Labus - Łabus - Łabusz - Łabuś - Łabuz
Created by Administrator Account in 9/27/2010 7:38:40 AM

 


... Labus is my last name. I found it listed as a Polish surname in 1790. There is a town called Labus, just north of Koszalin in what is now Poland, but in the past had been Pommerania, Germany. Labas is also a Lithuanian word meaning "good" and is used as a greeting. Any ideas?

This is a tough one, because there are several plausible derivations, and I have no basis on which to single out one and say "This is the relevant one in your case."

Labus certainly could come from the Lithuanian term -- I have often seen names of Lithuanian descent show up in the general area of Pomerania (which is not exactly what you'd expect from looking at the map). But I have a copy of a 2-volume work on Lithuanian surnames, and it seems to say this isn't a name used all that often. The names Labys, Labuŝaitis and Labuŝeviĉius appear, but not Labus or Labuŝ. Of course some names have died out since our ancestors emigrated -- I know that for a fact from Polish data -- and both Labuŝaitis and Labuŝeviĉius mean "son of Labuŝ," so clearly that name has been used and may have been more common a century or two ago.

Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions Łabus, Łabusz, and Łabuś among names deriving from the Polish root łaba, "paw".  I suppose such names originated as nicknames for a person with big hands or feet. In any case, among ethnic Poles, that would seem the most likely derivation... I can't help but wonder if in some cases the name might be connected with Łaba, which is also the Polish name for the river Elbe? I would think Rymut would have mentioned it if it was probable, and he didn't -- but then no one is right all time. I think it's worth keeping in mind.

But I also should mention that the term łabuz exists in Polish, from labuz in Ukrainian, "weed"; there is also a Ukrainian verb labuzytys', "to wheedle, coax, fawn, flatter," and under some circumstances a name Labus could conceivably come from that. I wouldn't expect it to be relevant unless research shows your family had a strong link with Ukraine, but if any such link does show up...

All three of these origins are possible, but choosing one as most probable depends on the family background. If you find a strong Lithuanian connection of any sort, origin from labas, "good," becomes much credible. Likewise, a Ukrainian connection would boost the chances of the "weed" or "wheedle" link. But if your people seem to have been ethnic Poles as far back as you can discover, then the link with łaba, "paw," seems strongest. As I say, I can't make that judgment -- but maybe you can!

As of 1990 there were 101 Poles named Łabus, 580 named Łabuś, and 1,685 named Łabuz (I think that has to be mentioned, because it would not be at all strange to see Łabus as a variant of Łabuz -- they are pronounced almost identically). If I had to bet, my money would be on Łabuś because your people were probably Poles and because the ś is often modified to simple s in many dialects. On the other hand, in 1990 none of the Poles named Łabus or Łabuś lived in Koszalin province, and only 7 of those named Łabuz lived there. (Unfortunately, I don't have access to more detailed info such as first names and addresses). Łabuś was most common in the provinces of Czestochowa (117) and Katowice (207) in southcentral Poland; Łabus was most common in Katowice province; and Łabuz was also most common in southcentral and southeastern Poland, e. g., provinces of Katowice (143), Kraków (205), Nowy Sacz (256), and Tarnów (380). It is highly likely those Łabuz'es had some Ukrainian roots.

I know I haven't handed you a nice, easy answer to the question of your name's derivation; but sometimes there isn't any one clear-cut answer, and I'd be a liar if I pretended there was. I hope this information may help you, especially as you combine it with what your research uncovers about your family's roots. I do think it's pretty clear-cut that with Poles the "paw" root is the best bet, with Lithuanians it's "good" root, and with Ukrainians it's the "weed" or "wheedle" root.

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






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