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Polish surnames, like
those in most of Europe, are hereditary and generally patrilineal, i.e.,
passed from the father on to his children.
A married woman usually
adopts her husband's name. However, other combinations are legally
possible. The wife may keep her maiden name (nazwisko panieńskie)
or add her husband's surname to hers, thus creating a double-barrelled
name (nazwisko złożone). However, if she already has a
double-barrelled name, she must leave one of the parts out—it is illegal
to use a triple- or more-barrelled name. It is also possible, though rare,
for the husband to adopt his wife's surname or to add his wife's surname
to his family name.
The two most widespread and
common Polish surnames are Kowalski (Blacksmith) and Nowak (New).
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