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Polish names

Guest Author - Barbara Swiech

Hundreds years ago people in Poland would use Slavic names to call their children. As the times changed, the fashion changed as well and the inhabitants of Poland started to use foreign names to call their children. However, those names very often got their own unique sound or version – therefore when you get to know somebody who introduces himself as ‘Asia’ do not be surprised that her name (as it is female name) given at baptism is Joanna.

Slavic names, that were used in the times of old Polish language, usually consisted of two parts. They never have to do with names of Slavic gods (probably it was considered as taboo), neither with animals (with one exception). The names were to describe virtues that a given person was wished to have. They were supposed to have magical power that would make the person (bearing a given name) be as his or her relations wished. A child was given a name at the age of 6 – until that moment they are called by substitute names that are meant to protect them from bad powers.

Some of the important parts of names, that had specific meaning, were words such as: BOR – that is ‘fight’, CIECH coming from Polish word meaning ‘joy’, GNIEW that stands for ‘anger’, MIR that meant ‘peace, calm, good’, SŁAW that was associated with ‘fame, glory’, WOJ that meant ‘warrior’ and many more… and this is how the names such as: Ciechosław, Zbigniew, Borzymir or Jarosław. Many of them are not used in Poland anymore. But there still some that are popular among today’s society – like Wojciech (that means a warrior that brings joy), Bogusław (the one who brings glory to God or praises God), Bogumił (the one who is dear to God) or others. Some of the names consist of 2 parts that can be placed in both orders, creating 2 names: Sławomir and Mirosław, Radomił and Miłorad, Gniewomir and Mirogniew. Female names would most of the time come from male name with added ending ‘a’.

Before the Christianity came to Poland, the inhabitants would bear names deriving from Slavic culture, taken over in the past from other tribes or deriving from Indo-European community. When Poland became Christian land, traditional names were replaced by those deriving from Greek language (like Agnieszka – Agnes), Latin (such as Barbara), Hebrew (Beniamin – Benjamin), Aramaic (Tomasz – Thomas or Marta - Martha), German (Like Robert) or Celtic (such as Brygida - Bridget). Those names were usually taken from the Bible – and most often from New Testament. The most popular were names of Disciples or Evangelists. The second most important source of Christian names were the names of martyrs, Medieval saints, nuns and monks, bishops or members of ruling families. The final form of the name was influenced by languages of neighbouring countries (like Czech, German or Russian) and the changes of Polish language. It happened that the same name was taken through various sources therefore its different forms are still used. Therefore Greek name Stephanos was firstly adapted in Polish language as Szczepan (from Czech) and later as Stefan (from German). Foreign names would be polonized to sound familiar, translated into Polish (as name Feliks that was translated as Szczesny), others were just added a new part. Since 1563 the Catholic Bishops forbade to give names that were not names of saints.

Some of the most typical and popular names in Poland nowadays are: Anna (called also in Polish language: Ania), Joanna (called also Asia, Joasia, A¶ka), Wojciech (Wojtu¶), Katarzyna (Kasia, Ka¶ka), Małgorzata (Małgosia, Gosia, Go¶ka), Barbara (Basia, Ba¶ka), Marcin, Michał, Magdalena (Magda, Madzia), Aleksandra (Ola), Paweł, Piotr (Piotrek, Piotru¶), Maria (Marysia), Jakub (Kuba) and many many more.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Barbara Swiech. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Barbara Swiech. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.


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