Notes on Selected Polish Surnames – 4


…I just received a copy of your book… Polish Surnames:Origins and Meanings and think it is great. I do have a couple of questions (for now).

1. While looking up the surname Adamczyk, I found two entries with two different frequencies while Adamyczyk(xAdamczyk) did not have a frequency associated with it. (page 185 in your book)

Aarghh, a typo! I looked over these pages so many times, and still some got by! The first Adamczyk, with 3,902, should be Adamczuk; Adamczyk does have 49,599, it’sAdamczuk that has 3,902. As for Adamyczyk, it is a misspelling of Adamczyk, and did not appear in Poland as of 1990, nor would one expect it to, unless someone keyed in data wrong. That’s what I meant by that (x Adamczyk), it’s a short way of saying “This is a misspelling of Adamczyk.” If there had been any Adamyczyks as of 1990, I would have given the number. I grant, however, that this is not as clear as it could be — and the double Adamczyks is a typo, pure and simple.

2. One of my aunts spells her maiden name as Przybyciel, however it wasn’t listed. Is it possible that she is spelling it incorrectly?

Due to space limitations, I generally included only the more common names; once in a while I included a rare one because some one had asked about it before, I had some info, so I put it in. But in most cases I didn’t include rare names because I had a definite problem with the book getting too big! Przybyciel is a case in point: as of 1990 there were 26 Poles with that name, living in the provinces of Bygoszcz (5), Gdansk (1), Krosno (10), Legnica (5), Slupsk (4), and Tarnobrzeg (1). So it’s pretty rare. None of my sources mentions it, but I figure it’s very, very likely it means about the same thing as Przybycien, a newcomer or recent arrival. So I wouldn’t say it’s a misspelling, maybe more of a dialect term or a word that for some reason never caught on in widespread usage — przybycien~ was, for some reason, the form that did catch on, and thus is a much more common surname. But in terms of linguistics and formation, Przybyciel is a perfectly good word, and there’s no real logic as to why it’s rare and Przybycien~ is common!

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


To: Donald Stygar [email protected], who wrote:

…I have a couple of names. My own, Stygar and my sister married an Andrychowski. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Don Stygar .

Stygar probably is a variant of Sztygar, a word meaning “foreman,” especially in mines. This term comes from German, and is comparable to the German names Stieger, “one who lived by a mountain path,” and Steiger, literally “climber.” So this could be the German name rendered in Polish spelling, or it could be a Polish name from a Polish word borrowed from German. Either way, the ultimate origin is German. The form Stygar is most common in Poland — as of 1990 there were 310 Poles with that name. The largest numbers were in the provinces of Krosno (126) and Rzeszow (29), with smaller numbers in several other provinces, mostly in southeastern Poland, which is quite mountainous.

As with most names ending in -owski and -ewski, the name Andrychowski probably started as a reference to the name of a place the family came from or (if noble) owned. In this case two likely candidates are the villages of Andrychy, in Lomza province, and especially Andrychow, a reasonably good-sized town in Bielsko-Biala prov., southwest of Krakow. As of 1990 there were 311 Polish citizens named Andrychowski, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (57) and Lomza (54) and smaller numbers in many other provinces. The place names Andrychy and Andrychow are derived from the first name Andrzej, “Andrew,” and mean basically “Andrew’s place” — so Andrychowski is literally rendered as meaning having some association with a place or thing associated with a guy named Andrew, but for all practical purposes this means “person from Andrew’s town.”

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


To: Patricia Souza, [email protected], who wrote:

…I have been trying to find whether my mother’s family name is Polish or not, but we haven’t had any success so far. The name is Andryszyn, yet we are not 100% sure that’s the way to spell it, but my greatgrandfather’s name was Mikolaj and his wife’s Anna Helena. Maybe she was not Polish, we believe she was Austrian.

I think I can help a little — Andryszyn is a Polish spelling of a Ukrainian surname, which in English we’d spell as Andryshyn (the original, of course, was spelled in Cyrillic). It’s rare in Poland these days — as of 1990 there was only 1 Andryszyn, living in Wloclawek province — but is probably not so rare in Ukraine and in places where Ukrainians have settled, such as Canada, Brazil, etc. The name comes from Andriy, “Andrew” — from that is formed Andrykha, “Andrew’s woman,” and the suffix -yn is added, softening the kh to an sh sound = Andryszyn or Andryshyn, literally “son of Andrew’s woman.” Surnames ending in -ishin or -yshyn (in Polish spelled -iszyn or -yszyn) are almost always Ukrainian, formed the same way, e. g., Petryshyn (son of Peter’s woman), Romanyshyn (son of Roman’s woman), etc.

…They came to Brasil around 1924-30, with 6 of their 7 kids. The names were, as my grandmother used to tell us, Olga, Mary, Ida, Eugenia, Stevo, Steva and Jose Guilherme (probably Jozef Wilhelm in Polish).

It’s a small world — just yesterday I visited a Web page telling of Ukrainians in Brazil celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian Catholic church in Brazil. Odds are it would have nothing relevant to your research, but if you’re interested, here is the address:

I’m not sure exactly where to go from here, but perhaps it will help knowing the name is Ukrainian. One good Website you might check is

They provide a lot of good info.

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


…Hello, my name is Jason Winnicki and I have recently become extremely interested in researching my family history and the history/meaning of my surname. The other names associated with my family are Stablewski, Rozanski, and Andzrejewski.

Basically, all four of these names derived the same way, from toponyms (place names). So for instance Winnicki comes from the word winnica, “vineyard.” Besides being a common noun, this is also the name of several towns and villages, especially the city of Winnica (now Vinnitsa in Ukraine). So the surname probably started as a way of referring to a person from a town or village named Winnica, or else a person who owned or worked in a vineyard. If you think about it, it’s 6 of one, half-dozen of the other — a place surely wouldn’t have gotten the name Winnica if there weren’t a prominent vineyard there… Winnicki is a rather common name, as of 1990 there were 4,637 Polish citizens by that name, living all over the country.

Andrzejewski almost certainly started as meaning “person or family connected with a place called Andrzejew, Andrzejewo or Andrzejow.” If the family were noble, their estate probably was called by one of those names; if they were peasants, they worked on such an estate or came from a town or village by that name. Unfortunately, there are quite a few places in Poland with names that qualify, at least 2 Andrzejewos, 7 Andrzejows, and 2 Andrzejowkas (all of which started as names meaning “Andrew’s place, Andrew’s estate”). Probably all these places had families that took this surname, so Andrzejewski surely arose as a surname in many different places at different times, and it’s a good bet the Andrzejewskis are not all related. Since places by these names are not rare, it’s no wonder there were 26,917 Andrzejewskis in Poland as of 1990.

Ro~z|an~ski is also a common name — as of 1990 there were 11,624 Poles by that name. The ultimate root is ro~z|a, “rose,” but in most cases Ro~z|an~ski probably started as meaning “person or family connected with a place called Ro~z|any, Ro~z|anna, Ro~z|anki, etc.,” and those places got their names from some connection with roses or, in a few cases, maybe were named for a woman named Ro~z|a or Ro~z|anna. As is usual with common surnames connected with place names, there are many places all over Poland that qualify, so the surname gives little in the way of clues as to where the family might have come from.

Stablewski is by far the least common name you asked about — as of 1990 there were only 176 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (23), Bydgoszcz (80), Koszalin (24), and Lodz (12) and smaller numbers in a few other provinces. A 15-volume gazetteer of Polish localities shows 3 that might be connected with this name. 1) Stablewice was a knightly estate in Chelmno county, served by the Catholic parish in Unislaw, about 5 km. to the southwest in what is now Torun province. 2) Stablowice was a village in Opawa county, an area that was once part of Poland but is now in the Czech Republic — I believe this must be what is now Stablovice about 10 km. SSW of Opava in the northeastern Czech Republic, very near the border with Poland. 3) Stablowice, an estate and village about 5 km. northwest of Wroclaw in southwestern Poland. Theoretically the surname Stablewski could have originated referring to any of these places, or to others that don’t show up on my maps and in my gazetteers.

I’m sorry the names don’t give better clues as to exactly where the families came from, but to be honest, there aren’t many Polish surnames that do. I hope this info does you some good, and I wish you the best of luck with your research!

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


… I am looking for information on my surname, Arnista. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

The derivation of the name is difficult — none of my sources mention it specifically. In Polish -ista usually refers to one who operates a particular tool or plays an instrument, so that an organista plays the organ, a cymbalista plays the cymbals, etc. But I find no native Polish root with arn-, except as a name root from Arnold, and that makes no sense with -ista… I do note that the first name Ernest has appeared in Polish as Arnest, so it’s not outrageous to suggest a connection — Arnista might have started as a patronymic, that is, a name meaning son of Ernest. But that’s just a guess, and I have nothing solid that indicates whether it’s a good guess.

As of 1990 there were 195 Polish citizens named Arnista, living in the following provinces: Bialystok 3, Gorzow 7, Katowice 6, Lomza 102, Olsztyn 8, Opole 2, Suwalki 50, Torun 7, Walbrzych 2, Wroclaw 4, Zielona Gora 4. It’s interesting that there’s also a name Arnister, borne by 71 Poles, living in the provinces of: Lomza 33, Olsztyn 9, Opole 1, Suwalki 10, Szczecin 18. This suggests the original form might have been Arnister, but Poles don’t care for the suffix -er and often change it to an -a. Still, then we’re left wondering what Arnister means? All we know for sure is that these names are definitely most common in northern and eastern Poland, in the provinces of Lomza and Suwalki.

If you’d like to ask the best experts about this, I suggest writing the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute in Krakow. [For more information see my introduction, or click here for the address: Institute address].

Also, if you do write them and hear back, I’d be very interested in hearing what they say. I would love to include this name and some reliable info (as opposed to my guesses) in the next version of my book on Polish surnames. So I would appreciate very much hearing anything you find out.

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


To: [email protected], who wrote:

… I was given your name recently as the “expert” in Polish surnames. Would you know if the name Aviza is Polish, Lithuanian, etc.?

I’m pretty sure Aviza can’t be regarded as a Polish name — as of 1990 there were no Polish citizens by that name, and I can find no Polish root that fits. There is a root in the Latin-derived languages, e.g., aviso in Spanish, “notice, advice, announcement,” but that seems unlikely to be relevant here. However, I see that there is a word in Lithuanian,aviz^a (upside down caret over the Z), which means “oat,” and that is entirely plausible as the source of a surname. In Lithuanian (and those other languages as well) we often see names based on plants or edible items. In this case, perhaps an ancestor dealt in oats, grew them, loved to eat them, etc. — there are several ways such a name could get started.

Interestingly, there were in 1990 some 144 Polish citizens named Awiz*en~ (dot over the Z, accent over the N), with the largest numbers in the provinces of Gorzow (18), Olsztyn (30), and Szczecin (15). A. Beider’s Dictionary of Jewish Surnames From the Kingdom of Poland mentions Awizan~ski, saying it derived from the village of Awiz*an~ce near Sejny. I cannot find that village on the map, but in Lithuania there are several villages named Aviz^ieniai and one named Aviz^onys. Most likely all these names took their origin from the Lithuanian word aviz^a, presumably because they were somehow associated with the growing and dealing of oats. This may not be directly relevant to your research, since it appears the name you’re interested in is simple Aviz^a, with no suffixes. But I thought I’d mention this other info, just in case it proves interesting.

I have no data on how common a name Aviz^a is, but I know someone who may be able to provide that info. Dave Zincavage, [email protected], is interested in Lith. names, and has a dictionary with info on them. I suggest you E-mail him to ask what he can add to what I’ve told you. I’ll be very surprised, however, if the word for oat doesn’t turn out to be the source of this name.

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


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…I am researching all the Polish names in my family – Grondzki, Izydor – (from Pultusk, Poland), Banska, Eva – (from Warsaw I think), Pohorylo, John (From ???), andKwapien (and Forgiel), Sophie – from Dioecesis: Tarnow, Paroecia: Olesno and Decanatus: Dabrone Tarnswsks (Do you know where any of the Kwapien places are I cannot find them on Maps).

First of all, the Kwapien places: that is Latin, saying Tarnow Diocese, Olesno parish, Deanery of Dabrowa Tarnowska. In other words, the records were drawn up at the parish of Olesno, which is about 5 km. northest of Dabrowa Tarnowska, a town north of Tarnow in the modern-day province in Tarnow in southeastern Poland, near the border with Ukraine. It was normal for one parish church to serve a number of villages, so it’s not clear whether your ancestors came from Olesno itself or another nearby village — but this info certainly is important, as it pinpoints the area within a few kilometers. And for the purpose of finding records, knowing the right parish is of great importance.

Now, as to the surnames. Ban~ska is just a feminine form of Ban~ski, the latter would be the standard form. Ban~ski (I’m using n~ to stand for the n with an accent over it, a softened not unlike that in “pine” or “onion”) is a moderately common name, as of 1990 there were some 772 Poles with this name, living all over the country; the largest concentrations were in the provinces of Warsaw (119), Czestochowa (120), and Katowice (132), no other province had as many as 100. The surname probably alludes to a connection with places named Bania, Banie, Ban~ska, something like that, and there are several such places in Poland, which is why I can’t say, “This name comes from this place, right here, and no other.” The main root of these names appears to be the term bania, meaning “whirlpool, pit.” So the surname would mean basically “person from Bania or Banie or Ban~ska.”

Grondzki is another way of spelling Gra~dzki, where the a~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced (usually) like on — soGra~dzki sounds a lot like Grondzki, and that explains why it is sometimes spelled that way. This name would generally refer to a connection with a place called Gra~dy, of which there are quite a few in Poland. The root gra~d means “elevation”, so it’s a name that could be applied to a settlement in a hilly area. The spelling Grondzki is rather rare in Poland, as of 1990 there were only 30 Poles by this name, in the provinces of Warsaw (13), Bialystok (7), Lodz (8), Ostroleka (1), Sieradz (1). But the spellingGra~dzki is quite common, with 2,535 Poles by that name; they live all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (384), Bialystok (257), Lomza (375), Ostroleka (200), and Suwalki (274), and smaller numbers in many others. Thus the name means basically person from or connected with Gra~dy, and the frequency of the name is probably due to the fact that there are so many places by that name, and therefore so many places the name could get started. When researching, you want to look for either spelling, Grondzki or Gra~dzki, as they could be switched quite easily.

Kwapien~ (again, accent over the N) is a moderately common name. As of 1990 there were 716 Poles by this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (162), Kielce (137), Krakow (137), Tarnow (63), and other provinces with fewer than 25 inhabitants by that name. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut says this name comes from the roots kwap, “soft feathers,” or kwapic~ sie~, “to be in a hurry.” I strongly suspect the name Kwapien~ usually started as a nickname for a fellow always in a rush.

Pohorylo is very interesting. It is a Ukrainian name in origin, from an adjective meaning one who’s been burned out, who lost everything in a fire – – the same root gives names like Pogorzelski in Polish (Polish g = Ukr. h, Polish rz = Ukr. r, etc.). It’s not unusual to find Ukrainian names in Poland and Polish names in Ukraine, the people have mixed quite a bit over the centuries. But Pohorylo is rare in Poland these days; as of 1990 there were only 36 Poles by that name. They lived in the provinces of Warsaw (2), Jelenia Gora (4), Katowice (1), Legnica (1), Przemysl (4), Szczecin (10), Wroclaw (10), Zielona Gora (4). You’ll note that some of these provinces are far from Ukraine, but that is partially due to forced relocations after World War II.

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


To: [email protected] (Jeff Wawro), who wrote:

…I’m interested in knowing more about the Wawro and Bialaszewski (my grandmother’s family name) family names.

The name Bialaszewski almost certainly derives from a connection with a place named Bialaszewo, or something similar; the most likely source is the village of Bial~aszewo (I’m using l~ to designate the Polish l with a slash through it, pronounced like our w), about 15-20 km. SSE of Grajewo in modern-day Lomza province in northeastern Poland. There could be other, smaller places with similar names that gave rise to this name in some cases; but probably most families with this name came from, or were otherwise somehow connected, with this village of Bial~aszewo. The village, in turn, takes its name from the ancient first name Bial~asz — probably the name of the village’s founder or owner at some point; this name is from the root bial-, meaning white, with Bial~asz meaning something like “Whitey” in English.

This surname is not very common — as of 1990 there were some 146 Polish citizens named Bial~aszewski. They lived mostly in the provinces of Warsaw (13), Gdansk (25), Gorzow (10), Pila (40), Slupsk (22), and Suwalki (22).

I should also mention there is a surname Bial~oszewski, somewhat more common (345 by that name in 1990), and in some cases the names might be related. But if the form Bial~aszewski is correct (rather than a variant of Bial~oszewski), I think derivation from the name of the village Bial~aszewo is most likely.

Wawro is an interesting name, mentioned in documents as early as 1453. According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, it is most likely a short form or nickname ofWawrzyniec, the Polish form of the first name Lawrence. It might also be connected to the Ukrainian first name Lavro, which some say is a separate name, from Latin laurus, “laurel,” whereas others see it as a variant of Wawrzyniec; Polish influence might explain the change from an l sound to the v sound of Polish w (as happened with “Wawrzyniec” = “Lawrence”). The surname Wawro is fairly common, borne by 1,827 Poles as of 1990. The largest concentrations lived in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (322), Katowice (286), Krakow (265), and Przemysl (215); no other province had as many as 200 inhabitants by this name. All these provinces are in southern Poland, near Krakow (or near the Ukrainian border, in the case of Przemysl), areas with large numbers of ethnic Ukrainians. As I say, the name might be Polish, or it might be Polish-influenced Ukrainian, since in those areas we see many names of mixed origin.

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


To Siegfied Borczak, [email protected], who wrote:

…Do you have this surname of Borczak and if anyone has the family tree already done that I could look at. I believe my great grandfather was in the Polish Army in France Recruitment Records.

Borczak is not an extremely common name in Poland. As of 1990 there were some 165 Poles by that name, living all over but with the largest numbers in the provinces of Krakow (38), Olsztyn (20), and Wloclawek (25). The basic root from which the name derives is bor-, meaning “battle, fight,” especially as seen in ancient compound Polish names such as Borzyslaw (renowned fighter) and Bolebor (more battle). This name could originate in many ways, but perhaps the most likely is that a fellow bore a shortened form of those names, such as Borek, and then his son was referred to as Borczak, Borek’s son.

I have no files on any families and do not do genealogical research, so I’m afraid I can’t help you with your family tree. I hope this information 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


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…I would appreciate any information you have on Bulawa and Stawecki (mother’s maiden name.) Thanks in advance.

Bul~awa (I’m using l~ to stand for the Polish slashed l, which sounds like our w, so that Bul~awa would sound something like boo-WAH-vuh) is a moderately common name in Poland. As of 1990 there were 1,130 Polish citizens by that name, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (250), Bydgoszcz (147), Katowice (83), Pila (79), and Tarnobrzeg (200) — the largest numbers appear in provinces in southern Poland, but other than that I see no particular pattern. The most likely origin for this name is the noun bul~awa, which means “mace, staff of office” — apparently it was a staff certain officials carried as part of their paraphernalia. I suppose a family would get this name either because a member was an official who carried such a staff, or because something about a person’s shape or demeanour somehow reminded folks of the staff.

Stawecki is almost certainly derived from place names, including candidates such as Stawek, Stawce, Stawki, Stawiec — there are quite a few places by those names, so nothing in the name itself gives us a clue as to where a particular Stawecki family might have originated. As of 1990 there were 866 Polish citizens by this name, with the largest numbers (more than 50) living in the provinces of Biala Podlaska (59), Bialystok (51), Katowice (57), Kielce (112), Leszno (59), and Lublin (141). Again, if there is a particular pattern to this distribution, I’m afraid I can’t see it.

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



To: Pawel Z. Chadzynski, [email protected], who wrote:

Note: the original question and reply were in Polish. I’ve translated them to make them more accessible to users of this page, most of whom presumably aren’t fluent in Polish! – WFH

The surnames Cha~dzyn~ski, Przyl~e~cki, Malewicz, Markowski, and Me~karski appear in Part Two of my book, a list of surnames arranged by the roots they derived from, (i.e., Me~karski appears under Ma~k-, Markowski under Mar[e]c-, Mar[e]k, etc.). The surnames Gol~on~ski, Odachowski, and Strzetelski don’t appear in the book because they are quite rare, and there wasn’t room for rare names.

I can make the following short comments on these surnames:

Cha~dzyn~ski surely comes from place-names, for instance, Cha~dzyn in Siedlce province, Cha~dzyny in Ciechanow province. In 1990 there were 1,344 Poles by this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (235), Ciechanow (135), Czestochowa (106), Lodz (68), and Piotrkow (115).

I don’t know what Gol~on~ski comes from — probably from a place name, but I could find no such name in atlases or gazetteers. In 1990 there were 22 Poles with this surname, in the provinces of Warsaw (4), Bialystok (11), Torun (2), Walbrzych (3), and Wroclaw (2).

Malewicz is a patronymic, meaning for example son of a little guy (mal~y) or son of a man named Mal, where Mal or something similar might be a short form of an old compound name such as Malomir. In 1990 there were 1,113 Poles with this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (109), Bialystok (117), Bydgoszczc (173), Gorzow (82), Szczecin (82), Wroclaw (69), and Zielona Gora (68).

Markowski comes from names of villages such as Markow, Markowo, Markowka, Markowa — of which there are many in Poland. Obviously these place names come from the first name Marek (Mark) and meant something like village or estate belonging to Marek or Marek’s kin. In 1990 there were 21,938 Markowskis in Poland.

Me~karski can come from the place name Mekarzow in Czestochowa province, or from the first name Me~karz, a variant of the name Makary. In 1990 there were 561 Poles with this surname, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Czestochowa (92), Lodz (85), and Piotrkow (93).

I’ve never run across the name Odachowski before, but in 1990 there were 415 Poles with this surname, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bialystok (140), Lomza (101), and Walbrzych (25). At first I had no idea where this name came from, but I saw that the form is toponymic (i. e., from a place-name), and I found a locality called Odacho~w (currently Adakavas in Lithuania) and one called Odachowszczyzna in Nowogrodek county of Minsk province in the former Russian Empire. It seems probable to me that the surname comes from these place names.

The name Przyl~e~cki probably comes from place names such as Przyl~e~k and Przyl~e~ki, of which there are several. As of 1990 there were 351 Poles with this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (23), Kalisz (56), Lodz (50), and Wroclaw (20).

I’ve also never seen the surname Strzetelski before, and in 1990 there were only 34 Poles by that name, in the provinces of Warsaw (3), Jelenia Gora (3), Kielce (3), Krakow (24), and Tarnow (1). The name is toponymic in form, but I could find no place with a name that seemed to fit. It is possible that such a place exists or did exist, but was too small too show up on maps or in gazetteers.

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


To: [email protected] (John Chlapowski), who wrote:

… I am trying to find the origin and history of my surname which is Chlapowski (with a line over the l).

Most names ending in -owski derive from a place name ending something like -ow or -owo or -owa (similarly with -ewski). This isn’t always the case, but usually with a name like Chl~apowski (the l~ stands for the Polish l with a slash through it or line over it, pronounced like our w) the first thing to do is look for places named Chl~apow(/o/a), and usually the surname name began as a way of distinguishing people who came from that place.

According to Polish name expert Dr. Kazimierz Rymut, names beginning with the root chl~ap- have some connection with the verb chl~aptac~, which means “lap up, swill.” In some cases, I can’t help wondering if it might also be related to the root chl~op-, which means “peasant” — often Polish a and o sound very similar, so it’s not outrageous to suggest a possible connection there. Now as to why a village would get such a name, that I don’t know — your guess is as good as mine. But the surname Chl~apowskialmost certainly means connected with, coming from, formerly owning, or prominent in Chl~apowo.

As it happens, there are at least two villages named Chl~apowo, one in Gdansk province, one in Poznan province; there may be others too small to show up on the map. Anyway, chances are good families named Chl~apowski originally came from one of those villages; but without detailed genealogical research, however, there’s no way to tell which one (or some other, smaller place with a similar name) would have been the one associated with your particular family. However, as you do research, if you start noticing that certain geographic facts add up, that might allow you to draw a fairly reliable conclusion as to which one is relevant.

As of 1990 there were 119 Polish citizens named Chl~apowski, living in the follow provinces: Warsaw 13, Bydgoszcz 5, Elblag 4, Kalisz 2, Krakow 1, Leszno 39, Lodz 1, Opole 3, Poznan 26, Szczecin 21, Zielona Gora 4. No further info (first names, addresses, etc.) is available to me, I’m sorry to say.

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


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…I just came across the PGSA Home page and am overwhelmed. I am starting research on two names: 1) Tuszynski and 2) Cielcizka.

Cielcizka looks to me like a misspelling of Cieliczka, a name borne by some 260 Poles as of 1990, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Leszno (16), Lublin (15), Przemysl (178), and Walbrzych (13) — so it looks as if southeastern Poland, and especially the Przemysl area, is the main place to look for this name. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions that most names beginning with the root ciel- come from the term ciele~, “calf”; the dictionary shows cieliczka as a term meaning “young heifer.” I’m not sure exactly how this came to be the name of a person, perhaps it was a nickname, for someone who bawled like a heifer, or was especially good at raising heifers — about all we can be sure of is that the name arose due to some sort of association with heifers.

Tuszyn~ski would most likely be a name suggesting a family was connected to (at one time owned, or worked at, or lived in) a place named Tuszyn, Tuszynki, Tuszynek, something like that. On the map I see four places with names that could spawn this surname, and there are probably more too small to show up on the map — so the surname probably got started independently in several different places. Thus it’s not surprising the surname is rather common in Poland; as of 1990 there were 4,711 Poles by this name. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers showing up in the provinces of Warsaw (653), Bydgoszcz (335), Katowice (388), Radom (319), Torun (360) — basically, the only pattern I see to this is that the surname is most common in provinces with larger populations. So I’m afraid the name doesn’t offer much in the way of clues as to where a family by that name might have come from.

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


…I just wanted to drop you a line and thank you for your help. One more favor. If you know anything about the names Cwojdak and Sikora I would appreciate you passing the information along. Thanks again.

Sikora comes from the noun sikora, “titmouse” (a kind of bird). This is an extremely common surname, as of 1990 there were 39,850 Poles by this name, living all over the country (plus another 26,051 with the name Sikorski).

The root of the name Cwojdak is something I would like to know more about. I mentioned the root in my book because some fairly common names are derived from it – Cwojdzin~ski (834), Czwojdrak (376), Czwojdzin~ski (201) — but I could find nothing definite on it. As of 1990 there was no one named Cwojdak, there were 32 Poles named Cwojda, and 14 named Cwojdrak. I did find one source that mentioned that this name is found in Silesia (southwestern Poland), and it might be related to a term cwajda, a call used for cattle or horses. It might also be a Polonized form of a German word, although so far I haven’t been able to figure out what word that would be — it just sounds as if it might have a German origin. But the bottom line is, I’m not sure, and I hope one day to find a source that tells me more.

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


From: [email protected]

I saw your web page on Polish names. Below is what I’ve learned about my Czaplicki name so far. Can you review what I have and correct or add to the information. I would be pleased if you chose to add this information to the web page.



Name Origins

The Polish surname Czaplicki is classified as being of toponymic origin. Such names refer to an origin which is derived from the place name where the initial bearer lived on held land. In this instance, the surname derives from Czaple which is the name of a city located in north-western Poland, south east of Olsztyn. Thus, the original bearer of the surname Czaplicki was someone who was identified by members of his community as “one who hailed from Czaple.” Etymologically, this toponym derives from the Polish termczapla which literally means “heron, stork,” hence indicating a place frequented by this bird. In some cases, this surname originated as a nickname for a man with long thin legs, or perhaps for one who was shy and easily frightened.

Four Czaplicki Families

Czaplicki was the surname borne by four noble Polish families who were septs of the great clans Grabie, Kotwicz, Lubicz, and Grzymala, respectively. The Czaplickis of the clan Grabie had their ancestral seal located in the region of Chelmo which is about 50 kilometers northeast of Czestochowa, where their existence was documented in 1640. The Czaplicki of the clan Grzymala lived in the region of Prussia, although a branch of this family were registered in the district of Chelmo in 1700. The family who belong to the clan Kotwicz came originally from Mazovia where they were recorded in 1650. A Czaplicki family from Silesia used this coat of arms although their family probably faded out. Members of this family were documented as living in Lithuania in 1700. A descendant of this house, Stanislaw Czaplicki, made an endowment to the Dominican friars of Ostrowie, and in 1640 donated 5000 zloty to the monastery funds. The Czaplickis of the clan Lubicz had their ancestral seat located in Mazovia where their existence was registered as early as 1436.

Our Czaplicki Roots

This family from which my both paternal Czaplicki grandparents were born were from the Przasnysz district. The Lubicz-Czaplicki family were very branched out. Today about 6500 persons in Poland use that surname. The nest of this family was probably from the estate Czaplice in the Przasnysz district. In the gazetteer Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego, 1880, that place was divided into several villages, i.e.;

1. Czaplice- Ba~ki

2. Czaplice- Jaworowo

3. Czaplice- Furmany

4. Czaplice- Pilaty

5. Czaplice- Kurki

6. Czaplice- Milki

7. Czaplice- Wielkie

8. Czaplice- Rajki-Golanki

9. Czaplice- Koty

There is also a Czaplice-Osobne village in the nearby Lomza district and a Czaplice village in the Sluck district in Lithuania.

It looks as though the common ancestor of many of the Czaplicki families in these areas was knight Mroczeslaw de Czaplice who lived from 1410 to 1444. His descendants divided into 3 main lines: Mazovian, Lomzynian and Sandomierian.

In the 1432 Register of the Mazovian principality it lists that two first cousins from the sword side: Marcin Falislaw and Mroczek (diminutive of Mroczeslaw) de Czaplice were the owners of Czaplice in the parish of Krzynowloga in the Ciechanovian district in 1432. It appears that the Czaplicki’s of the Lomza line are descendants of Mroczeslaw and that Marcin Falislaw was the ancestor of the Mazovian line.

In the Armorial of Ignacy Kapica Milewski it lists that Mroczeslaw de Czaplicki moved to Lomza district in 1436 and established the village Czaplice Osobne (parish Szczepanki). Furthermore the book mentions that Marcin de Czaplice born 1440, Andrzej de Czaplice born 1441 and Jøzef de Czaplice, son of Andrze (1498-1502).

Note: all this is information from Mr. Czaplicki, and as far as I can tell it seems accurate. I would think that while the term czapla, “heron,” is clearly the ultimate root of the surname, most of the time the surname Czaplicki would derive from the place name Czaplice, rather than from Czaple. But Mr. Czaplicki got his information from some fairly good sources, and they indicate what he gives above is correct. Polish surname suffixes can be tricky, and what he says is quite plausible, so I don’t disagree with it. And in any case, this is a good example of how a person who does good research can soon become much more of an expert on his/her name than I can ever be! — WFH.


… Is there a way to find out if this name (Danisiewicz) is common in Poland and in what part of the country if it is.

Yes, I consulted a 10-volume set, the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych [Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland], which used a 1990 Polish government database with data on 94% of the Polish population to extract all surnames borne by Polish citizen and to give a breakdown of where they live by 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.

As of 1990 there were 106 Polish citizens named Danisiewicz. They were scattered all over the country in 17 of the 49 provinces. Here are the provinces in which 10 or more lived: Warsaw (15), Katowice (10), Lodz (31), and Olsztyn (10). There were also 82 Poles named Danisewicz, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bialystok (10), Gdansk (9), Koszalin (8), Olsztyn (8), Slupsk (16), Suwalki (8), Szczecin (10). These names are so close that it’s quite possible they could become confused, so it seemed advisable to give info on both. Danisiewicz shows no real pattern, except that the Lodz is where it’s most common; Danisewicz shows up almost exclusively in the northern provinces along the Baltic that were once ruled by Germany.

I’m not surprised there is no really striking pattern to the names’ distribution. The name just means son of Danis, where Danis is a first name that originated as a nickname for such Polish first names as Daniel, Bogdan or from the root word meaning to give. Names of this sort could and did arise anywhere Polish was spoken and there were guys with the appropriate first name. So -ewicz and -owicz names generally originated independently in many different places and families all over the country. It’s kind of frustating for researchers, but it’s a lot like trying to trace Johnsons in England — the name itself just isn’t distinctive enough to give you any clues.

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


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…While doing some research for my family tree, I came across a reference on the Net regarding a possible list you may have of Polish surnames. I was wondering if you have ever came across the name of Raflewski or Deyo? Any help you may provide would be greatly appreciated.

The spelling Deyo is not correct by modern Polish standards, which say that y can only be used as a vowel; however, in older Polish y could be used where these days they usej. So Dejo is a more likely form; however, it is quite rare — in 1990 there was only one Pole by that name, living in Lodz province. But -o and -a can be very hard to distinguish in handwriting, so it’s not outrageous to suggest the name may have started out as Deja — and there were 3,178 Poles by that name as of 1990. It probably comes from a dialect or slang term deja, meaning “heavy, awkward fellow.” That name is found all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (500), Gdansk (345), Katowice (455), and Radom (619) — if there’s a pattern to that distribution, it escapes me. There were also 577 Poles named Dej, and I think it’s highly likely one or the other of these names is the one you want.

I’m fairly sure that Raflewski ultimately derives from the first name Rafal~ (Raphael in English; the L~ stands for the Polish L with a slash through it, which sounds like our W). Usually surnames in -ewski or -owski derive from a place name ending in -ew- or -ow-, so I would expect Raflewski to have started as meaning one associated with a place named Raflewo (or something like that), and that place in turn probably took its name from a Rafal~ who founded it or owned it. I can’t find any such place on the map, but sometimes Polish surnames came from names of places that were quite tiny, names used only by the locals, so it’s not necessarily surprising that I can’t find a place with an appropriate name. This is a fairly rare surname in Poland: as of 1990 there were only 42 Poles named Raflewski, living in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (3), Elblag (4), Gdansk (2), Katowice (4), Lodz (6), Olsztyn (3), Suwalki (4), and Torun (16). (Unfortunately, I don’t have access to further details, such as first names, addresses, etc.).

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


To: Frederick Kobylarz, [email protected], who wrote:

…There are three more surnames that I wasn’t able to locate and am reasonably sure that they exist, save one. The two I’m most interested in are Prokowski and Derlanga. The third one is to clarify a point, while Malik is listed in your book, one of my cousins insists that his name is spelled as Malick.

Malik and Malick are probably the same. In German and English -k and -ck are pronounced the same, and those are the two foreign languages that most often affected the forms of Polish names — so chances are that’s just a variant spelling of no great significance. The one case where it might be significant is if Malick is a shortened form ofMalicki, another surname from the same basic root. This is not out of the question, but I wouldn’t give it much thought unless you find other evidence that supports the idea — and even then, it doesn’t necessarily mean much.

Derlanga is a tough name to nail down, but considering how e and y often switch in Polish, I suspect it comes from the term dyrlaga, “tall, thin person,” and the related termdryla~g, “tall, clumsy fellow.” I notice that as of 1990 there were 236 Poles named Derlaga (see below for distribution). There were 290 named Dyrlaga, and there was a listing for Derla~g but data was incomplete. The spelling Derlanga did not appear in the Surname Directory, but Derle~ga did, and that’s very close. All in all, considering where the name is most common, I suspect it’s a southeastern regional variant of a surname deriving from the term dryla~g — from a phonetic point of view, that’s quite plausible.

Here are the distributions for the names mentioned above:

DERLAGA: 236; Bielsko-Biala 2, Elblag 11, Gdansk 10, Gorzow 24, Jelenia Gora 3, Kielce 37, Krakow 3, Krosno 1, Legnica 3, Rzeszow 1, Suwalki 4, Tarnobrzeg 31, Tarnow 93, Walbrzych 10, Wroclaw 3

DERLANGA — no listing

DERLE~GA: 62; Krakow 6, Legnica 5, Tarnow 43, Walbrzych 5, Wroclaw 3

DYRLAGA: 290; Warsaw 9, Bielsko-Biala 210, Bydgoszcz 1, Chelm 4, Ciechanow 1, Czestochowa 7, Elblag 2, Katowice 4, Koszalin 2, Krakow 3, Legnica 4, Leszno 4, Nowy Sacz 2, Opole 5, Szczecin 2, Tarnow 3, Walbrzych 11, Wroclaw 10, Zielona Gora 6

Prokowski is a rare name, as of 1990 there were only 30 Poles by this name. That is often a handicap, but in this case it might work to your advantage — of those 30, 28 live in the province of Szczecin (the other 2 in Jelenia Gora). Thus the name is very concentrated, making it more likely you can find relatives in Poland. As for the origin, one would expect it to mean “person from Prokow/Prokowo/Prokowa,” and I see there is a village Prokowo in Gdansk province, about 4 km. west of Kartuzy. The surname may refer to this village, or perhaps to another I can’t find on my map.

There’s no way to guess exactly how people living in Szczecin province (near the border with Germany) came to bear a name that refers to a place near Gdansk. One possibility is that the Prokowskis used to live in the village near Kartuzy and took their name from it, but later moved. That happened sometimes, especially with the nobility, who often sold and bought estates and moved around. But I’d say chances are decent the surname does refer to that village, unless you turn up evidence of another place with the same or a similar name.

You might contact the Polish Genealogical Society of America to ask about having the Szczecin provincial telephone directory searched for Prokowskis. I don’t know how much it would cost, probably not a whole lot. There’s no guarantee any relatives will be listed, but it seems the best bet for getting an address and finding those 28 Prokowskis. If you ever find out more about the origin of the Prokowski name and any link with Prokowo, I’d be interested in hearing about it — it might be good material for the next revision of my book!

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


From: [email protected] (Laurence Krupnak)

Mark Winiarski wrote: … My mother’s father is Alex Dudynic, and my mother says only that he came from the Ukraine. I have checked all U.S. Internet phone directories, all genealogical indexes I can find, and I can find no one with that surname. I don’t even know if it is truly Ukrainian?

Hello Mark:

RE: Dudynic/Dudynich, Dudynets, etc. It would be nice to see how your name was spelled in Cyrillic, especially the suffix (nets, ich, etc.). A dudi or dudy (however it is transliterated) is a cuff on a shirt sleeve. A dudko is a simpleton or fool. Let’s assume your name was not based on the town fool. A duda is a bagpipe or an amateur musician. So your surname could be derived from any of these root words.

I recommend that you obtain the arrival record of your immigrant ancestors. That will state where they were born.

Tavarishch Lavrentij

I have nothing to add, except that in Polish the usage is pretty much the same.

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


To: Andy Dulka, [email protected], who wrote:

…I am trying to trace the origin of the surname Dulka. According to the family tree the name originated in the current geographical region of Poland but I can not verify any other reference except the last known city of ancestry is Vilnius (sp?) Poland.

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, but a great many Poles lived there (the Poles call it Wilno), especially back when Poland and Lithuania joined up as one very large country consisting of two distinct but (theoretically) equal parts, the Commonwealth of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. My wife’s paternal ancestors were Poles living in Lithuania — so this is not at all unusual.

I’m afraid the name Dulka doesn’t give any clues that will help you focus on a specific place. Dulka is a name that has appeared in documents as early as 1414, but the person mentioned in that document lived near Krakow in southcentral Poland — a long way from Vilnius! As of 1990 there were 245 Dulka’s in Poland, living in the provinces of Warsaw (3), Bialystok (1), Bydgoszcz (4), Gdansk (26), Katowice (22), Koszalin (3), Krakow (5), Lodz (13), Lomza (2), Olsztyn (6), Rzeszow (2), Slupsk (1), Suwalki (2), Szczecin (2), Torun (116), Walbrzych (2), Wroclaw (2). As you can see, the largest concentration is in the province of Torun, in north central Poland; but there are people by that name living pretty much all over the country…

The compilation that gives this data (and does not have first names, addresses, or any other info, unfortunately) used a database that had data only for citizens of Poland in its current boundaries, so it tells us nothing about how many Dulka’s might still be living in Lithuania… There is a gentleman who has a similar source on Lithuania, however, you might contact him and ask if the name still shows up in Lithuania and what derivation they give — David Zincavage [email protected].

If the name is of Polish origin, it comes from a basic root dul- meaning “swelling, thickening.” In some dialects there is a word dula meaning a kind of pear, and dulka would be a diminutive of that. Or it might have started as a nickname for a thickset person, there are plenty of terms like that which became names in Polish. If the name is of Lithuanian origin, Dave Zincavage might be able to tell you something about it.

Note: Mr. Dulka did contact Dave Zincavage, who had this to say:

This is a very difficult one, but it’s not uncommon in Lithuania. Vanagas finds 11 persons named Dulka, 65 Dulke, 1 Dulkevic~ius, 15 Dulkinas, 12 Dulkis/Dulkys.

Possible roots include: the Lithuanian dulke “a grain of dust”; the Polish dul-, “swelling”, dulka, “oarlock”, and do’l, “pit”; the German dul, “swamp” and duel [u-umlaut], “doll”; and the White Russian name Doolko [meaning not explained] which may be related to the Russian doolo, “muzzle” and “barrel” [according to my dictionary].

I wonder if there is not some Slavic name, like Dolislaw, which is the actual source. My guess would be that there is one, whose diminutive is the root.

An interesting idea! But unfortunately I can find nothing that seems to qualify to prove or disprove it either way. This is one I have to put in the “Unsolved” file, and hope one day I will find a more satisfactory answer.

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