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Grzęda - Grzenda
Created by Administrator Account in 12/31/2009 1:53:59 PM


In the subject field is my last name [Grzenda]. My relatives have always believed it meant something akin to farmer. A recent immigrant, however, stated a grzenda is the ramp leading to and from a hen house. Do you know the correct meaning?

Grzenda is a variation of the name Poles spell Grzęda, using the Polish nasal vowel written as an E with a tail under it and pronounced usually like "en." The name can be spelled Grzenda as well as Grzęda because that's what it sounds like -- roughly like "G'ZHEN-dah."

In Poland these days the spelling Grzęda is much more common; as of 1990 there were 2,509 Poles by that name, with the largest numbers in the following provinces: Warsaw 375, Kalisz 360, Kielce 234, and Lublin 259. There were only 299 who spelled it Grzenda, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (97) and Suwałki (49).

Surnames originated centuries ago, and the modern meanings of the words they came from are not necessarily relevant. Many words mean the same thing now that they meant centuries ago; but you can never assume the modern meaning applies until you've looked into the matter a little more closely.

The name Grzęda/Grzenda is mentioned in the book Nazwiska Polaków [The Surnames of Poles] by Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut. He says it appears in records as early as 1439, and come an archaic noun grzęda, "bed (as for flowers); a bar for hanging something on (compare a chicken's roost); a patch for chickens." Presumably it started as a nickname, perhaps for one who had and was always tending a flower-bed, or one somehow associated with a bar or lever, or one always working in the area where chickens were kept (the diminutive noun grządka can mean "hen-house").

People are sometimes puzzled by names that can have several meanings, but if you think about it, English does the same thing. Was the ancestor of a family named Woods known for working with lumber, or did he live near woods, or was this a nickname that referred to his wooden personality, or what? Many words have several meanings, and thus names coming from them can have several meanings.

So there's no way to say what the "correct" meaning was. A Grzenda could have been associated with a flower bed, the area where chickens were kept, or a rod for hanging things on (perhaps because he was long and thin). The only way one might be able to say more is by tracing a specific family back in the records as far as possible. Sometimes that will uncover documents that shed light on exactly how and why a specific name came to be associated with a specific family. Of course, I cannot do that kind of research; but perhaps you can. If so, you will become far more of an expert on what Grzenda means (at least for your family) than I can ever hope to be.

Copyright © 2003, 2004 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.




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