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We all know plenty of people whose last name ends in -ski: maybe your neighbor, your boss, or even you! But why is it so common, and what does it have to do with the beloved sport of skiing?
The truth is, the suffix -ski actually has nothing to do with skiing at all! It roughly translates to ‘from,’ and is often combined with either a place or a job as the prefix to make up the whole surname.
Even though -ski isn’t related to skiing, the most popular Slavic suffix holds a ton of history. Read on to find out more about the history of the -skis (not skis, but if you’re interested, you can check that article out here)!
How Popular are Last Names Ending in -ski?
There’s no census for how many people in the world have the last name ending in -ski, but we do know it’s a lot of people. Its origins are specific to Poland, but it’s common everywhere.
It’s important to note that -ski is only the masculine form of the last name. The feminine form is -ska, and so for all of these numbers, -ska is included.
In fact, six of the ten most common last names in Poland end in -ski. That alone adds up to over half a million people! Beyond that, 35% of the most common last names end in -ski as well. So why is it so popular?
History of -ski
There are a ton of different ways that surnames are created, but there are two main ones affecting the suffix -ski. In their simplest forms, they are:
- Cognominal: profession based
- Toponymic: location based
Because -ski basically means from (it’s -ska for women), it was used at first for nobility. The prefix would be the place that they hailed from.
For example, a nobleman from Lublin would have the last name Lublinski, and his wife would be Lublinska. Names such as this fit into the toponymic category. But, there are plenty of last names that end in -ski, but don’t begin with a place.
If a -ski surname doesn’t begin with a place, it likely begins with the Polish word for their occupation. Because of its association with the upper class, having a surname ending in -ski became quite fashionable, and the peasant class began putting it after their occupation.
Let’s take one of the most popular last names. In Polish, Kowal means ‘blacksmith,’ so Kowalski literally means ‘of the blacksmith.’ These last names are cognominal.
If you or someone you know has a last name ending in -ski, you can find out what it means relatively easily by putting the prefix in Google Translate. If the prefix is a place, they likely have some royalty in their bloodline, and if it’s an occupation, their ancestors were likely working class.
This is one really easy way to get to know a little bit more about your history!
Famous Skiers Whose Last Name Ends in -Ski
Just because there isn’t any historical connection between the sport of skiing and the -ski suffix, there are still a ton of amazing skiers with this classic Slavic name! Keep reading for some of the most successful skiers whose last name ends in -ski (or its various alternate spellings).
Steve Podborski is a Canadian alpine skier who competed in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Games. He won bronze in downhill racing. He went on to become the first North American to win a World Cup in downhill, and didn’t stop there! In all, he competed in around 100 races, placed on the podium 20 times, and walked away victorious 8 times. Not so bad!
Dawid Kubacki is a Polish ski jumper who competed in the 2014, 2018, and 2022 Olympics. Between these, he won two bronze medals. He’s also won 5 times in the individual World Cup and made the podium 23 times. Hey it’s almost -ski at the end.
Igor Sikorski is German Paralympic skier. He competed in both the 2018 and 2022 Paralympics, bringing home the bronze, not to mention Poland’s only medal in 2018. He also won silver in the 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championship.
So, while last names that end in -ski don’t actually have anything to do with skiing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of greats who share the name! It also shouldn’t stop you from coming up with the best nicknames you can for your friends who shred and sport -ski names.