As part of our study of the genealogy of Polish and Russian immigrants to the United States, whose surnames mean, or are derived from surnames meaning, cherry or cherry brandy or liquor, we have put together this page about surname definitions. You may also wish to read our surname project page, which includes our thoughts about identifying the connections between families with surnames meaning cherry brandy, and lists additional variant spellings, by clicking here.
In studying surnames with sources in a different alphabet, by the way, it is important to bear in mind that the sound of the name is more important than the precise spelling of the name when it has been transliterated into English or another language.
All sources point to the Polish word "wisznia" or "wisnia" as the root word, no matter what suffixes have been added. If you wish to learn about the specific meanings of various endings and suffixes of Polish surnames, read http://www.polishroots.org/Research/SurnameSearch/Surnamesendings/tabid/118/Default.aspx.
We studied the list of surname definitions at http://genealogy.about.com/library/surnames/bl_meaning.htm and, unfortunately, the list included neither Vishnick nor Wishniak. But the list does include two surnames of some interest to us, Wozniak and Wisniewski. According to the author there, Kimberly Powell, the Wisniewski surname is from the Polish root word wisznia, which means "cherry tree," and includes Wisniewski as an alternate spelling. Our own searches for related surnames turned up Wishna, Wishne, and Wishni, which seem very likely to also be derived from Wisznia.
Then we found that, also according to Kimberly Powell, while the Polish name Wozniak sounds similar to our primary surnames, the meaning is totally different. It may have been derived from woz, the word for "wagon or cart," and usually refers to a man who drove a cart, or may have been derived from wozny, which means "court crier."
A similar derivation is mentioned at http://www.surnamedb.com for the Wisniowski surname, along with it's variants. The author there suggests it may mean either one who lived around cherry trees, or that the person was a merchant who sold cherry brandy and liquers.
Continuing to hunt around, we did not find any more specific definitive webpages talking about the entymological history of the Vishnick or Wishniak surnames, but we did find some interesting, although less academic, webpages. We found a reference to cherry brandy as also being called vishnick at http://www.museumoffamilyhistory.com/wit-nathanson-1913.htm. Searching the web for "Wishnick brandy" turned up a book with a recipe in it at: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=+wishnick-brandy+OR+wishnek-brandy&btnG=Search.
Then, at the eG Foodblog at eG Forums, we read that wishniak is a particular variety of cherry, but that it also can be used to refer to the dark cherry brandy that comes from it. If you search for a recipe for wishniak cherry brandy, you will find many sites that give a recipe for cherry wishniak made by adding cherries to brandy or vodka. You can find this recipe at http://recipes.epicurean.com, at http://www.guntheranderson.com, at http://www.free-recipes.co.uk, and at http://www.fooddownunder.com
Finally, if you wish to read some amusing comments about the meaning of Vishnick, see reasons 19 and 20 at 20 Reasons Why You Remember Cramer Hill. If the person posting there had read the books cited on Kimberly Powell's various specific surname pages at http://genealogy.about.com/od/surname_meaning/a/surname-meanings.htm, they may not have been so puzzled, but we also would not be able to enjoy their humor.
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