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Created by Administrator Account in 10/17/2009 2:09:03 PM


...I'm wondering if you've heard of the Polish surname Cholewa? I was told by some Polish friends that it may mean "rubber boot"?!! The family would have lived in or near Niedergruppe, Kreiss Schetz in West Prussia before WWII (now Dolna Gruppa).


Yes, Cholewa is actually a common name -- as of 1990 there were some 8,100 Poles by that name, 797 with the spelling Holewa (both pronounced the same), plus quite a few more with related names such as Cholewiak (175), Cholewka (761), etc. Cholewa appears all over the country, with the largest numbers (more than 300) living in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (731), Katowice (1,015), Kielce (395), Krakow (1,069), Lublin (517), Opole (307), Radom (405), Tarnow (694), Warsaw (338). It's hard to see a useful pattern to that distribution, except that the name seems more common in southcentral and southeastern Poland than elsewhere -- but that doesn't mean you won't find it in other places, such as West Prussia.


Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book Nazwiska Polakow [The Surname of Poles], saying that it appears in records as far back as 1394 and comes from the Polish word cholewa, which in modern usage means "the top of knee-boots," so the boot connection is correct, although it doesn't apparently mean knee-boots themselves but their upper portions. It often happens in all languages that a word has a basic meaning, plus other meanings that have developed as slang or part of every-day speech (much as English "nut" can refer to a food, a particular piece of metal, or a screwball). My dictionary says that cholewa can also mean "drunkard," "a guy who says whatever comes into his head," and "a slovenly woman." These other meanings are often important for names because they often were used as nicknames. You might say "How did a guy get a name meaning 'boot-top'?", and these other meanings are often the answer.


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



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