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Klafke - Klawke - Klawki
Created by Administrator Account in 5/17/2010 2:29:30 PM


...Klafki (1810, Ostpreussen), Klawki (1830, 1852 in Brazil), Klauki (1852, in Brazil), Klawke, Klaffke and Klafke (now-a-day). My ancestors came from Ostpreussen in 1852 but I think the name is not a German name but a Slavic name. One has suggest the meaning of the name may be Woodcutter, or Son of Klaus (Klauski).

The best evidence suggests that in most cases this name derives from Klawka, which is a Polish short form of the name Mikołaj = German Nikolaus (short form Klaus) = English Nicholas. I believe you are right to think the name is Slavic rather than German, because German usually forms diminutives of names by adding suffixes with the letter -L (Haensel = "little Hans (John)," Gretel = "little Margaret"); but Slavic languages use suffixes with the letter -K-, such as -ek, -ka, -ki, -ko. There are many areas in eastern Germany and western Poland where Germans and Poles lived close together, and their languages influenced each other's names, so that a Polish name might change somewhat to fit German phonetics. Thus we sometimes see the name Jahnke, which looks German; but it's actually a Germanized form of Polish or Czech "Janek, Janko." I think something similar happened with your name.

The root Klaw- is clearly a Slavic adaptation of German Klaus, so we have the following process: from Latin Nicholaus -> German Klaus -> Polish Klawek or Klawko -> German Klafke. We know the forms Klawek or Klawko appear in Polish legal records from as far back as 1391, and that they were regarded as short forms or nicknames of Polish Mikołaj (German Klaus). As time went on and Germans gained more power and influence, the name probably was modified slightly to German phonetics, and thus we finally get Klaffke or Klafke.

I should mention that this is not the only possible derivation of the name. It could conceivably come from Latin clavis, "key." Although it seems unlikely, I cannot rule it out. But clearly it is far more likely in most cases that the name derives from the name Klaus. Klawek or Klawko can be interpreted as "little Nicholas," which may mean an ancestor by that name was rather small, but more likely it was a patronymic, a name taken from one's father's name. Thus Klawek or Klawko probably meant "son of Nicholas."

I'm afraid none of these names is very common in modern-day Poland; as of 1990 there was at least 1 person named Klawka, also 1 named Klawke, but I have no further information on where they lived. There was no one named Klawki. There were 32 Polish citizens named Klawek, living in the provinces of Pila (9), Walbrzych (21), and Wroclaw (2) -- all areas with large German elements in the population. There were also 170 named Klawa and 123 named Klawe. So names formed from this root are not unknown in Poland, but they are not particularly common.

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

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