Hungarian and Jewish (from Hungary): status name from vajda ‘leader’, ‘governor’, a word of Slavic origin. The Hungarian name is especially common in Transylvania, where, before the creation of the independent Hungarian principality, the term had denoted the highest ranking administrative and military leader. In medieval times various Romanian village leaders, as well as the leaders of gypsy caravans, were also called vajda. As a Jewish name it was ornamental or a name taken by a rabbi.
The word has developed to take various forms in the modern Slavic languages, such as wojewoda (Polish), воевода (voyevoda, Russian), войвода or воевода (voyvoda, voevoda, Bulgarian), воєвода (voyevoda, Ukrainian), vévoda (Czech) and војвода (vojvoda, Croatian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene and Macedonian). It has also been borrowed into some non-Slavic languages, taking such forms as voievod (Romanian), vajda (Hungarian) and vaivads (Latvian).
This etymology is perfectly parallel, though unrelated, to that of equivalent Germanic titles and terms like the Old English heretoga and the German Herzog, which in feudal times was equated with the Latin dux (originally a term for either a barbaric war leader or a Roman commanding officer and/or military governor, which later evolved into such feudal and modern titles of peerage rank as duke). For this reason, the Slavic terms are sometimes translated as duke. However, although in some countries and periods the rank of voivode was equivalent to a Western duke, it was not universally so.
The tradition of electing a voivode is very old and dates back to the times of the early Slavs. Each tribe gathered at a veche (congregation) to elect its own voivode. In war, he was entitled to lead the army. When the war was over, the power reverted back to the legitimate peacetime ruler — be it the veche or a prince.
By the end of 8th century, the Slavic tribes established the first organised states in Central and Eastern Europe. The new situation demanded a more flexible command over the state, especially during the conflicts with Turkic, Baltic and German peoples. At that time, the power of the voivode was in most cases extended to include civil command and, in some instances, to religious authority. The chiefs of the tribes, princes and hospodars, delegated part of their authority to lower-ranking voivodes, while retaining the title of highest voivode and the positions of high priest and supreme judge.
With the creation of permanent Slavic states in Kievan Rus', in Bohemia and Poland, the highest authority was passed to dukes and princes. In Kievan Rus', these came from the Varangian nobles (Rurik Dynasty), while in Bohemia (Přemyslids) and Poland (Piast Dynasty) they were of local origin. The basis of the power of a prince was his band of warriors or druzhina. Initially a small group of professional soldiers, the druzhina grew in order to control the vast areas under authority of the prince. In time, the need to split the army into several units became clear and the commander of such a unit was called prince's voivode.
The highest ranking of such voivodes formed the princes' courts, while others commanded the troops in distant towns and served as advisors to the prince's delegates. In medieval Russia voyevoda was the governor of a border fortress or town. The rank was abolished by Peter the Great in the mid-18th century.
Vajda's in America
Most Vajda's in America immigrated between 1880-1920 and settled in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio around industrial centers.