This Polish and Ashkenazic Jewish surname of ZIELINSKI was originally derived from the word ZIELONY, meaning 'green', and used in various applications. As a Polish name it seems primarily to have been a nickname for a person with a sickly 'greenish'complexion. It may also have been a nickname for someone who habitually dressed in green, or who was 'green' in the sense of being immature or inexperienced. Additionally it may be a habitation name from a place named with this word. The name has many variant spellings which include ZIELONKA, ZIELENIEWSKI, ZELENKA, ZELINKA and ZIELONY. 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. 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 his 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. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States, Australia and Israel in recent years.
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