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All About Polish Last Names - Top 10 Polish Surname List

March 24, 2019 4 min read 32 Comments

Top Polish Last Names - List Of Polish Last Names

The History of Polish Last Names

A common Pole usually has two or three names in total: a first name (of Slavic or Catholic origin), a middle name (usually of Catholic origin, so to give its bearer a patron saint to protect him) and, finally, a last name - like, for example, Anna Maria Krakowska. It is not uncommon for women to have two last names as well (keeping their maiden name and adding on their husband’s surname), but the Polish law forbids going beyond that. It’s up to parents to decide about the surname of their child, but the custom is to adopt the one that belongs to your father - in other words, they are hereditary and often paternal.

When it comes to the last names, Polish surnames are easy to spot due to the fact that most of them end with the suffix -ski or -cki, but also typical Slavic -icz and other similar variations meaning “of”. Of something, of someone or of someplace. For people of different linguistic backgrounds, at first sight, they seem to be totally unpronounceable because of the complexity of the Polish language - in all honesty, it isn’t the easiest language to learn. Every Pole has seen the YouTube clip from a film called How I Unleashed World War II, where this fact is made fun of when Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz introduces himself to a Gestapo officer. There even is a meme saying to praise the Poles for making a language out of the last few letters of the alphabet - that’s how complicated the language looks to others. 

But still, just like most European surnames, Polish ones each have a long historyand a meaning behind them, which makes them an interesting topic for research, and just good to keep in mind.

The origin of Polish surnames can be toponymic (meaning that it derived from a place in connection to the person bearing it), patronymic or matronymic (a family given name) or cognominal (derived from a person’s nickname in connection to the physical or character trait, but, most commonly, a profession they held). Last names have only become obligatory in the last 200 years of the Polish history, meaning that people used to find other practical names to know people apart. First Polish last names became known during the Middle Ages, and were reserved for nobility only, as it was important to know exactly who your ancestors and descendants were, or to mark the land the family owned. In the 13th century, more and more people began adapting surnames as a form of fashion but it wasn’t until about the 19th century that common people began adapting names in regards to ‘’of’’.

It is important to note that Polish surnames tend to change their suffix depending on the gender of the person bearing it: female variations will end with -ska, for example, while male end with -ski. For Polish people, this brings no confusion, just like it’s common for females to have their first names end with a letter -a, while only rare male names will ever end with an -a. Also, it is not uncommon for people to call each other by their surnames only, both formally and informally, using them as nicknames, just like it happens in the English-speaking countries.

Top 10 Polish Last Names

Let’s take a look at some of the most common Polish surnames and what they stand for! 

  • Nowak - Although this concrete surname has no suffix, you will likely come across with its different variations. This is a cognominal surname, meaning “of new”.
  • Kowalski - Another one of cognominal surnames, meaning “of a blacksmith” or that first people bearing this surname were probably working as blacksmiths.
  • Wisniewski - This is one of the toponymic surnames, derived from the Polish word for a cherry - wiśnia.
  • Wojcik - This name is derived from a profession or status in a society of a chief of group of villages.
  • Kowalczyk - This surname, also among the most popular one, is another variation of the name for a blacksmith.
  • Kaminski - This last name derives from a Polish word for stone: kamien. So maybe the first Kamiński lived near a big stone, or was as strong or as cold as a stone?
  • Lewandowski - This toponymic surname derives from the Polish town of Lewandów, which got its name from a lavender tree.
  • Zielinski -This name comes from the Polish word for the color green - zielony.
  • Szymanski -A typical patronymic surname, deriving from the first name of Szymon or Simon.
  • Wozniak -A cognominal surname, deriving from the Polish word for the apparitor - woźny.


Polish Last Names Are Fascinating

So now that you got yourself familiar with Polish surnames, next time you recognize one such last name, say: “Cześć!” (“Hello!”) to the person, and you will break the ice for a more meaningful connection with them. Because there is no doubt in the fact that the origin of each of the world’s last name is actually fascinating. There are even people who can dot down the exact history of your family, where they are from and even what you might be like, just by knowing your last name.

Do you know the background of your own last time? If not, maybe now is the right time to researchit!


32 Responses

Margaret Brandt
Margaret Brandt

April 30, 2020

I am a Wisniewski and proud of it.

Christine Paraskewich
Christine Paraskewich

April 30, 2020

Looking for the origin and meaning of 3 surnames Machulski, Dziefielewski and Boguicki. Cannot find, can you help me? Thank you.

Gail Baker
Gail Baker

April 30, 2020

I am 1/2 polish my mothers maiden name was Ojczenasz the only ones that are left are 3 boys and that will be the end of the name here I would like to find any relatives that live in Poland or in any other country would like to find for my mom she always wondered if there were any she is 91 yrs old

Edward R.Grutkowski
Edward R.Grutkowski

April 30, 2020

Very very knowledgeable like this I really liked it they helped me understand a lot more about my polish nationality thank you

latka
latka

April 30, 2020

maiden name

Riki Levandowski
Riki Levandowski

April 30, 2020

Did the last name Levandowski stem from Levandowski? I heard it slightly changed when the came to the U.S

Dan Alexander
Dan Alexander

April 30, 2020

What is the origin of my original last name Aleksandrowicz.

Michelle Polcyn
Michelle Polcyn

April 30, 2020

How Polish is Polcyn last name?

Patricia
Patricia

April 30, 2020

My Grandfather’s name was Stawicki and my Grandmother’s was Ostrowski can you give me any information?

Ronald Punska
Ronald Punska

April 30, 2020

Punska grandfather. Grandmother Pashek but changed from Pazek

Lubowiecki
Lubowiecki

April 30, 2020

I’d like to know the meaning or where the name came from. Thank you.

Terence Stanley Brozek
Terence Stanley Brozek

April 30, 2020

Although I don’t know if we were related but Jan Brozek was Copernicus assistant and taught at the University of Krakow. My Grandfather built a lot for the Polish Catholic Churches in Detroit.

Matthew
Matthew

April 30, 2020

Great read, thanks very much! My Dad’s name which I took when I was 13 is Wiater, before that my Moms name was Lukaszewski. Try learning to spell that in first grade! Lol

ANDREW SCHIRO
ANDREW SCHIRO

April 30, 2020

Very Interesting. I live in a 1 square mile town and many of the citizens of this town are 1s – 5th generation Polish/Americans. Just about every name on this article mentions someone form here. However SUDOL is the most popular name here, second is Puzio. therefore I was surprised not to see either one mentioned.

Michael L. Czarnopis
Michael L. Czarnopis

April 30, 2020

Interesting article love reading the information.
My CZARNOPIS name must be rare one have no idea who what or why lol?

Ciabaszewski
Ciabaszewski

April 30, 2020

My grandmother,s maiden name was Benkowski

Helen Walkowski
Helen Walkowski

April 30, 2020

My maiden name was Zembrzuski and he was a Duke and owned a whole town wish I could learn more about him, hope you can help me.

Gnatek
Gnatek

April 30, 2020

Interesting! Above is my maiden last name.

Cindy
Cindy

April 30, 2020

How about the name: Zaremba

Halina
Halina

April 30, 2020

Would like to know where the surname Szulich originated

Edward  Joseph Szela
Edward Joseph Szela

April 30, 2020

What does my last name mean. From what I understand this name has never changed. Thanks, Ed

Roznowski
Roznowski

April 30, 2020

Posen. Michigan

Michael Chrosniak
Michael Chrosniak

April 30, 2020

Very interesting read. Does anyone know the meaning and origin of the surname Chrosniak?

Lori
Lori

April 30, 2020

My grandfathers last name was Szypulski I read somewhere that it was a name in law enforcement in Poland. Not sure how true that is. My father and uncle removed the z inthe name not sure why they would do that but they did.

Marc Socha
Marc Socha

April 30, 2020

Socha is not common where does my last name derive from my mother’s maiden name was Klepacz both grandparents were born in Poland

Budzinski
Budzinski

April 30, 2020

would love to know

jeanne wisniewicz
jeanne wisniewicz

April 30, 2020

I don’t see many with wisniewicz-not even on the ellis is. registry-is that more Russian than polish?

thanks Jeanne

Betty foster
Betty foster

April 30, 2020

Would like to know more about the name Staskiewicz

Kim Brown
Kim Brown

April 30, 2020

What about the name Kolodziejski

Patricia Bartkowiak
Patricia Bartkowiak

April 30, 2020

I was adopted with the name Bartkowiak, but was raised with the name Zaszczurynski, what does these names mean!

Diane B. Kowalczyk
Diane B. Kowalczyk

April 30, 2020

When someone has to write down my last name, I sometimes joke and tell them to just write SMITH, and cite the general English translation from Kowalczyk, family of a blacksmith.

Kathleen R Thompson
Kathleen R Thompson

April 30, 2020

how about Trzeciak I have a lot of cousins who would like to know

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