Surname Origins

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Surname Origins

Notes on Selected Polish Surnames

Ever since I wrote the first edition of Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, I've heard from folks wanting to know if I could provide a bit more info than was in the book about their specific names, or asking about names that weren't in the book. I don't have much time to devote to answering such notes, but if I can give a "quick and dirty" response within the time available to me, I am willing to do so. If, however, the number of requests comes to require more time than I can afford to devote to this, I'll have to quit doing it. In any case I will not answer requests for info on more than three names at a time. If you want to know about more names than that, my answer is simple: "Buy the book!"


Not long ago it dawned on me that since I was doing these notes on a computer anyway, it was stupid not to save them for future reference. I don't always remember to save them, but have begun trying to do so... Then it dawned on me that since I had these anyway, it wouldn't be much work to put them together and submit them for use on the PolishRoots web page. And voilà!  So, be aware that any request you make to me is likely to appear on the PolishRoots site some time in the future, and that by asking for my assistance you provide tacit agreement to using your name and email unless specifically requested not to do so.


Some of these names are rather rare and may be of no interest to the vast majority of Web visitors. But I thought it couldn't hurt to put them up -- you may find something you can use, and or a lead to others researching the same names you are. I use boldface type mainly for surnames or place names, and italics for roots and non-English words. Blocks of text printed in italics were written by someone other than me; we have a couple of notes where others explain names, which I consider a trend very much to be encouraged!


If you have a request for info on a particular name, you can contact me at, and I will answer as time allows. Please realize I have limited free time to answer such notes, and at any given time I have a backlog of 60-100 notes waiting to be answered; so don't be surprised if it takes me weeks, or even months, to get back to you. Also, do not ask about more than three names at a time; I just cannot deal with requests for more than that. Any notes sent to me, and any replies, are mine to post if I so desire; but if you don't want your note or reply posted publicly, let me know and I will respect your wishes. 


I should mention here that one source to which I refer constantly is the Słownik nazwisk współcześnie w Polsce używanych [Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland], a 10-volume set edited by Kazimierz Rymut and published in 1992 by the Polish Language Institute in Krakow (ISBN 83-85579-25-7). It used a 1990 Polish government database with data on about 93% of the Polish population to extract all surnames borne by Polish citizen and to give a breakdown of where they lived by province. That's all it gives: how many by that name in Poland, and how many live in each province. Unfortunately, further details (first names, addresses, etc.) which are surely in that database are not available -- the government office won't share them with researchers. So what I give here is all that's available. It's good so far as it goes, often giving raw data on frequency and distribution of names, but of course we all wish it gave more.


This 10-volume set has made available online as a searchable database by the Dom Polonii in Pułtusk. If you want to consult this source for yourself, go to this page:

Look at the box below where it says "Proszę wprowadzić nazwisko." That's where you enter the name you're looking for. NOTE THAT THIS DATABASE USES PROPER POLISH SPELLING. Searching for Gorzynski will not find Gorzyński. But you can use wild card characters, so that GORZY* will bring up all names beginning with those letters. Or you can substitute ? for any one letter.  You can sidestep use of the Polish characters in this way. Or you can find the appropriate letter in the rest of the text on that page, highlight it, and paste it into the search box. Or if you know how to use Multilanguage support in Windows to input Polish characters, you can do that. There's more than one way to skin this cat!


The data that comes up gives the total number of Polish citizens bearing the name in question as of 1990, followed by a breakdown of where they lived by province. Abbreviations are used for the provinces. You can see what those abbreviations stand for if, from the search page, you click on the place below the search box that says "Tutaj znajdują się objaśnienia skrotów."


One last note: there is an organization of scholars who work at the Anthroponomic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Kraków, and these are the best authorities I know of on Polish names, and Slavic names in general. If I can't answer you, or you'd like more detail, I suggest contacting them. They do not do genealogical research, just research on name origins. They can correspond in English, and the going rate for analyzing a name, as of this writing, seems to be about $20. Don't send money in advance, the individual who does the analysis for you will contact you and you can send him/her a money order. I have recommended them to quite a few folks, and many have contacted me to say they were quite pleased with the results. If you are interested, here is the address:


Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN
Pracownia Antroponimiczna
Al. Mickiewicza 31
31-120 Kraków


I hope this is some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your research!


William F. "Fred" Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings

Basic Explanation of Surname Endings

Discussion of Surname Origins

Using the online Slownik nazwisk