Polish Culture

Naming

Polish names are generally structured as [personal name] [FAMILY NAME], e.g. Piotr MALINOWSKI.

 

Personal Names

  • Many Polish names may have Slavic roots, e.g. Radzimir (male) or Wanda (female). 
  • Christian names are also very popular, although they are usually spelt and pronounced as the Polish equivalent. For example, Nicholas becomes Mikołaj.
  • Germanic and Lithianian names are also common, e.g. Olga (German) or Witold (Lithuanian).
  • Some of the most popular names in Poland include Lena, Zuzanna Julia, Maja and Zofia (female), as well as Jakub, Kacper, Antoni, Filip and Jan (male).1
  • Polish names can also have an added suffix (such as -ek or -uś) to create an array of informal nicknames. For example, Jan may be called Janek, Jasiek, Jaś or Jasiu, while Katarzyna may be referred to as Kasia or Kaśka.2

 

Family Names

  • Wives and children typically take on the husband/father’s family name or can use both family names (often hyphenated). However, a woman’s family name often has a feminine suffix/ending (see below).
  • Most Polish family names end in a suffix, such as –WICZ, e.g. IWASZKIEWICZ. 
  • Many suffixes vary between the masculine or feminine. For example, -SKI, -CKI and -DZKI (male), become -SKA, -CKA, -DZKA (feminine). Therefore, the wife of Piotr MALINOWSKI might have the last name MALINOWSKA.
  • If referring to two or more persons with at least one man in the group, a masculine plural suffix is used. E.g. -SKI becomes -SCY.
  • If referring to two or more women with no men included, a feminine plural is used. E.g. -SKA becomes -SKIE.
  • Polish family names may reflect a place of residence or birth (e.g. BRZEZIŃSKI) or be based on a nickname surrounding a occupation, character description or trait (Kowalski, Głowacz or Bystroń). Many may also be derived from a given name (e.g. PIOTROWICZ is derived from the name Piotr [Peter]).3
  • Some of the most popular Polish family names include NOWAK, KOWALSKI, WIŚNIEWSKI, WÓJCIK and KOWALCZYK.4

 

Considerations

  • Polish does not contain the letter ‘V’, it instead uses ‘W’ (with the sound of English ‘v’). This can often be a way to distinguish between Polish and other Slav family names, although this is not always the case due to incorrect transliterations from Polish: e.g. NOWAK is Polish, but NOVÁK would be Czech or Slovak.5
  • Polish has two versions of the letter ‘L/l’, namely ‘L/l’ and ‘Ł/ł’. The latter is often replaced by the standard English ‘L/l’, but can also be confused with the letter ‘T/t’: e.g. MICHAŁOWSKI could be miswritten as MICHATOWSKI.6

 

_____________________

1 Gliński, 2015
2 Gliński, 2015
3 Gliński, 2016
4 Gliński, 2016
5 United Kingdom Government, 2006
6 United Kingdom Government, 2006
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