Polish Americans (Polish: Polonia amerykańska) are Americans who have total or partial Polish ancestry. There are an estimated 9.15 million self-identified Polish Americans, representing about 2.83% of the U.S. population. Polish Americans are the second-largest Central European immigrant group after the Germans, and the eighth largest immigrant group overall in the United States.
The first Polish settlers arrived at Walter Raleigh's failed Roanoke Colony in 1585. Two Polish volunteers, Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko, led armies in the Revolutionary War and are remembered as American heroes. Overall, around 2.2 million Poles and Polish subjects immigrated into the United States, between 1820 and 1914, chiefly after national insurgencies and famine. They included former Polish citizens of Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or other minority descent. Exact immigration figures are unknown. Many immigrants were classified as "Russian", "German" or "Austrian" by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service as the Polish state did not exist from 1795 to 1918 when the former territories of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth were under Prussian, Austrian-Hungarian and Russian control. Complicating the U.S. Census figures further is the high proportion of Polish Americans who married people of other national descent. In 1940, about 50 percent married other American ethnics and a study in 1988 found that 54% of Polish Americans were of mixed ancestry from three generations or longer. The Polish American Cultural Center places a figure of Americans who have some Polish ancestry at 19–20 million.
In 2000, 667,414 Americans over five years old reported Polish as the language spoken at home, which is about 1.4% of the census groups who speak a language other than English or 0.25% of the U.S. population.