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Michalewski - Michałowski
Created by Administrator Account in 5/11/2010 2:23:30 PM


I have been searching for the history of my last name - Michalewski. Is there anything you can help me with.

In Polish, MICHALEWSKI is usually pronounced roughly "mee-ha-LEFF-skee." The Polish CH is not quite like our H, it's a little more guttural, like the "ch" in German "Bach"; so if you can make the first sound of the second syllable a bit more guttural than English H, it'll be perfect.

You can see 2002 data on its frequency and distribution, along with colored maps -- for both the masculine form, MICHALEWSKI, and the traditional feminine form, MICHALEWSKA -- here:

They show the name is not terribly common in Poland; there were 607 Poles bearing the masculine form and 646 bearing the traditional feminine form.

The name comes from the Polish first name Michał, and means basically "of the kin of Michael." It could also mean "one from the place of Michael," possibly referring to villages or estates or settlements with names beginning Michal-. More often, however, those place names begin Michalow-, and produce the surname MICHAŁOWSKI. Both MICHALEWSKI and MICHAŁOWSKI mean more or less the same thing, "of the _ of Michael," where the blank is filled in with something so obvious it didn't need to be spelled out, usually either "kin" or "place." As it happens, the forms with Michalow- are more often associated with place names than the forms with Michalew-. That's why I say MICHALEWSKI is more likely to mean "of the kin of Michael." But Polish surnames often switch -LE- and -LO- easily, and you can't rule out either meaning. 

The only way to be sure how to interpret the surname is to trace the family history. Sometimes, that will uncover information that makes it clear whether MICHALEWSKI referred to the kin of Michael or the place of Michael -- and if the latter is applicable, family history may clarify which particular place it refers to. There are dozens of places in Poland with names beginning Michalow-, and from the surname alone, one cannot say from which one a given Michalewski family took its name.

If you're interested, you can see data on the name MICHAŁOWSKI here:

The spelling MICHALEWSKI and MICHAŁOWSKI are distinctively Polish. But very similar names, meaning approximately the same thing, appear in other Slavic languages, because the forms of the name Michael are similar in those languages, for instance, Ukrainian Mykhailo and Russian Mikhail. Surnames ending in -owski/-ewski or -ovsky/-evsky are usually either Polish or Ukrainian in origin, however. Russian names are more likely to end in -ov or -ev. I notice you spell your name MYKHAYLEVSKY, which looks to me like a Ukrainian equivalent of Polish MICHALEWSKI. Of course, many people living in Russia have Ukrainian roots, and that's why we also see this name in Russia.

To sum up, the surname means "of the kin of Michael," or perhaps, in some cases, "one from the place of Michael." The latter may refer to specific villages or estates with names derived from Michal-; but more often, those place names take forms beginning Michalow- and thus produce the surname MICHALOWSKI. But MICHALEWSKI and MICHAŁOWSKI are very similar, and mean more or less the same thing. Only research into the history of the specific family may shed light on exactly why that family came to bear that name.

I hope this is some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck.

William F. "Fred" Hoffman
Author, Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings

Copyright © 2010 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.




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