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Gołąbek - Gołombek
Created by Administrator Account in 12/27/2009 12:24:34 PM

 


I am interested in knowing the meaning of the surname- Golombek.

This is an Anglicized spelling of a name that in Polish is written Golabek, with a tail under the A and a slash through the L. Gołąbek is pronounced roughly "go-WOME-beck." The Ł is pronounced like our W, and the Ą, when it comes before B or P, sounds like "om." So even though it seems odd to us, Gołąbek is pronounced that way.

Names in Poland were often spelled more than one way because some sounds can be written more than one way. It's not at all unusual to see Ą spelled -ON- or -OM-, so that even in Poland you sometimes see this name spelled Gołombek. Then when Poles came to English-speaking countries the slash through the L was often just dropped, since English-speakers had no clue what to make of it. That's how Gołąbek can logically and sensibly come to be modified to Golombek.

Polish name expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions this name in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surnames of Poles]. He says it appears in records as early as 1399 and comes from the noun gołąbek, which means literally "little pigeon." It may not sound complimentary in English, but in Polish it probably began as an affectionate nickname, with no slight or hint of mockery intended. Poles would think that's a sweet thing to call a nice person, one they were fond of.

Incidentally, the plural of that noun is gołąbki~, which is the name of a dish Poles are very fond of, a stuffed cabbage leaf. You often see the name spelled a jillion different ways, all pronounced roughly "go-WOMP-kee." It means "little pigeons," probably because there was something about the shape originally that reminded people of little pigeons (?). Whenever Polish food is served at a restaurant or dinner somewhere, you can be sure gołąbki will be on the menu. But it's unlikely the surname and the food have any connection -- it's probably just coincidence the same term ended up applied in such different ways.

As of 1990, according to the best data available (the Slownik nazwisk wspolczesnie w Polsce uzywanych, "Directory of Surnames in Current Use in Poland," which covers about 94% of the population of Poland), there were 5,060 Polish citizens named Gołąbek. They lived all over the country, with no significant concentration in any one area. There were also 333 Poles who spelled it Gołombek. If I were you I'd keep my eyes open for either spelling, as a given family might appear as Gołąbek in one record, Gołombek in another; spelling was often inconsistent. But for all intents and purposes, these are just spelling variations of the same basic name.

Copyright © 2002 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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