Habitation name

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It is sometimes difficult, especially in the case of multiple-element names (in England usually a defining adjective plus a generic noun), to be precise about whether a surname is derived from an identifying topographic phrase such as ‘(at) the broad ford’ or ‘(by) the red hill’ or from an established placename such as Bradford or Redhill. It is also sometimes possible that what has been thought of as a topographic name is in fact a habitation name from some minor, unidentified place now lost.

Polish names ending in -owski have consistently been identified in this dictionary as habitation names, in spite of the fact that it has by no means always been possible to identify relevant places named with the base form in -ów or -owo. Others may wish to pursue this task. Placenames with meanings such as ‘oak-tree locality’ or ‘woody area’ were clearly numerous in Poland. (In the case of Jewish surnames, the ending -owski does not normally indicate a habitation name, but has merely been borrowed as an appropriate surname ending to be attached to formations of several different classes. To some extent, this process was probably going on in Polish even earlier: much further research is needed on individual names before the threads can be properly disentangled in each case.)

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