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Graboski - Grabowski
Created by Administrator Account in 2/8/2010 9:47:19 AM

 


I was wondering if you find me something definitive on the name Grabowski

In Polish this name is generally pronounced "grah-BOFF-skee," or in everyday speech it would often sound like "grah-BOSS-kee" -- which is why one may sometimes see it spelled Graboski. But Grabowski is the standard form (with Grabowska used when referring to females).

It is a very common surname among Poles. 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 54,652 Polish citizens named Grabowski. They lived all over the country in large numbers, so it's highly likely there are many separate Grabowski families, not just one big one, and they are found all over Poland.

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 1387, and generally derives from the name of a place where the family lived or worked at some point centuries ago. It could refer to any of a large number of places with names beginning Grab-, including Grabowo, Grabów, Grabowa, Grabowo, Grabowice, Grabówka, Graby, etc. In such cases there is no possible way to know which of those places a given Grabowski family was connected with, short of doing genealogical research that traces them back to a specific region.

Those place names, in turn, derive from the root seen in such Polish words as grabie, "rake"; grab, "the hornbeam tree"; and grabić, "to plunder." Thus a place name like Grabowo would often have started out meaning "place of the hornbeams," and the surname Grabowski would mean "one from the place of the hornbeams." But place names beginning Grab- could also have been named for an owner or founder named Grab, and that name could come from the expression for "plunder" or "rake" or "hornbeam."

So there are no specific answers available through general research; only research into the past of a specific family can uncover facts that will establish the exact origin of this name in that family's case, and perhaps why it seemed appropriate to call them that.

I should add that sometimes surnames in the form X-owski can mean just "kin of X." So Grabowski might, in certain specific cases, mean "kin of Grab," referring to an ancestor by that name. But as a rule these -owski names tend to refer to place names. If you trace your Grabowski family to a specific area in Poland and then find a place nearby with a name beginning Grab-, chances are fair that's the place the name referred to. (Of course, you couldn't be positive unless and until research established it -- there are just too many places in Poland with names that qualify).

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

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