Poland Languages

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Most materials used in Polish research are written in Polish. You do not need to speak or read Polish to do research in Polish records, but you should know some key words and phrases to understand the records. Because the Roman Catholic Church was the predominant religion in Poland, many records  are in Latin. Other languages in Polish records include German, Russian, Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Old Church Slavonic.

For word lists and help researching in Polish records, see:

Polish grammar may affect the way names appear in genealogical records. For example, names of your ancestors will vary from record to record in Polish.

For help in understanding name variations, see Names, Personal.

Alphabet

Aa Ąą Bb Cc Ćć Dd Ee Ęę Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Łł Mm Nn Ńń Oo Óó Pp Rr Ss Śś Tt Uu Ww Yy Zz Źź Żż

The letters q, v and x are also used, but only for foreign names or words.

Pronunciation Guide

c = ts
ch,h = kh
ć,cz,ci = ch
ś,sz,si = sh
ż,zi,rz = zh
ą = om, on
ę = em, en
j = y
dz = j
ł = w
w = v

Language Aids

The Family History Library has genealogical word lists for Polish (34098), German (34067), and Latin (34077). The following books and English-Polish dictionaries can also aid you in your research. You can find these and similar material at many research libraries:

Kierst, W. English-Polish/Polish-English Dictionary. New York, New York: Saphograph Co., 1956. (FHL book 491.85321 K847e.)

Pogonowski, Iwo Cyprian. Practical Polish-English, English-Polish Dictionary. New York, New York: Hippocrene Books, 1985. (FHL book 491.85321P751p.)

Another valuable research tool for reading records of the former Russian territories of Poland is:

Frazin, Judith R. A Translation Guide to the 19-century Polish-language Civil-registration Documents: (Birth, Marriage and Death Records). 2nd ed. Northbrook, Illinois: The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois, 1989. (FHL book 943.8 V27.) This book is now online at Google Books: http://books.google.de/books?id=qSEBjYeyUpAC&pg=PA154&lpg=PA# .

To read the Russian language records of this same area after 1868 use:

Shea, Jonathan D. Russian Language Documents from Russian Poland: a Translation Manual for Genealogists. 2nd ed. Buffalo Grove, Illinois: Genun, 1989. (FHL book 943.8 D27.)

The Polish genealogical Word List published by the Family History Library is available at this link: https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Poland_Genealogical_Word_List

Learning: Polish Language, Common Word Translations is available online.

Word List

This list contains Polish words with their English translations. The words included here are those that you are likely to find in genealogical sources. If the word you are looking for is not on this list, please consult a Polish-English dictionary. 

Polish is a Slavic language related to Russian and Slovak. It is used in genealogical sources throughout Poland. Before 1918, Polish-speaking territories were divided between Russia, Germany, and Austria. Records written before 1918 may be in German, Russian, Latin, or Polish.

  • In Russian Poland, Polish was the official language for vital records from 1808 to 1868. From 1868 to 1917, Russian was the official language.
  • In German Poland, most records were kept in German or Latin, though some were kept in Polish.
  • In Austrian Poland, most records were kept in Latin. Some records were kept in German and some in Polish.

Polish is also used in the records kept in some Polish communities in the United States.

Polish records often contain Latin and German words. See the German Genealogical Word List, and the Latin Genealogical Word List. Or at the following link:http://204.9.225.220/eng/Search/rg/frameset_rhelps.asp?Page=./research/type/Word_List.asp

Language Characteristics

Polish words for persons, places, and things (nouns) are classified as masculine, feminine, or neuter. Adjectives used to describe them must have the proper masculine, feminine, or neuter endings, for example:

stary mąż-- old man

stara kobieta-- old woman

stare miasto-- old city

The endings of past tense verbs also change depending on the gender of the person or thing being described or performing the action. For example:

umarł -- he died

umarła-- she died

umarło-- it [the child] died

Variant Forms of Words

In Polish, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in a sentence. Who-whose-whom or marry-marries- married are examples of words in English with variant forms. In Polish any word may change, depending on usage. This word list gives the standard form of each Polish word. As you read Polish records, you will need to be aware that most words vary with usage.

The endings of words in a document will often differ from what you find in this list. For example, the document may use the word starego (old), but you will find it in this word list as stary (old).

Certain endings, called genitive, give the meaning "of" to a word. The following endings are typical:

Nouns Endings Adjectives

-a (masculine) -ego

-y or -i (feminine) -ej

-ów (plural) -ich or -ych

Thus, ojciec zmarłego means "father of the deceased."

Plural forms of Polish words usually change the singular word as follows:

Words ending in -a change to -y

Words ending in -o change to -a

A -y or -i is added to form the plural

The plural form may change the basic word, for example:

Singular Plural
miasto =city miasta= cities
powiat =district powiaty =districts
brat= brother bracia =brothers
żona=wife żony=wives

Additional Resources

This word list includes words most commonly found in genealogical sources. For further help, use a Polish-English dictionary. Several Polish-English dictionaries are available at the Family History Library in the European collection. Their call numbers begin with 491.85321. See Poland Encyclopedias and Dictionaries.

The following dictionary is available on microfilm for use in Family History Centers:

Stanisławski, Jan. English-Polish and Polish-English Dictionary.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: David McKay, 1946. (FHL film 1,045,473, item 1)

Additional dictionaries are listed in the Subject section of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

POLISH LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES

Other dictionaries and language helps, such as Polish grammar books, are listed in the Locality section under:

POLAND - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES

Key Words

To find and use specific types of Polish records, you will need to know some key words in Polish. This section gives key genealogical terms in English and the Polish words with the same or similar meanings.

For example, in the first column you will find the English word marriage. In the second column you will find Polish words with meanings such as marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock, unite, legitimate, joined, and other words used to indicate marriage.

For a full genealogical word list, visit Polish Genealogical Word List.

English Polish
birth urodzin, urodzony, urodził się, zrodzony
burial pogrzeb, pochówek
Catholic katolicki, rzymsko-katolicki
child dziecię, dziecko
christening chrzest, chrzciny, ochrzczone
death(s) zgon(ów), zejść, umarł , zmarł , śmierć (śmierci)
father ojciec
husband mąż, małżonek
index indeks, skorowidz, register, spis
Jewish żydowski, starozakonny, izraelici, mojżeszowy
marriage małżenstw(o), ślub(ów), zaślubionych
marriage banns zapowiedzi
mother matka
name, given imię, imion
name, surname nazwisko
parents rodzice
parish parafia
Protestant ewangelicki, reformowany, protestancki, luterański
wife żona, małżonka, zamęża, kobieta
year rok, lat


Numbers

In many genealogical records, numbers— especially dates—are spelled out. The following list gives the cardinal (1, 2, 3) and ordinal (1st, 2nd, 3rd) numbers. Dates are written in ordinal form. In dates, ordinal numbers usually end with -ego, for example:

pierwszy the first
pierwszego on the first (of the month)
Cardinal Ordinal
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
1000
jeden, jedna
dwa
trzy
cztery
pięć
sześć
siedem
osiem
dziewięć
dziesięć
jedenaście
dwanaście
trzynaście
czternaście
piętnaście
szesnaście
siedemnaście
osiemnaście
dziewiętnaście
dwadzieścia
dwadzieścia jeden
dwadzieścia dwa
dwadzieścia trzy
dwadzieścia cztery
dwadzieścia pięć
dwadzieścia sześć
dwadzieścia siedem
dwadzieścia osiem
dwadzieścia dziewięć
trzydzieści
czterdzieści
pięćdziesiąt
sześć dziesiąt
siedemdziesiąt
osiemdziesiąt
dziewiecdziesiąt
sto
dwieście
trzysta
czterysta
pięćset
sześćset
siedemset
osiemset
dziewięćset
tysiąc
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
8th
9th
10th
11th
12th
13th
14th
15th
16th
17th
18th
19th
20th
21st
22nd
23rd
24th
25th
16th
27th
28th
29th
30th
40th
50th
60th
70th
80th
90th
100th
200th
300th
400th
500th
600th
700th
800th
900th
1000th
pierwszy
drugi
trzeci
czwarty
piąty
szósty
siódmy
ósmy
dziewiąty
dziesiąty
jedenasty
dwunasty
trzynasty
czternasty
piętnasty
szesnasty
siedemnasty
osiemnasty
dziewiętnasty
dwudziesty, dwódziesty
dwudziesty pierwszy
dwudziesty drugi
dwudziesty trzeci
dwudziesty czwarty
dwudziesty piąty
dwudziesty szósty
dwudziesty siódmy
dwudziesty ósmy
dwudziesty dziewiąty
trzydziesty
czterdziesty
pięćdziesiąty
sześćdziesiąty
siedemdziesiąty
osiemdziesiąty
dziewięćdziesiąty
setny
dwóchsetny
trzysetny, trzechsetny
czterysetny, czterechsetny
pięćsetny
sześćsetny
siedemsetny
osiemsetny
dziewięćsetny
tysięczny

Dates and Time 

In Polish records, dates are usually written out, for example:

roku tysiąc osemset trzydziestego szóstego dnia dwódziestego trzeciego marca [in the year one thousand eight hundredth thirtieth and sixth on the day twentieth third of March (23 March 1836] In some records, two dates are recorded:
dnia piątego/siedemnastego Maja [on the day 5th/17th of May] The two dates are usually 12 days apart. The first date is based on the Julian calendar (used by the Russian Empire). The second date is based on the present-day Gregorian calendar.

To understand Polish dates, use the following lists as well as the preceding "Numbers" section.

Months

Polish often abbreviates dates by using a Roman numeral for the month. For example, 13 June 1864 could be written as 13.VI.1864 instead of 13.czerwca.1864.

English Polish
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII
VIII.
IX
X.
XI.
XII.
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
stycznia
lutego
marca
kwietnia
maja
czerwca
lipca
sierpnia
września
pażdziernika
listopada
grudnia


Days of the Week

English
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Polish
niedziela
poniedzialek
wtorek
środa
czwartek
piątek
sobota


Times of the Day

Polish birth and death records often indicate the exact time of day when the birth or death occurred. This is usually written out.

Polish
o godzinie drugiej
o godzinie siódmej
w nocy
południe/w południe
popołudniu/z południa
przed południem
północna godzina
rano/z rana
wieczorem/w wieczór
English
at the 2nd hour
at the 7th hour
at night
noon
afternoon
forenoon
midnight
in the morning
in the evening