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Created by Administrator Account in 12/23/2009 8:39:07 AM


...Can you tell me anything about my last name Motyl. I know it means butterfly in Polish--but who would adopt this as their last name, and why? ...


It can be tough sometimes to understand why a particular name stuck, but since the name Motyl shows up in documents as early as 1414, and since as of 1990 there were 4,120 Polish citizens with this name, we have to assume at some point there was a good reason. A lot of the time these names that seem odd started out as nicknames, and nicknames can be baffling to those who don't know the reason they were given. People are still arguing over exactly what Groucho Marx's name came from, whether it was because he was a grouch or because he always carried what used to be called a "grouch-bag"? This question dates from earlier this century, and even his friends are still arguing over which origin is right. So you can imagine the difficulty trying to decipher a Polish name almost 600 years old!


A person might have been called Motyl because he liked to catch butterflies, or lived near a field or area with a lot of butterflies, or wore brightly colored clothes that reminded people of butterflies. But the term motyl also is applied to humans, in a transferred sense, as meaning a person who's rather flighty, tends not to stay in one place and flit about -- in other words, the person's character reminded folks of a butterfly's motion. So the connection, in many cases, was probably figurative rather than literal... And remember, people don't always choose a nickname, sometimes one gets forced on them, often much to their displeasure. So your ancestors may not have chosen to be called Motyl, they may have had no choice in the matter.


I'm sorry I can't give you a definitive answer, but I hope maybe these comments are a little help. And believe me, "butterfly" is a wonderful name compared to some I've run into. In the last few weeks I've had to tell people their names meant "manure, stable straw that animals have befouled that needs to be mucked out," and "one who pisses crooked," "the stutterer," and so on. There don't seem to be a lot of Polish surnames that say nice things about people -- as they go, Motyl may be one of the better ones!


Copyright © 1998 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.  




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