The Image of the Priest in Folk Etymologies of the Names of Polish Places

Author: Ewa Rogowska-Cybulska


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The article describes the image of priests presented in folk etymologies of the names of the cities, towns and villages, that is in explanations of the origins of words which are incorrect from the scholarly point of view, being based on the similarity of their form to other words. It turns out that the image of the priest which is created on the grounds of secondary semantic interpretations of selected places is not especially rich, since it does not refer to many of the essential activities which constitute the general image of a Catholic priest, such as saying mass, administering other sacraments such as baptism, preaching, giving religious instruction, looking after the financial issues of the parish. However, all these motifs can often be found in historical legends which do not refer to the origins of the place names. On the other hand, the makers of legends described priests relatively precisely in terms of other features. In the light of the analysed folk etymologies, priests are responsible for giving the sacrament of baptism, propagating and defending the faith, setting an example of personal piety and moral authority, initiating the creation and development of the place and its surroundings. Furthermore, the legends focus attention on certain characteristic material aspects of priests’ lives, such as vestments (surplice), place of residence (presbytery), means of transport (britzka) and entertainment (feasts and hunting).


folk etymology, place names, the image of a priest