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Place Names

by Bill Biar

Friday 18 November 2011 at 10:37 pm.

Nearly all information for this article was taken from Die Ortsname der Oberlausitz (Place Names of Upper Lusatia) by Jan Meschang.

(Please note that throughout this article the German Umlaut is used.  This simply means that quite often the diacritical mark (") appears over the vowels a, o and u to indicate umlauts.  It would be difficult to compose this without these.  The ae, oe and ue which we use in English do not appear on signs, maps, etc.  Sorbian diacritics are also used.)

When the writer was in East Germany highway signs highway signs identifying the villages of Lusatia were bi-lingual.  Besides giving the German and Sorbian place names, they also gave the names of the Kreis (county) and Bezirk (district).  For instance, the signs identifying Guttau read:

GUTTAU                  (modern German name)

HUĆINA                   (modern Sorbian name)

KREIS BAUTZEN        (County of Bautzen)

BEZIRK DRESDEN       (District of Dresden)

The signs leading into Gröditz read:

GRÖDITZ                (modern German spelling)

HRODŹIŠĆO            (modern Sorbian spelling)

KREIS BAUTZEN      (County of Bautzen)

BEZIRK DRESDEN     (District of Dresden)

Now that the two post-war Germanys are united, one wonders whether or not bi-lingual place names will continue.  As far as can be determined bi-lingual names will continue.  However, former East German districts have been eliminated and the territory has been re-structured into provinces similar to those in the west.  Nearly all the territory from which the Texas Wends emigrated is now included in the Province of Saxony.

Jan Meschgang in his book Die Ortsnamen der Oberlausitz  (Place Names of Upper Lusatia) lists 1055 names of cities, villages and hamlets of which 60% are of Sorbian origin; 37% German and 3% could not be determined.

Most place names have changed over the years.  After Lusatia was conquered by the Germans around 1000, colonization from the German west commenced.  This had a tremendous effect on place names.  However, these colonists did not arrive in Upper Lusatia until around 1200, because no German place names were mentioned until that time.  Names of Sorbian origin were not erased by German colonization and most names reflect the indelible imprint Sorbian has on the region.  The German spelling of names in Lusatia will usually reveal whether or not they are of Sorbian origin.  German colonists, who were brought in to clear and to cultivate additional land, often settled in the proximity of Sorbian villages, so that the new and old villages were differentiated by utilizing the old Sorbian names, or parts of them, and using Wendisch, Deutsch, Gross, Klein, Alt, Neu, Ober and Nieder (Wendish, German, Gross,, big, little, old new, upper and lower) as prefixes. These prefixes were also employed later on as changing conditions warranted.  Occurrences of wendisch and deutsch were rare in the area in which the Texas Wends originated, but all the rest were used extensively.

In some cases German names have replaced the Sorbian altogether, such as, HOCHKIRCH for BUKECY and BUCHHOLZ for KRISCHA.  These villages have dual names, that is, one of German origin and one of Sorbian origin.  Beginning in 1936, the Nazis re-named 56 villages and hamlets in Upper Lusatia.  After World War II most of these reverted to the original names.  Many place names in eastern Germany end with the suffix itz and witz.  These suffixes occur very often in the County of Bautzen, where over 50 names of villages and hamlets end with them.  Most place names reflect names of persons, places, animals, plants, cultural names (Kulturnamen), etc.

Many Sorbian place names ending with ow and j were taken into the German with the suffix au, such as, in German RACHLAU - in Sorbian, RACHLOW: place of Rachel; LÖBAU - LUBIJ: property of one L'ub.  Sometimes the ending took on a, as GÖDA - HODŹIJ; property of a Godo or Godej; and DREHSA - DROŹDŹIJ: property of a Droźdo.

Below are some names of villages and hamlets where our ancestors lived, together with their modern Sorbian place names and meanings:

BARUTH - BART: origination has not been satisfactorily established.  Bart  could have come from the German Bartholomaeus (Bartholomew).  It could have come from the old Sorbian “bara” meaning “swamp” or “marsh.”  In 1964 the site of a Sumpfburg (an old fortification with a moat around it) was excavated at Baruth.  This village was first mentioned in 1234.

BAUTZEN - BUDYŠIN: village of one Budycha.  Bautzen was called Budyšin until 1868.  It was mentioned for the first time in 1002 as a fortress and city.  It is known for the Ortenburg, the residence of the ruler of Upper Lusatia for many centuries.

BELLWITZ - BĔLECY: folks of one Bĕl.

BRIESSNITZ - BRĔZECY: settlers among the birches.

BRÖSA - BRĔSZYNA: village in a birch grove.  Breza means birch.

BUCHHOLZ - (formerly KRISCHA) - KŘIŠOW: either place of a man named Křiš (from Christian) or place of one Křiwoš whose name was shortened to Křiš.  Note: Krischa was changed to Buchholz by the Nazis in 1936 and the original name was not re-instated.

BUCHWALDE - BUKOJNA: in old Sorbian Bukowina means beech forest.  In German Buchwalde also means beech forest.  This is an example of a village with a dual name.

CORTNITZ - CHORTNICA: either greyhound (Windhund) or water trough, the latter being favored because Cortnitz was along the road to Gröditz and could have served as a watering place.

DAUBAN - DUBO: a place where oak trees grow.

DREHSA - DROŹDŹIJ: property of Droźdo.

DUBRAUKE - DUBRAWKA: high place in a small oak forest.

GEBELZIG - HBJELSK: along the bend of a stream.

GLEINA - HLINA: clay.  Until 1900 clay was mined near Gleina.

GÖDA - HODŹIJ: property of a Godo or Godej.

GRÖDITZ - HRODŹIŠĆO: village at the big hill-fort, in German, “Ort am grossem Burgwall.”  This village was first mentioned in 1222 in a Latin document as Gradis.  The German name was formed from grodisce meaning big fort by taking the first four letters “Grod,” placing an umlaut over the o, and adding the suffix itz.  The Sorbian ćo indicates big or large.  This is an example of a cultural name (Kulturname).

GROSSDEHSA - DAŹIN: place of one Daźa.

GROSS SAUBERNITZ - ZUBORNICA: Place of the bison.  (See Klein Saubernitz}  The Gross distinguishes this village from Klein Saubernitz.

GUTTAU - HUĆINA: place of one Guta.  It was first mentioned in a Latin document in 1222 as Guttin.  The Sorbian Hućina has reference to thicket (in German, Dickicht), suggesting that the village was located in a wooded place.

HOCHKIRCH - BUKECY: has a double name.  The German name indicates the church located on an elevated place.  In 1368 it was known as Hoynkirche.  The older Sorbian name Bukovic means residents who live among beech trees.  In 1222 a Latin document refers to Hochkirch as Bukewicz.

JERCHWITZ - JERCHECY: formerly a settlement of one Erich.  The  fact that this German place name with the ending dorf  took on witz was only possible if the inhabitants were Sorbian.

KITTLITZ - KETLICY: folks of one Kytel or Chytel.

KLEINRADMERITZ - MAŁKE RADMĔRCY: folks of one Radomir.

KLEIN SAUBERNITZ - ZUBORNIČKA: place of the bison.  (See Gross Saubernitz)  The German Klein (little) distinguishes this village from Gross Saubernitz.

KLIX - KLUKŠ: a settlement near a gurgling spring.  Klix was first mentioned in a Latin document in 1222.

KOTITZ - KOTECY: folks of one Kot.

KRECKWITZ - KRAKECY: folks of one Krak.

LÖBAU - LUBIJ: property of one L'ub.

MALSCHWITZ - MALEŠECY: folks of one Maleš.

MAUSCHWITZ - MUČNICA: place of flies or fly stream.

MILKEL - MINAKAŁ: settlement of one Milan at a swamp.

NECHERN - NJECHORŃ: village of one Nechor.

NEUDÖRFEL - NOWA WJESKA: (Sorbian translation of Neudörfel): in Sorbian Nowa means new and wjeska means village.

NIEDERGURIG - DELNJA HÓRKA: the lower village on a hill.

NOSTITZ - NOSAĆICY: folks of one Nosata.  The name also fits the description of the terrain shaped like a nose.

OBERPRAUSKE - HORNJE BRUSY: a name that came from “pruha,” meaning stripe.

RACHLAU - RACHLOW; place of one Rachel.

RACKEL - RAKOJDY: probably the personal name Rokovel.

REICHWALDE - RYCHWAŁD: German for a settlement cleared in a rich forested area.

RODEWITZ - RODECY: folks of one Rode.  In 1374 a document in the Marienstern monastery identified a Schiban Rode.

SANDFÖRSTGEN - BORŠTKA: BORŠĆ comes from the German Forst.  The village is in a forest on sandy land.

SÄRKA - ŹARKI: place of the conflagration.

SOHLAND AM ROTSTEIN - ZAŁOM: village behind the break in the terrain.  Am Rotstein differentiates this village from Sohland an der Spree south of Bautzen.

SPREY - SPROWJE: A settlement on the Schöps River which was also called SPREE.  It is reported that, originally, Sprey was established as a prison by the lord of the manor at Muskau to punish convicted peasants who had to work as woodcutters.

TRAUSCHWITZ - TRUŠECY: folks of one Drušk.

WEICHA - WICHOWY: village of one Vich.

WEIGERSDORF - WUKRANĆICY: village of one Wigmann.

WEISSENBERG - WOSPORK: this has reference to a white (weiss) stronghold.

WUISCHKE - WUJEŠK: name of a detour to Weissenberg.

WURSCHEN - WORCYN: probably a village at a high place, from the Sorbian wjerch.

One comment

sigrid muschkewitz

there is a strong strain of blonde-blue eyes-red beards-184-170cms height in my muschkewitz family- even when my husband had brown eyes and hair-the muschkewitz name is first mentioned in albrecht hertzog inheritence papers of the meissen portion in 1485 – these are my muschkewitz family saxon throwbacks-sorry i cannot agree with your assumption- what is sorbian?are they blonde with blue eyes?
sigrid/ born- muschkewitz

sigrid muschkewitz - 11/7/2013 00:51




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