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Łabeński - Łabędzki
Created by Administrator Account in 9/27/2010 7:30:54 AM

 


... I just read your information on "Notes for Selected Polish Names" regarding an analysis or translation of Polish names. My Polish ancestor came to America in the early 1800's. Any information to could give me on the name Labenski would be appreciated.

Labenski is a tough one, because there are a couple of possible derivations. In either case, the first letter was almost certainly Ł, which is pronounced like our w by Poles but usually rendered as simply L by non-Poles. The n is probably the accented n, so the name would be pronounced roughly "wah-BEN-skee."

Alexander Beider mentions the name Łabeński in his book A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Kingdom of Poland; he says it would come from the name of a village Łabno near Augustów in Suwałki province in northeastern Poland, and that explanation is very plausible -- it would just mean "person from Łabno." Such a name would not be restricted to Jews, Polish Christians could easily come to bear it also, since the name could apply to any family of any religion that came from the Łabno area. As of 1990 there were only 38 Poles with this name, scattered all over the country; the name is also seen spelled Łabenski (no accent over the n), and there were 31 by that name, with the majority (20) living in the province of Leszno in southwestern Poland. Many people living in what used to be eastern Poland were forced to move to the western part of the country after World War II, so it's possible those 20 Łabenski's had lived earlier near Łabno in northeastern Poland before they were forced to relocate. (I'm afraid I don't have access to more detailed info, such as first names or addresses of those Łabenski's and Łabeński's.)

The other possibility is derivation from the noun łabędź (ę is pronounced like en). This word means "swan," and Łabędz was also the name of a Polish coat of arms. It is seen in adjectival form (which is often the form used for surnames) as Łabędzki, pronounced like "wah-BENT-skee," and that same name is sometimes spelled Łabęcki -- meaning literally just "of, from, relating to the swan." Phonetically speaking, it's not ridiculous to suggest that since it sounds close to Łabeński, this name might sometimes be spelled that way, especially after Poles named Łabędzki or Łabęcki left Poland and had to spell their name in a way non-Poles could pronounce. Łabędzki was the name of 2,459 Poles as of 1990, and Łabęcki was borne by 1,410, so those forms are pretty common. As we saw above, Łabeński is much rarer, as you'd expect of a variant spelling.

So what I'd say is this: if you keep seeing the spelling Łabeński even in Polish documents, the name probably started out meaning "one from Łabno." But if you start running into spellings like Łabędzki or Łabęcki -- which is entirely possible -- you'll not be surprised by it, and you'll know the name originally derived from the root meaning "swan." The surname might derive from the noun for "swan," from the coat of arms Łabędź, or from a place with a name like Łabędź, Łabędy, etc. -- there are several such places, and they probably all got their name as meaning "place of the swans."

Copyright © 2000 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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