Tag Archives: placenames

What's in a Name? – Place-names

Having looked at male and female names and how they can sometimes be internationalised, it’s now time to look at some of the place-names, street names and locations in Poland. I find the history behind names interesting, as some are chosen deliberately to honour a person or an event, while others seem to be absolutely random, and even the most curious mind cannot understand the reasoning for choosing such a name. For the most part, street names that I have seen tend to honour a person (such as Jozef Pilsudski, Marie Skłodowska-Curie or Ludwik Zamenhof) or they represent a type of memorial to a historical event, with military history featuring prominently. Streets commemorating Westerplatte, Monte Cassino, Plac Bohaterów Getta and even Bohaterów Wietnamu all feature in Kraków.

“All of the streets in this direction should bear my name!”

Despite the attempts to give meaning and gravitas to placenames and street names, I sometimes get the feeling that those with responsibility for providing possible names suddenly got very bored or decided to have some fun with providing names to be applied. The following are examples of names that I have found funny or interesting* where I guess the creative juices were flowing when creating the names.

*Funny and interesting being subjective, of course

Where the streets have no name?

Picture the scene – a committee meeting in some Krakowian urząd building – the late 1960’s

Urzędnik #1: “Ugh, is it this time of the year again…? More new streets to be named. Where are all these people coming from?”

Urzędnik #2: “Hey, I’ve got to go and meet a man about a dog. He’s told me there will be some whiskey involved. Can we make this quick?”

Urzędnik #1: “Yeah, let’s do this.”

Urzędnik #2: “Ok – how about ‘lovely’, ‘nice’, and ‘last’?”

Urzędnik #1: (sarcastically)Sure… and ‘nursery’ and ‘gardening” too while we are doing it?”

Urzędnik #2: “Ok, I’ve signed the document to submit the names”

Urzędnik #1: “Oh… crap. Well, maybe they won’t notice…”

Street names by committee

Thus you have names of streets such as Ładna (nice), Śliczna (lovely), Ostatnia (last), Szkółkowa (nursery) and Orgodnicza (gardening) – all within a few minutes walk of each other. This also adds to names such as Duża Góra (High Mountain street) and Długa (Long street) found in Kraków as well. I certainly believe some kind of alcohol had to be involved when some of these names were being considered.

A Town Called Malice

Finding names for streets can probably be seen as a difficult task, as even the smallest towns will have numerous streets and eventually you will run out of names of battles and heroes to apply the name from. However, what I have found more interesting have been examples where the name of the town or village is one that is quite funny and interesting.

A few have always caught my eye, with specific examples such as Łódź (meaning Boat) and Piotrków Trybunalski (Peter’s Tribunal) being interesting, as they seem to be very individual and specific in their meaning. However, while travelling in the Polish countryside I have seen some very interesting place names, such as:

Biała Wielka – Great White: “Great white… hope? shark? piece of paper?”

Klucze – Keys: “So that’s where I left them!”

Zielonki – Green: “Recently renamed from Environmentally Hazardous”

And these are just some quick examples – there seem to be thousands more when you consider all of the little towns and villages scattered throughout Poland.

“I live in Boat! No – not a boat-house, but Boat-town”


The final category considers items that are interesting mostly because of their meaning in a foreign language, usually in English for me at least. For example,  an immature smile comes to my face when I see a signpost for Szyce and I try to pronounce it. Then of course, there is the chance to go to Hel while you are still alive! Its location on the end of a peninsula north of Gdansk makes it interesting in itself, and it is popular as a holiday destination for Poles also. However, the below picture shows that someone has a sense of humour when it comes to public transport! Or perhaps alcohol was involved here as well…!

“You’re going straight to Hel – it’s the final stop. Have a nice day!”

So those are my examples I have seen of funny and interesting place names and street names within Poland. I am sure they are not the only ones, so feel free to submit your examples!

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