Understanding Polish Names

Polish and Lithuanian

Some of the letters of the alphabets of both languages represent similar sounds that are rendered differently in the orthography of each language. These include

Polish – cz
Lithuanian –  č

Polish – sz
Lithuanian – š

Polish – ż
Lithuanian – ž

Here are some generalizations. They should, in no case, be treated as hard and fast phonetic rules. They are merely intended as a very general guide.

1. Many times when the vowel is “o” in Polish, it is rendered as an “a” in Lithuanian (and vice versa)
Troki vs Trakai
Poporcie vs Paparčiai

2. The Polish plural endings -y, -e and -i frequently are rendered as -ai in Lithuania
Daugi vs Daugai
Gielwany vs Gelvonai
Komaje vs Kamajai

3. The Polish suffix -iszki/yszki may appear in Lithuanian as
-iškis Dorsuniszki vs Darsūniškis
-iškės Ejszyszki vs Eišiškės

4. The Polish suffices -ów and -owo may appear in Lithuanian as
-ava Lacków vs Leckava
-avas Retowo vs Rietavas
-ave Kiernów vs Kernave
-uva Datnów vs Datnuva

5. Place names beginning with H in Polish usually will not retain this letter in Lithuanian and will start with a vowel
Hanuszyszki vs Onuškis
Hoduciszki vs Adutiškis

6. Phonetic Miscellanea

When Polish uses w, Lithuanian will use v.
Additionally, there are no nasal vowels in Lithuanian, and the rendition of these sounds is too varied to categorize here. In general, the Polish nasal vowel ą represents a sound similar to but no means equivalent to -on or -om and Polish nasal vowel ę is vaguely represented by -em or -en.

7. In some cases, the place name was translated from one language to another. This is true only of place names with lexical items that are able to be actually translated from one language to another. For example, Czerwony Dwór vs. Raudondvaris.

Polish vs Belarusian

Polish and Belarusian are both Slavic languages and their lexical stock and grammatical structure are quite similar. However, Belarusian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet and Polish in the Roman. Therefore, in addition to phonetic conversions, you also have to deal with another alphabet,. Some of the more common generalizations on converting the Polish name to the Belarusian name are as follows:

1. The Polish plural endings in many place names, which mostly end in the vowels -e or -i, will appear in Belarusian as some form of -i

Polish Suffix Transliterated Belarusian
-ie i i
Bieniakonie vs Beniakoni

-cze i чы
Baranowicze vs Baranavichi

-ce chi чы
Mrozowice vs Morozovichi

2. The Polish suffix -szczyzna is usually -shchyna
(шчына) in Belarusian
Dzierkowszczyzna vs Dzerkaushchyna

3. The Polish suffix -ów frequently is rendered as -ava
(ава) in Belarusian
Kossów vs Kosava (Kocава)
Janów vs Ivanava )Іванава

4. Polish o is frequently -1 in Belarusian
Odelsk vs Аdelsk ( Адэлвск)
Ossowa vs Asava (Асава)

5. Polish w pronounced as an English v, frequently appears in Belarusian as a sound approximating English w, and represented by the lettter -ў
Adamówka vs Adamouka (Адамоўка)
Budsław vs Budslau (Будслаў)

6. Polish H is frequently represented by the letter symbol for G (r) in Belarusian
Holszany vs Galshany (Гальшаны)

7. Polish rz is usually a plain r in Belarusian
Krzywicze vs Krivychi (Крывічы)