origin, they came to Mecklenburg from Courland ("Kurlandia" in Polish):

Their coat of arms was called "Kur" in Poland and the members of the family were called "Kurowie" among Poles and in Silesia the coat of arms and the family was called "Kokoty" (Old Polish name for a rooster). So, the family Kokotowie are also your heraldic kin.

With time it also became the battle cry of this chivarlic formation which later became the heraldic family known as Kurowie.
This military chivarlic group was being joined during the course of time by Masovians who, in line with the custom at that time, were adopting the sign of their leader - the Rooster (Kur). Since the 1222 the ranks of the Order of Dobrzyń were being joined by Mazovian knights. The name of a village Kurów and a river Kurówka comes from the stronghold set up by the order, according to Stanisław Hr. Mieroszowski:


Your surname is Kurek, but a noble family as whole is called in plural "Kurkowie".
The suffix "-ek" in Polish usually denotes a diminutive. "Kot" is a "cat" and "kotek" is a little cat. So, "kur" is a rooster, and "kurek" is a small rooster.

Her mother is Janina, and her middle name is Janinowna.

I don't understand - her first name is Janina and her middle name is Janinówna? What's her surname then? Janinowska? ;))

So here in NZ his name was recorded as Boyer

Surname "Boyer" seems to be extremely rare in Poland but it can be found:

It's more popular in Germany:

It can also be found in Switzerland, for example.
It could be German or Jewish. It reminds me of the German surname Bayer - maybe it's a variation of this surname, I really don't know.

Armenian, though that's the root rather than the suffix

How can you be so sure that it's Armenian? o_O

I have noticed that there are a group of surnames in Poland with the suffix -dys.

Suffix "-ys" denotes either Lithuanian roots or it means that a foreigner lived in Lithuania and his surname was Lithuaniazed ("his" because it's a male ending of a surname).

Poleboy765 - | 66
6 Jul 2016 #22
Correct me if I'm wrong, Paulina, but does this mean my family has heavy Russian ties since they come from the area? Bloodline wise. Though Poles already have some Russian makeup.
Bartkowiak 5 | 114
6 Jul 2016 #23
Poleboy, your family may even be of Russian origin. I am tired of certain people saying that my surname is Armenian. Bernat is (in it's current form) a Silesian name, my dad's family originates from Silesia. I am half Polish half Silesian, no way am I Armenian, I'm more German than Armenian.
Poleboy765 - | 66
7 Jul 2016 #24
Well, my family had always lived in Poland til the 1930s, I'm just curious if we have strong Russian ties because we're from the Plock area originally.
Bartkowiak 5 | 114
7 Jul 2016 #25
Not nescesarilley, what's your last name?
Bartkowiak 5 | 114
7 Jul 2016 #27
Polish nickname for a chicken. It's from Eastern Poland, but not Russian.
Poleboy765 - | 66
7 Jul 2016 #28
I know this but I was saying maybe there's Russians there at one point, but I'm Polish no doubt.
26 Dec 2019 #29
Is SKICZUK a Polish surname?
terri 1 | 1,663
26 Dec 2019 #30
Skiczuk - unlikely to be Polish, rather of Russian origin.

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