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Polish Language/Meaning of my husband's last name in Polish


We have been told that our last name "Cirka" is a very common name in Poland like Smith is in the USA. Is this true? What is the meaning of this name?

Dear Julie,

Sorry to disappoint you but this is not true.

Look at the following map to see the distribution of this surname according to 2001 census:
( only 109 people bearing this surname)

and compare it to the distribution of the No. 1 surname, "Nowak":
( 205536 people )

or to the surname No. 2, which is commonly perceived as the most Polish one, and which bears the same original meaning as Smith:

male version - Kowalski: ( 67203 )
and female version - Kowalska: ( 71158 )
altogether: ( 138361 persons ).

Your surname is a very rare one (a list of 20 000 most common Polish surnames does not even include it).

I don't know what is the original meaning of the surname. No etymological dictionary of Polish names known to me does mention it. Maybe it is of Czech or German origin? - then the word would come from Latin "circa" and have the meaning of "about" (very strange for a surname, you admit). Or maybe it is of Ukrainian origin, where this word has the meaning of "circus"?
Judging by the distribution map, it might be one of these, or else be of Karaite origin (language belonging to Turkish-Tatar group), but then I have not a slightest idea about the meaning.

Or it might be an onomatopeic word, resembling a bird's tweet, but then why is it limited to such remote areas?

A hint might be if you told me which area (town, province) do your husband's ancestors come from. If you look below the map linked to above, you will see links to the previous and next surnames (by alphabetic order) and you will find that in the same areas you can meet similar surnames "Cirko", "Cirkos", "Cirkosz", "Cirkot", and even "Cirkowska" and "Cirkowski" - none of them very popular, but these forms suggest to me that the meaning "tweet" is more and more probable. See also that the surname is present in Germany, Autria and Switzerland.

I can't be of more help.



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Maciej St. Zięba


I am native Polish and from time to time I teach Polish to foreigners. I know (passively of actively) more than 15 other languages - so I can answer many questions concerning Polish grammar, pronounciation, spelling, etymology and usage - as compared to English, French, German, Russian, Dutch, Esperanto or Norwegian. Also questions concerning other Slavic languages, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, or general linguistics, especially scripts (writing systems and transcriptions) - are welcome.


Teaching English, French, and Esperanto to Poles, Polish to foreigners, teaching Sanskrit, Mandarin Chinese, Classical Chinese and Tibetan. Tour Guide in English, French, Russian and German. Former President of the Regional Examination Committee for Tourist Guides (English and French)(1999-2005).

Polish Oriental Society (since 1979); International Association of Buddhist Studies (since 1986); Klingon Language Institute (since 1986); Learned Society of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (since 1989); Polish Philosophical Association (since 1997); Universala Esperanto-Asocio (since 1978).

Books: "Origin of the World According to Rigveda" (Montreal 1996); "Our River Bug. Creating Conditions for Development of the Border Areas of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus through Enhancement and Preservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage" (Lublin 2008); "Migration - a Challenge to the 21st century" (Lublin 2008); "Migracja zarobkowa do Woch" (Job migration to Italy) (Lublin 2008); more than 100 articles in "Powszechna Encyklopedia Filozofii" (Universal Encyclopedia od Philosophy) vol. 1-10 (Lublin 2000-2009); many more in Polish, some of them available online, see: here and here (a list up to 2012.

Studying philosophy at Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) 1976-81; PhD in Philosophy (1989). Having learned languages in Gdansk and Gdynia (Russian, Esperanto, Latin, English - International Bacalaureate), Lublin (KUL - French, German, Dutch, Sanskrit, Latin, Ancient Greek; UMCS - Chinese, Japanese; elsewhere - Esperanto, Spanish, Italian), Paris (IIAP - French; INALCO - Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese; Sorbonne - Sanskrit), Asker (Norwegian, while working in a kindergarten!), Montreal (McGill - Chinese); Rome and Venice (Italian); Taichung, Taiwan (Chinese), Shimla, India (sanskrit). Self-taught: Slavic languages (other than Polish and Russian), Hungarian, Korean, Vietnamese, Klingon and several other.

Awards and Honors
2012 Golden Medal of Civil Service of Poland; 2012-13 Taiwan Fellowship - Tunghai University (Taichung)

Past/Present Clients
AllExperts users (since 12/03/2003); Wikipedia readers in many languages (since 2004); students learning languages (since 1979).

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