Polish surnames are often recognizable because of their trademark suffixes. They also tend to stem from the occupations, landscape, or region a family once lived near, or from patronymic and matronymic roots. Dive into the origin of your Polish last name and discover aspects of your heritage and ancestry. Names are a fascinating way to learn about where your ancestors came from.
Popular Polish Last Names
There is no shortage of Polish people in the world. The country is the eighth most populated in all of Europe. This means there are lots of Polish last names floating about, and among those, these surnames are the most popular Polish ones.
- Dabrowski - Means "oak grove"
- Jankowski - Means "son of Jan"
- Kaminski - Means "stone"
- Kaczmarek - Means "innkeeper"
- Krawczyk - Means "tailor"
- Kowalski - Means "blacksmith"
- Krupa - Translates to "goats" and "grains." Denotes someone who is a barley dealer.
- Nowak - Means "a newcomer to a village"
- Wiśniewski - Means "cherry" or "someone from Wisniewo"
- Zielinski - Means "green"
- Lewandowski - Means "a person from Lewandów" or "lavender"
- Wójcik - Means "warrior" or "chief officer"
- Woźniak - Means "custodian"
Polish Surnames Stemming From Occupations
Cognominal last names come about in one of two ways: they are given to represent traits and characteristics, or they are given as a reflection of an occupation. Many Polish surnames were derived from the common jobs people in this country performed.
- Chlebek - Means "bread" - would be a name given to a baker
- Chmiel - Means "person who brews beer"
- Cieślak - Means "carpenter"
- Dziedzic - Means "landowner" or "squire"
- Gajus - Means "grove" or "thicket"
- Gorski - Means "hilly area"
- Lawniczak - Means "alderman" or "councilor"
- Ślusarski - Means "locksmith"
- Maslanka - Refers to someone who worked with dairy, translates to "buttermilk"
- Mencher - Means "miller" or "flour miller"
- Mozdzierz - Refers to someone who works with mortar
- Raba - Means "teacher"
- Ryba - Means "fisherman"
- Sobol - Means "fur trader"
- Stolarz - Means "furniture maker"
- Szewczyk - Means "shoemaker"
Polish Last Names Based on Physical Traits or Personality Characteristics
While many last names are derived from a person's occupation, surnames can also reflect a person's physical or personality traits. These particular Polish last names are cognominal in nature, translating to personal characteristics.
- Bańka - Means "short and fat"
- Białas - Means "white"
- Blach - Means "birthmark"
- Broz - Means "immortal"
- Bystroń - Means "quick-witted"
- Głowacz - Means "big head"
- Grzeskowiak - Means "watchful"
- Kedzierski - Translates to "lock of hair" and refers to someone with curly hair
- Laska - Means "grace" or "mercy"
- Lis - Means "sly" or "fox"
- Nosek - Means "small nose"
- Pawlak - Means "little"
- Sikora - Stems from a small bird called a titmouse, and refers to a person who is small and dark
- Żuraw - Translates to "crane," refers to a tall person
Toponymic Surnames and Nature-Based Names
One common way for a person's ancestors to arrive at a last name was to take a look at the surrounding landscape. Places or towns lent themselves to last names, as did natural topographic elements, foliage, and animals. Last names ending with the suffix -ski are popular in the country and got their start around the 13th century when people began to use last names that signified the place a person was from. For example, a person with the last name: Tarnowski was likely from the town of Tarnów. These Polish last names are nods to nature and the geographical spaces in the European country.
- Adamski - Means "from the village of Adamy"
- Babinski - Means "someone from Babin or Babino"
- Borkowski - Means "of the pine forest"
- Brzezinski - Means "birch forest"
- Bukowski - Means "someone who comes from the beech"
- Cisek - Means "of the yew tree"
- Dudzinski - Means "of Duda or Dudy"
- Gajos - Means "thicket" or "grove"
- Górski - Means "mountain"
- Gwiazda - Means "star"
- Jabłoński - Means "apple tree"
- Jaskolski - Means "bird swallow"
- Jez - Means "hedgehog"
- Kaczka - Means "duck"
- Kaluza - Means "puddle"
- Kozlowski - Means "from the town of goat"
- Kwiatkowski - Means "flower"
- Ostrowski - Means "water meadow"
- Pasternak - Means "parsnip"
- Sniegowski - Means "someone who lives near the snow"
- Sowka - Comes from the owl "sowa" meaning "owl"
- Szyszka - Means "pine cone"
- Wiater - Means "wind"
- Wilk - Means "wolf"
- Ziemniak - Means "potatoes"
Polish Patronymic and Matronymic Surnames
People with patronymic and matronymic surnames received their last name from the first name of a male or female ancestor. Surnames that contain the suffixes: icz, wicz, owicz, ewicz, and ycz generally indicate that a person was the "son of" another. Names containing the suffixes: czak, czyk, iak, ak, ek, ik, and yk often translate to "little" or "son of," possibly making them patronymic in nature as well.
- Andrysiak - Means "son of Andrzej"
- Bartosz - Means "son of Talmai"
- Kasprzak - Means "son of Kacper"
- Rabinowitz - Means "son of the Rabbi"
- Walentowicz - Means "son of Walenty"
- Wójcik - Means "Son of Wójt"
Learning About Your Last Name
For those wanting to expand their understanding of their family heritage and the culture they came from, dissecting a last name is a great place to start the journey. One can learn so much from the letters in their last name, including where in the world their ancestors came from, what occupations their ancestors once held, and what traits were once associated with the people in their family tree.