Polish surnames have been developed from four major sources. These four sources are as follows:
a) Patronymic and Matronymic – usually derived from a person’s given name and usually ends in a suffix suggesting a family relation. They are based on the first name of a well respected ancestor. Most of these were derived from the father’s name, though a few came from the first name of a well respected or wealthy female ancestor. These surnames often have endings with -icz, -wicz, -owicz, -ewicz, and -ycz. These endings usually mean ‘son of’. Other suffixes like -czak, -czyk, -iak, -ak, -ik, and -yk also mean something like ‘son of’ or ‘little’.
Examples: Piotrowicz, Stefczyk, Pawlak
b) Toponymic – derived from place of residence, birth or family origin. This is one of the most common source of Polish last names. The suffix -owski is derived from place names that end with -y, -ow, -owo, -owa, etc.
Examples: Tarnowski, Brzeziński etc
c) Cognominal – created from a nickname, usually based on occupation (so-called occupational surnames), a physical description, or character trait.
Examples: Kaczmarek, Kowalski, Bystroń