essay on the snopek surname

While searching details about our ancestors, I was thinking about the question where our surname comes from and how it came into being.

        When I was looking for the origin of the surname "Snopek",   

 I looked into linguistic sources, grammar handbooks  and dictionaries. The term “snopek” (Eng. small  sheaf) does not occur in the last edition of the Short  Dictionary of the Slovak Language (hereinafter  referred to as Short Dictionary) – 4th, amended  edition, issued in 2003 in Bratislava, Veda –  publishing house, editors: J. Kačala – M. Pisárčiková – M. Považaj.

    In general it is a problem to find the term “snopek” in Slovak dictionaries. I only found the term “snop” (Eng. sheaf) in the Historical Dictionary of the Slovak Language (issued in Bratislava, Veda – publishing house in 2000, head editor PhDr. Milan Majtán, DrSc.) where the term “snopek” is introduced as a diminutive occurring in historical documents from the second half of the 18th century.

    The term “snopek” in its phonetic form induces Czech or Polish term. That was the reason why I looked into dictionaries of these languages. In some Czech dictionaries it is not possible to find this term, in some of them the diminutive “snopek” occurres. But it is for sure that I could find both “snop” and also diminutive “snopek”. Following the previous, I could say that our surname has Czech or more likely Polish origin. In the context of the period use in Slovakia (see the reference to the Historical Dictionary above) this statement does not have to be necessarily true. From my point of view, I would prefer the foreign origin of our surname, particularly in connection with its insignificant occurrence in the beginning of the 18th century within the territory of present Slovakia and in connection with references about denser populating of Držkovce and its surroundings in the first half of the 18th century.  

      From the semantic point of view of the word stem of our surname, it could be possible to assume that the surname Snopek could originate as a denomination of somebody who looked like a small sheaf – “snopček” (it is hard to imagine this idea for me). I would prefer the idea that the surname Snopek denominates somebody who worked with sheaves in agriculture and probably was of a smaller figure. This theory could be supported by the fact that no Snopek occurred in lists of aristocracy – either original, or gentry such as squires, who obtained their aristocracy affiliation after they had acquired greater wealth. As I have studied the past of our ancestors, they were usually poor people dependent on agriculture. Only occasionally they worked as craftsmen (see Štefan Snopek, born in 1869, after injury).

    Finally, I have to say that the use of the stem “snop” in the surname is not being anything special also in other countries. For example, the Polish king Sigmund the 3rd was the most famous representative of the extinct dynasty of Swedish and Polish kings Vasa (from Swedish “vas” – sheaf). I was not successful to find out why this dynasty had a sheaf of corn on its crest. I also found the surname Snopek in the U.S.A.

And what is a reality?

Pursuant to the Dictionary of American Family Names, the surname Snopek comes from the nickname of somebody who reminded of a small sheaf – in Polish “snopek” means small sheaf.
(Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4) 

    This statement supports one of my previous speculations. I decided to ask linguists about the origin of our surname. This is an extract from the answer from the Ľudovít Štúr Institute of Linguistics:

    "The surname Snopek has so-called nickname character. It was originated from the general substantive “snop” (Eng. sheaf), eventually from diminutive dialect form “snopek” (Eng. little sheaf). The motivation was – probably – some physical or characteristic attributes of a person with this nickname, from which the surname Snopek was later formed.”

feminine form of the surname snopek

Feminine form of the surname Snopek is not definite. The feminine form is either Snopeková or Snopková.

The grammar of the Slovak language says that the vocal “e” or “o” can be omitted in feminine forms of surnames ending with “-ec, ek, ok”. It depends on the fact if it is or it is not omitted in declension of the masculine form of surname. In some feminine forms of surnames the vocals “e” and “o” are not omitted, if it is a family tradition, e.g. Hudec – Hudcová/Hudecová, Svitek – Svitková/Sviteková.

     We also have to take into consideration the fact that our surname is in relation with a general substantive “sheaf”. This is an answer from the Ľudovít Štúr Institute of Linguistics:

    “In the case of your surname it is difficult to determine the extent of relation with general substantive “sheaf” being used only in some dialects, thereby only in some areas of Slovakia. From the linguistic point of view both methods of declension of the surname Snopek are correct – Snopka and also Snopeka. It depends on the family custom used in your family. With regards to the fact that also the surname Snopko occurs in Slovakia, the genitive form of which is Snopka, we suppose that the declension of the surname Snopek could prefer the form Snopeka to distinguish better these surnames. Declension of the surname Snopek without omitting the vocal “e” gives us a possibility to reconstruct correctly the nominative form of the surname (i. e. when a case form Snopeka or Snopekovi occurs in a speech it is clear that the nominative form is Snopek and that Mrs. Snopeková is definitely Mr. Snopek’s wife; but Mrs. Snopková can be either wife of Mr. Snopek or Mr. Snopko)."

    In my opinion, if a feminine form in our family is without a vocal “e”, I respect it and I will use the surname in this form. In other cases as well as in general to name the whole family – I will write about the Snopek family, because it seems to be more correct to me.

forms of the surname


    When I was studying Register Offices I found not only the rare Slovak form “Snopek” but also the Hungarian form “Sznopek”. The masculine forms of substantive were recorded also for women. In the 18th century some surnames of women were recorded in the feminine form. It means that these forms were used in the native language (e. g. Eva Sedlecka, died in 1766). I found that also the short or folk like forms were used (e. g. Anna Masarička). I discovered also one exception with a particular form of the surname of Joanna, Jozef Mihalech's wife, who was recorded as Joanna Snopka when her son was being christened.

       I found several records of the surname “Snopček” or its Hungarian form “Sznopcsek” from the end of the 18th century – Adam (born 1741) and Andreas in record on his daughter Mária (born in Čuklasovce) christening. These facts prove that the surname is of the foreign origin, probably Czech, and it is a diminutive of the word “snop”. This surname was not very familiar to recording priests and they probably tried to record the surname as a diminutive of the Slovak form.


"Every generation smiles on its fathers, laughs at grandfathers and admires great-grandfathers."
William Somerset Maugham

Custom searching tool

and forms of surname

appearance of surname




If someone would be making a coat-of-arms of our family, a basis will be...a sheaf;-) And tehre will be probably also scissors or a needle as a symbol of sartorial craft.