Surprising Facts About Polish Names

Polish names are one of the most unique names you can find in Europe. Their names are rooted in a mixed culture of old Slavic names and modern Polish. There are many interesting things you need to know about Polish names such as their origin, name structure, and Polish name convention. In this article, we compiled all the useful information about how great Polish names were created. You will get to know the correct Polish naming convention, some popular Polish last names, and gender differences in Polish names.

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common polish last names

Quick History of Polish Names

One interesting facts you should know about the Poles are their origin. The Poles or the Polish People are the direct descendants of the early Slavic people who migrated to the western lands of Europe. Ancient Romans referred to them as the Veneti, who inhabited most of the eastern central lands of Europe. Early records of the early Slavic people appearing in huge numbers were rooted in the Great Migration of the Germanic people to the western lands of Europe. Slavic people coming from the Northeastern parts of Asia and middle-east Asia started to occupy the abandoned settlements of the Germanic people in the Eastern parts of Europe. By around the 6th century AD, Slavs already became well-populated and established in the central-east regions of Europe. 

But what was the relationship of the Poles with the Slavs? During the Great Migration, most of the Polish lands were occupied by different tribes of Celts, Slavs, Scythians, Balts, and Sarmantians. After the migration, it was the Slavic tribes who remained in the area and populated most of the flat regions of modern-day Poland. Soon, they identified themselves as the “people living in open fields”, or simply “Polans”, naming their region as “Poland”.

It is by the late 10th century when Duke Mieszko I founded the first Polish state and was recognized by the Holy Roman Church after he accepted and converted his land into a Christian state. By 1025 AD, the independent medieval Kingdom of Poland was born. 

The Polish Naming Convention

The old Polish naming convention will most likely follow the Slavic naming convention. Old Slavic names are often dithematic names, or simply a combination of two words or themes to create a single name. For example, the Slavic name Bogdan is a dithematic name from the words “Bog” (god) and “dan” (given)—or “god-given”.

Poland became an open and free-thinking country in the early Renaissance period, attracting more free thinkers, artisans, merchants, and scholars coming from different ethnicity. These migrant people include some Prussians, Austrians, and most importantly, Jews. Poland embraced openly the diversity in culture, leading to the decline of the use of old Slavic names. 

polish last names
Duke of Poland

Interesting Facts About Polish First Names

Polish names now follow the modern European name structure, with the personal name coming first, followed by the family name. Interestingly, there are some awesome things that you should know about Polish names.

  • Modern-day Polish names still have names with Slavic roots. Although these names are already few. 
  • Old Slavic names were replaced by Christian names. However, these Christian names are often pronounced or spelled in their Polish equivalent. Examples are Filip (Philip), Alicja (Alice), and Aleksandra (Alexandra).
  • Poland has a direct relationship with Lithuania in the late 17th century. That is why Lithuanian-influenced (Baltic) names are also used in Poland. 
  • Prussians (later on becoming Germany), together with Austria and Russia, erased the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth rule in 1797, dividing the entire Polish region among themselves as territorial expansions. German, Austrian, and Russian names were incorporated into surviving local Poles.
  • Polish alphabet does not have the letter “V”. Instead they use the letter “W” which has the “V” sound. For example, the name Nowitzki is pronounced as “no-vitz-ki”.
  • Diminutives are also common in Polish names. Diminutives are the derivation of other words or names from a root or base word. The best example is Maria, which is converted into “Maryja” in Polish and has many versions such as “Mania”, “Maniusia”, and “Maryska”.
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Popular Polish First Names With Meaning

Below is a list of some of the most popular Polish first names including their meanings.

Polish First Name
Gender
Meaning

Zofia

Female

Derived from the Greek name Sophia which means “wisdom”.

Oliwia

Female

Pronounced as “Olivia” in the common tongue. 

Jakub

Male

Derived from the Hebrew name “Jacob”.

Stanislaw

Male

Pronounced as “Stanislav”. This Polish name has its Slavic roots which means “achiever of glory”. There are other versions of this name such as Stanislaus (Latin) and Stanislas (French).

Franciszek

Male

A cognate form of the name Francis or Francisco.

Gender Differences in Polish Names

Polish names are very specific with genders too! Polish girl names always end with the –a vowel while male names may end in consonants or any vowels except for –a. Although there are old Slavic names that are being used that end with –a but are rarely used nowadays. (Kuba, Boryna, Barnaba, etc).

Polish wives and children take the Polish last name of their husband and father respectively. Female Polish change the ending letter of their last names with the letter –a. For example, the family name Zubkowski will be changed to Zubkowska when used by the wife.

polish names
hills of Poland

Popular Polish Last Names

Polish last names also have a certain rule when being addressed based on gender. When they are referring to a group of people with the same surname but with a man included in the group, they change the suffix of the base surname into a masculine plural suffix. For example, Zubkowski will become Zubkowsky.

In contrast with #1, if referring to a group of people with the same surname but no man is included, they change the suffix of the base surname into a feminine plural suffix.  For example, Zubkowska will become Zibkowskie.

Polish Last Name
Feminine Version
Meaning

Kowalski

Kowalska

Translates as “a smith” or “a blacksmith”.

Nowak

Nowakowa

Pronounced as “Novak” [Novakova]. Nowak is the most popular Polish surname used by most Poles. 

Szymanski

Szymanska

This Polish last name is dithematic for the words “Szymon” (Polish version of Simon) and “-ski” (“son of”), or simply “Son of Szymon (Simon)”. 

Zielinski

Zielinska

This Polish surname is a toponym from the words “zielen” (green or youthful) or “zioło” (plant or herb).

Brzezinski

Brzezinska

This surname is a diminutive of the word “Brzoza” or “Brzez”, which means “birch”. With the addition of the suffix “-ski” (“son of”), the last name can be translated as “Son of Brzez”.

Top 5 Polish Male Names

Below is a list of our top 5 most popular Polish male names that you can search around the net. As mentioned before, Polish names for boys, for example, may end with any consonants and vowels except for the letter –a, but with very few exceptions with old Slavic male names. Check them out below.

Antoni

The name Antoni is the Polish male name equivalent to Anthony. It has diminutive names in Polish such as Antek, Antos, and Antonia for the female Polish name version.

Janusz

Janusz is the Polish male given name which was derived from the shortened form of January and Januarius. A few variants of this name are Janek or Janina for females.

Jan

The Polish name Jan stemmed from the name John, which has the same translation and meaning as “God is gracious”. A few related names for Jan are Jaan, Jann, and Jana for females.

Mikolaj

This name is derived from the English or French base name Nicholas, meaning “victory of the people”. This name is common in Polish and Russian countries

Krzysztof

The name “Krzysztof” is derived from the Greek name Christopher which means “bearing Christ”. This name ranked 18th as the most popularly used baby name in Poland in early 2000.

Top 5 Female Names in Polish

There are a lot of borrowed Christian names that were incorporated into the Polish language. In this section, we compiled some of the most popular Female names that are translated into Polish version. Check them out below.

Zuzanna

Zuzanna is a very common Polish girl name. It is derived from the Hebrew name Shoshana, or Susana when translated into the common English language. The name simply means “lily”.

Katarzyna

Pronounced as “ka-tar-zhi-na”, this name is the Polish version of the name Katherine, which means “Pure” when translated into English. 

Agnieszka

This female Polish name is derived from the Greek name Agnes, meaning “pure” or “holy”. A few diminutive of this name are Aga and Agusia.

Pola

The name Pola is a feminine and shortened term of the name Apolonia, which in turn is derived from the Greek god Apollo. Despite Apolonia being the base Polish name, the diminutive Pola is widely used especially for young Polish girls.

Lucja

Lucja is the Polish female name version of the name Lucius. It is derived from the Latin term for light (lux). Few diminutive of this name are often seen in other languages instead of Polish such as Lucille (French) and Lucia (Spanish).

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Maria Sleazer

I’ve long been fascinated with the world RPG. I come from a family of dreamers and storytellers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and tropical nature. I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe.