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place name roots in Poland
Place Name Guide

This guide is an attempt to help the genealogist past the problems of Polish terminology and the seemingly strange affects Polish has on place names. Also included is a list of translations of words commonly used to make up place names, although no guarantee can be made of the provenance of a particular name of a particular place. However, if nothing else, it will tell you what the contemporary Pole is thinking when he/she hears the name!

SECTION 1 - Place Name Guide

SECTION 2 - Translations of words commonly used as, or part of, place names

SECTION 1 - Place Name Guide

Notes on Place-Names:

The first thing that must be noted is the frequency in which the same name is repeated again and again. If your ancestors came from 'Zalesie', say, then you could be in for a bit of hard work. 'Zalesie' to Polish place names is a bit like 'Smith' is to English surnmes! Be aware!

Many places use the same central name and attach another word to it to diiferentiate it from the main village. Sometimes numbers are used in either written or Roman numerals (pierwsza, Druga, Trzecia, or I, II, III etc). Sometimes Stary (old), Nowy (new), Dolny (valleys), Góry (large hill), Duży (large), Mały (small), Wielki (great) etc. Beware that Polish uses gender, and these 'adjectives' change their word endings depending on the gender of the noun. For example,  Lubelska goes with a feminine noun, Lubelski goes with a masculine noun, Lubelskie goes with a neuter or plural noun. This gives us:
Gmina Lubelska - where 'gmina' is feminine ( and means: Lublin district)
Powiat Lubelski - 'powiat' is masculine (Lublin county)
Wojewodztwo Lubelskie - 'woj.' is neuter (Lublin province)
and, as an example of a plural: Powiaty Lubelskie (Lublin Powiats)

Adjectives, unlike English generally, can go either before or after a noun, so in Polish there is no difference between 'New York' and 'York New'. Of course, in most cases a choice has been made as to which way round they are comonly used for any particular place, often depending on things like rhythmn - just as most people say 'Black and White', and not 'White and Black' when describing old movies.

Most adjectives formed from nouns are easier to spot than Lublin - Lubelskie. Generally the last 1 or 2 letters of the noun are changed and the word may become a bit longer (Bydgoszcz - Bydgoskie, or Chelm - Chelmskie)

Another difference between English and Polish is that while it is common to put 2 nouns together to form a name (Lublin Castle, for example), it is typical in Polish to change one of the words into an adjective, so instead of Lublin Zamek, you have Zamek Lubelski.

How an adjective and a noun are used together can also vary, and I don't just mean gramatically but historically for the name of a particular place. Take the example of Stara Wies (which means 'Old Village', by the way), east of Łęczna. Wies is a feminine noun and so we use the feminine form of the adjective 'stara/stary/stare'. However, if we actually join the two words together to form one word, then this is typically done by using an 'O'. Hence, Stara Wies becomes Starowies. This is an important fact to remember as the above mentioned Stara Wies was actually known as Starowies up until sometime in the 1950's.

So, if you had a document from 1905 with Starowies on it and looked in my atlas then you would see 2 Starowies's and maybe not notice the 35 Stara Wies's.

If you are having difficulties in finding a place name, here or elsewhere, try looking for the name with, or without, words like 'stary', 'duze' attached. Your ancestor may not have bothered to mention the attachment, or the name may have changed over the past 150 years, say.

Some places take the name of an animal (baran=male sheep) or a product (malinówka=raspberry). These were often settlements estaliblished to produce this product for a certain establishment (maybe a castle).

Other places are named after people (owners or saints) or other places. Taking the latter first, I know of 3 Ameryka's,
Note that in the 1930's, the 'X' was dropped from the Polish language and replaced by 'KS'. Names like 'Alexander' became 'Aleksander'. So, if you are looking for a name that began 'X...', then you will find it under 'KS...'

Kolonia - Many of the places which use the word 'Kol.' (kolonia) in their name often have a loose structure, consisting of a series of strip fields, most of them having a farmstead built on it. Historically, the term kolonia was used to describe a new settlement some distance away from the original one. Sometimes they were created to give land to refugees and sometimes to exploit some raw material. note that 'kolonia', or just 'kol.' may come either before or after the name as in Polish word order is not so important. So, Kol. Sernicki is the same place as Sernicki Kol. In the place name guide I have placed 'kolonia' at the end of the name so that you can find 'Sernicki Kol.' next to 'Sernicki' in the index - so don't worry if you have a document that gives one or the other, I could show you 2 maps where on one the 'kol.' comes first and the other has the 'kol.' last. Kolonia is used heavily in Lubelskie.

Section 2 - Translations of words commonly used as, or part of, place names

Bagno - quicksand/mud
Baran – A ram (male sheep).
Borek - Little dense forest with wild animals (Bór = deep forest)
Borówka - Bilberry
Bójki - Little fights (Bójka = a little fight)
Brzeziny - Little Birch forests.
Budki - Little kiosks.
Chlewiska - Places where pigs live (chlew = pig sty)
Ciemno – Dark.
Czerwonka - derived from the word for red. (actually, it is also the name of an illness, but it is unlikely that this is related to the place-name).
D±b - Oak tree.
D±brówka - Little oak forest.
Dębica - (derived from the word oak)
Dębiny - (derived from the word oak)
Dębowiec - (derived from the word oak)
Duży – Large/Great
Gać - From old Polish ?.
Goł±b - Pigeon
Góra – Mountain/large hill
Górka - Little mountain (hill)
Grabów - Hornbeam (Grab= hornbeam, a type of tree)
Granice - Border.
Jacek – A name, meaning Jack.
Jamy - An animals earthern den
Karolina – A name, meaning Caroline
Katarzyn - A name, meaning Catherine.
Kobyla - A mare
Kosów - Blackbirds (Kos=Blackbird)
Koszary - prob. Scythe
Krasne - Old Polish for 'red'.
Krępa - ?
Krupy - Gruel
Kruszyna - a herb...
Krzywda - Harm, or wrong.
Krzywe - Curvy.
Krzywy - Curved/crooked.
Las – Forest.
Laski - Little forest, or poss. walking stick.
Lisowska - from 'fox'
Lisów - Foxes
Ług - Lye
Majdan/ek - Dialect Polish for "burden", something you carry.
Malinówka - Rasberries.
Marcinów - Belonged to Martin.
Młyn - Mill
Młyniska - something connected with a mill.
Nowiny - News
Nowy - New
Ostrów - Old Polish for "hill" or "isle".
Padoły - ?
Podlesie - By the forest
Pole¶na - By the forest
Polny - An adjective of "field".
Ponik - A spring (water)
Poprzeczki - Cross-bars.
Pożarów - ? (Pożar=fire)
Przydawki - Something added to something
Przymiarka - To try something on.
Psia - an adjective of "dog".
Rawa - ?
Ruska - A Russian.
Rzym – Rome, the city.
Sachalin - ?
Serafin - A man's name.
Sosnówka - Pines (Sosna=pine tree)
Stary/Stara/Stare - Old
Stoczek - ?
Stójka - ?
Tartak - A sawmill.
Wielki/Wielka/Wielkie - Great
Wie¶ - Village/countryside (usual=village here)
Woda - Water.
Wola, or Wolka, was used to describe a settlement that was established at the will of the local gentry or aristocracy. These may be of scattered farmsteads or of a 'proper' village.
Wygnanka - Refugee
Zabiel - ?
Zagrody - Farmstead
Zamo¶ć - Place belonging to the Zamoyski family.


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