Common Polish family names include Nowak, Kowalski, Wisniewski, Kaminski and Zielinski. As with other cultures, many Polish surnames are based on a profession or place of origin.
Nowak is the most popular surname in Poland and is derived from a Slavic word meaning "new.” It was frequently given to people who arrived as strangers to a new town or recent converts from religions other than Christianity.
Kowalski is the Polish equivalent of "Smith" and is the second most common Polish surname. Derived from the word "kowal," which means "smith" in Polish, it is a surname based on the blacksmith occupation.
Wisniewski and spelling variations such as Wisziewski and Wisniowiecki are all derived from the word "wisnia," which is Polish for "cherry." Based on towns in Poland that have names such as Wisniewo and Wisniew, it means "from the town of the cherry tree."
Kaminski is derived from the root "kamien," meaning “rock or stone,” and has been used as a surname for both people who came from a rocky place or who work with rock, such as stone carvers.
The surname Zielinski is derived from the root word "ziel", which means "green," and has been interpreted in several ways. It often refers to the town of origin, as many towns in Poland have names such as Zielin or Zielen. The surname was also given to people who grew and sold herbs.