Susana Leistner Bloch
Based on grammatical features, Polish surnames may be divided into:
Adjectival names very often end in the suffixes -ski, -cki and -dzki (feminine -ska, -cka and –dzka
Adjectival surnames: Like all Polish adjectives surnames have masculine and feminine forms. If a masculine surname ends in -i or -y, its feminine equivalent ends in -a. Surnames ending with consonants have no specific feminine form.
SKI vs. – SKA. Polish adjectives have different forms for the genders. Surnames ending in –ski are regarded as adjectives, so they , too, reflect gender in different endings. Thus Janowski is the nominative form for a male and Janowska is the same for a woman.
CKI – ZKI Essentially, these are just variants of – ski / ska. Certain words end with consonants that, when combined with the basic ending – ski, produce a pronunciation change.
Polish used to have special feminine suffixes which were added to a woman's surname. A woman who was never married used her father's surname with the suffix -ówna or -'anka. A married woman or a widow used her husband's surname with the suffix -owa or -'ina / -'yna. Although these suffixes are still used by some people, mostly elderly and in rural areas, they are now becoming outdated and there is a tendency to use the same form of a nominal surname for both a man and a woman.
|Father / husband||Unmarried woman||Married woman or widow|
|ending in a consonant (except g)||-ówna||-owa|
|ending in a vowel or in -g||-'anka||-'ina or -'yna|
Father / husband
Married woman or widow
Cognominal, Toponymic and patronymic Surnames
Based on origin, Polish family surnames may be generally divided into three groups: cognominal, toponymic and patronymic.
Cognominal surname (nazwisko przezwiskowe) derives from a person's nickname, usually based on his occupation, or a physical or character trait.
Kowal, Kowalski, Kowalczyk, Kowalewski — from kowal, or "blacksmith"; or from Kowale" or Kowalewo (Smithville) in case of Kowalski and Kowalewski.
Młynarz, Młynarski, Młynarczyk — from młynarz, or "miller"; or from Młynary (Millersville) in case of Młynarski.
Nowak, Nowakowski, Nowicki — from nowy, or "new one"; or from Nowakowo or Nowice (Newmantown) in case of Nowakowski and Nowicki.
Lis, Lisiewicz, Lisowski — from lis, or "fox"; or from Lisowo (Foxville) in case of Lisowski
Tarnowski - of Tarnów;
Zaleski - of Zalesie;
Górski - of Góra.
Patronymic surname (nazwisko odimienne) derives from a given name of a person and identifies a person’s father.
Jan, Jachowicz, Janicki, Jankowski, Janowski — derived from Jan (John); or from Janice, Jankowo or Janowo Johnstown).
Adamczewski, Adamczyk, Adamowski, Adamski — derived from Adam; or from Adamczewo / Adamowo (Adamsville).
Łukasiński, Łukaszewicz — derived from Łukasz (Luke); or from Łukasin (Luketown).
Essentially, the suffix -iak is the same thing as -ak; both are diminutive suffixes, but -iak differs only in that it involves softening or palatalization of the root's final consonant. Thus in some names we see -ak added directly to a root with no palatalization, e. g., Nowak, Pawlak; and in others we see the palatalization, e. g., Dorota + -iak = Dorociak, Jakub + -iak = Jakubiak, Szymon + -iak = Szymoniak.
The basic meaning of -ak/-iak is diminutive, but especially, when applied to first names, it tends to have a patronymic significance
Given name / surname order
The given name(s) normally comes before the surname. However, in a list of people sorted alphabetically by surname, the surname usually comes first. Hence some people may also use this order in spoken language (e.g. introducing themselves as Kowalski Jan instead of Jan Kowalski), but this is generally considered incorrect.
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