The surname of NOVAK is of Polish and Czech origin meaning one who came from Nowaki (new) the name of places in Poland and Ukraine; the dweller on the newly cultivated land. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. The name also denoted a shoemaker who made new shoes (as distinct from a cobbler who repaired old ones). This is the most common Czech surname, and it is also spelt NOVOTNY, NOWAK, NOWIK, NAUCKLE, NOVECK, NOVICKI and NOWINSKI. The modern state of Czechoslovakia is going through a transitional phase as a result of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Its various regions encompassed the medieval provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. The first two of these, where the language properly called Czech is spoken, were heavily subject to German cultural and linguistic influence from the Middle Ages onwards, being administratively a Crownland of Austria for much of the time until independence in 1918. This influence is reflected in the many Czech surnames derived from German, both from given names, and from vocabulary words. Occupational names are quite common in Czech as are nicknames, especially those referring to some physical feature. Many of the most common Czech surnames have the diminutive ending 'CEK', which is often found attached to these names. A notable member of the name was Vitezkav NOVAK (1870-1949) the Czech composer, born in Kamenitz. He was a pupil of Dvorak, and studied at Prague Conservatory, later becoming professor there (1909-20). His many compositions which include operas and ballets, show the influence of his native folk melody. 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.
It is a very common surname in all of the Slavic countries in Europe, including Croatia.