This Polish surname of VLK (meaning wolf) was an Old Slavonic personal name, and perhaps also a nickname for someone thought to resemble a wolf or connected with wolves in some way. Throughout all of Europe the wolf was one of the animals most revered in medieval times. Lycanthropy, the transformation of men into wolves, was widely believed in during the Middle Ages. The name is also spelt VOVK, WOLK, VOVCHENKO, VOVKOVICH, VULKOV, VLUCHKOV and VUKOTIC to name but a few. The name was also an Ashkenazic Jewish name from the Yiddish male given name VOLF, which is associated with the Hebrew given name BINYAMIN. This association stems from Jacob's dying words 'Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil' (Genesis. 49:27). The earliest Polish surnames were patronymic. The personal names from which they were derived were mainly Slavonic, but as the Middle Ages progressed, traditional Slavic given names, began to give way to saint's names, mainly of Latin origin. Surnames derived from Slavonic personal names are of early origin, and tend to be borne by aristocratic families. Many Polish people acquired their surnames by reason of former residence in a town or village. There are nearly 600 families bearing the arms of a horseshoe enclosing a cross. Some names were changed by immigrants whilst on the boat heading for America and Australia. These transformations were usually to names thought by the immigrants to be more respected in their native land than the one he bore. Many Poles added 'ski' to their names to attain a higher social status since such names were accorded more respect from people of Polish extraction. Thus a larger proportion of Polish names carried this termination in America and Australia than in Poland. Among the humbler classes of European society, and especially among illiterate people, individuals were willing to accept the mistakes of officials, clerks and priests as officially bestowing a new version of their surname, just as they had meekly accepted the surname they had been born with. In North America, the linguistic problems confronting immigration officials at Ellis Island in the 19th century were legendary as a prolific source of Anglicization.
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