The conferring of a name upon a person was in early Biblical times generally connected with some circumstance of birth; several of Jacob's sons are recorded as having received their names in this manner (Gen. xxx.). Generally, it was the mother who chose the name, as in the instances referred to; but here sometimes the father chose it (Gen. xvi. 15, xvii. 19, xxi. 2); while occasionally other persons than the parents were the name-givers, as in the cases of Moses (Ex. ii. 10) and Solomon (II Sam. xii. 25). In early times it appears to have been the custom to confer the name immediately upon birth, as among modern Arabs, but later on it was given to the boy at circumcision (comp. Luke i. 59, ii. 21). Before the Exile children seem never to have been named after their relatives, not even in the royal family. None of the twenty-one kings of Judah was named aftera predecessor, or after David, the founder of the family. On the other hand, Jonathan's son and Saul's natural son were both named Meribaal (II Sam. xxi. 7 et seq.). Instead of repeating the same name, however, it seems to have been the custom to make use of one of the elements of the family name; thus Ahitub has two sons, Ahijah and Ahimelech. Three of Saul's family have the element ba'al (changed to "bosheth") in their names. As a consequence of this avoidance of repetition a single name was as a rule sufficient to identify a person, and it is only in the later stages of Hebrew tradition that it was found necessary to give the name of the father in order to identify the son, as, for instance, in the case of Jaazaniah ben Shaphan (Ezek. viii. 11).


It is probable that, as among other primitive races, a certain magical importance was attributed to the name (comp. Frazer, "Golden Bough," 2d ed., i. 404 et seq.; E. Clodd, "Tom Tit Tot," London, 1899). A very large majority of the 2,800 personal names (referring to about 15,000 persons) contained in the Old Testament convey a special meaning, apart from their personal application, while the meanings of the remainder probably have merely been obscured by textual corruption or the insufficient resources of comparative philology. A considerable number of these names are, however, mere eponyms. There is little doubt that this applies to the names of the Israelite clans assumed to be descended from descendants of Jacob, given in Num. xxvi.

Names may be derived from the order of birth, as in the cases of Akkub and Jacob, whose names probably mean "posthumous." Jephthah implies "first-born," as does also Becher, while names like Manasseh, Nahum, and Nehemiah refer probably to children who have come to take the place of others that have died in childhood. The idea of relationship is expressed in Ahab, probably Ahiab (Jer. xxix. 21). Personal peculiarities may give rise to a name, as Laban ("white," or "blond"), Gideon ("maimed"), or Harim ("with pierced nose"). Mental qualities may be referred to, as in the names Job ("assailant") and Barak ("lightning"). Owing to the want of specialization in Jewish social life there are no trade-names in the Bible corresponding to the Smith and Müller of England and Germany; but names taken from objects are found, especially among females. The name Rebekah seems to be derived from a sheep-rope, Peninnah from coral, and Keren-happuch from a box of face-paint. Abstract names seem to be applied especially to women, as Manoah ("rest") and Michal ("power").

Jacobs gives eighty-four names (applied to 120 different persons) derived from animals and plants ("Studies in Biblical Archeology," pp. 94-100). Leah is probably the name for gazel, Rachel for ewe (see Matriarchy). Oreb ("raven") and Zeeb ("wolf") were princes of the Midianites; and Caleb ("the dog") was the founder of the chief Judean tribe. Achbor ("mouse") and Shaphan ("cony") also occur. Jonah is the equivalent of "dove," Zipporah of "bird," and Deborah of "bee." Esther's Jewish name, Hadassah, means "myrtle." An attempt has been made by Robertson Smith and others to find in these and other names traces of totemism among the ancient Hebrews (see Totemism).

Compound Names.

A distinctive characteristic of Bible onomatology is the frequency of composite names, which form at times even complete sentences, as in the case of Isaiah's son Shear-jashub (= "the remnant shall return"). Hephzibah means "my pleasure is in her." Sometimes these composites have a preposition as their first element, as Bishlam (= "with peace"; Ezra iv. 7) and Lemuel (= "belonging to God"; Prov. xxxi. 4); but in the majority of cases these composite names are theophorous, referring to, or actually mentioning, the Deity, either by the name of Yhwh or by the name of El. The specific name of the Jewish God appears at the beginning as Jo and at the end as iah; thus, Jonathan is a doublet of Elnathan, and Joezer ("Yhwh is help") is the same as Joazar ("Yhwh has helped"). A whole theology may be deduced from the large number of Biblical names referring to acts, actions, and attributes of the deity; thus: God "gives" (Elnathan, Jonathan); "increases the family" (Eliasaph); "is gracious" (Elhanan, Hananeel); "has mercy" (Jerahmeel); "blesses" (Barachel, Berechiah); "loves" (Jedidiah, Eldad); "helps" (Eleazar, Azareel, Azariah); "benefits" (Gamaliel); "holds fast" (Jehoahaz); "is strong" (Uzziel, Azaziah); "delivers" (Elpalet, Eliphalet); "comforts" (Nehemiah); "heals" (Rephael); "conceals" (Elzaphan, Zephaniah); "establishes" (Eliakim); "knows" (Eliada); "remembers" (Zechariah); "sees" (Hazael, Jahaziel); "hears" (Elishama); "answers" (Anaiah); "speaks" (Amariah); "is praised" (Jehaleel); "is asked" (Shealtiel); "comes" (Eliathah); "lives" (Jehiel); "shoots" (Jeremiah); "thunders" (Raamiah; Neh. vii. 7); "gladdens" (Jahdiel, Jehdeiah); "judges" (Elishaphat, Jehoshaphat, Shephatiah); "is just" (Jehozadak); "is king" (Elimelech, Malchiel); "is lord" (Bealiah); "is great" (Gedaliah); "is perfect" (Jotham); "is high" (Jehoram); "is glorious" (Jochebed); "is incomparable" (Michael).

Besides these distinct names of God other divine names are used, as Adoni in Adoniram, and Melech in Nathan-melech and Ebed-melech, and Baal in Esh-baal (changed for special reasons to Ishbosheth). In some cases names of relationship seem to be used as applied to the Deity (compare Abiel, Abijah, and Abimelech, signifying in each case the fatherhood of God), and in this way Abinadab would correspond to Jehonadab, Abiezer to Eliezer. The same applies to the elements ah (="brother") and amm (= "uncle"). As, however, some of these words are applied to families, not individuals, the whole must be taken as a sentence: Ahibud means "my father is glorious" (referring to God). On the same principle it must be assumed that some verbal names are theophorous, and refer to the action of the Deity, Nathan being the abbreviation of Elnathan ("God gives"), Shaphat of Jehoshaphat ("God judges"). Thus Ahaz appears in a form corresponding to Jehoahaz in an inscription of Tiglathpileser III. Many of the theophorous endings arecontracted into a, i, or ai, as in Shebna, Hosa, Talti, and Shemai. A few names are adjectival, and may contain references to the Deity: Baruch ("blessed"), David ("beloved"), Amos ("strong"). Some names have grammatical endings which it is difficult to interpret, as oth and ith in Shelomoth and Shelomith; the final i in Omri and Barzilai probably refers to a tribal origin. Many names ending in on are animal-names, as Ephron ("small deer"), Nahshon ("small serpent"); compare Samson ("small sun"). Perhaps Reuben belongs to this class.

Post-Exilic Names.

After the Exile there appeared a tendency toward the use of foreign names, the literal significance of which was disregarded, and this tendency became more and more prominent. Biblical names ending in a (as in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) are Aramaic. Shamsherai (I Chron. viii. 26) is even said to be Arabic, while Mordecai is derived from the name of a Babylonian god (Marduk), as are Belteshazzar (Dan. x. 1), Shenazar (I Chron. iii. 18), and Sheshbazzar (Ezra i. 8) from other deities. There is in this period a tendency also toward descriptive and adjectival names with the definite article prefixed, which easily gave rise to such surnames as Hakkaz, Hakkatan, and Hallosheth (Ezra ii. 61; viii. 12; Neh. iii. 12; comp. the form "ha-Kohelet" (Eccl. xii. 8, Hebr.). In the Hellenistic period Greek names became quite usual among the Jews, especially those of Alexander, Jason, and Antigonus. Even the name of a god like Apollo occurs (Acts xviii. 24). Other names are Apollonius, Hyrcanus, Lysimachus, Demetrius, Dosa, Nicanor, Pappus, Patroclus, Philo, Sosa, Symmachus, Tryphon, Zeno. The same occurs among women, as Alexandra and Priscilla. Roman names also occur, as Antonius, Apella, Drusus, Justinus, Justus, Marcus, Rufus, Tiberius, and Titus. It was during this period that the practice arose of giving a son the name of his grandfather, as was done in the high-priestly family, the members of which were named alternately Onias and Simon from 332 to 165 B.C. Similarly, a little later, in the family of the Hillelites, the names Gamaliel and Judah succeed each other with only an occasional occurrence of Simon and Hillel. Toward the end of the period, owing to the intermixture of foreign languages, the use of double names for the same person began to be adopted, as in the instances of Simon Peter, John Mark, Thomas Didymus, Herodes Agrippa, and Salome Alexandra.

Talmudic Period.

Among the names in the Talmud there is a considerable proportion of Greek ones. A large number also are Aramaic, ending in a or ai: Abba, Huna, and Papa are instances of the former. Even Bible names were transformed in this direction—Ḥanina instead of Hananiah, Abuya instead of Abijah; while others were shortened, as Lazar (for Eleazar). Many Biblical names received renewed popularity owing to the distinction of their bearers, as those of Gamaliel, Hillel, and Ulla. The tendency toward double names existed here, as Sarah Miriam, Johanan Joseph (Giṭ. 34b), and Mahaliel Judah (Yoma 52b). Converts to Judaism, like Aquila, Monabaz, and Helena, retained their pagan names (as was the custom also in the early Christian Church). There was some objection to foreign names among the Jews of this period (Num. R.), yet legend declares that the high priest Simon promised Alexander the Great that all the children of priestly families born in the year following his visit to Jerusalem would be named Alexander, after him ("Yosippon," folio 87).

In the adoption of double names during this early period an attempt was made to translate the Hebrew terms into corresponding Greek, as Ariston for Tobi, Boethus for Ezra, Justus for Zadok, Philo for Jedidah, Theodorus for Nethaneel, and Zosimus for Ḥayyim. It was somewhat rare for the same name to be used by both sexes. In Biblical times this occurs with regard to the names Abigail, Abijah, Athaliah, Chushan, Ephah, Micha, Nahash, Shelomith, Zibiah; in Talmudic times, with regard to Ibu, Johanan, Nehorai, Pasi, Shalom; the only later instances that may be cited are Jeroham, Mazal-Ṭob, Neḥamah, Menuḥah, Simḥah, Tamar, Bongodas, and Bien-li-Viengue. To wear a man's name seemed as objectionable as wearing men's clothes. It was already noticed in Talmudic times that the use of family names had died out (Giṭ. 88a). The name of Rabbi Meïr was said to be derived from an experience at school which was regarded as being of good omen ('Er. 13b). It is recommended not to name a child after enemies of the Jews, like Sisera and Pharaoh, but to use the names of the Patriarchs (as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; Yoma 36b).

Post-Talmudic Period.

As the Jews spread throughout the lands bordering the Mediterranean they drew upon other languages for their personal names while still retaining Biblical ones, and they were especially prone to adopt names ending in el. These new names became exceptionally popular in Italy. To this source must be traced the new name Ḥushiel, composed on the same plan as the Biblical ones ending in el. The kings of the Chazars, so far as their names are known, wavered between pure Biblical names, like Obadiah, and local names, like Bulan. The Karaites in the same neighborhood adopted Tatar names, one of them being known as Toktamish; but elsewhere Karaite names are mostly Arabic and Persian.

The custom of calling one of the sons, generally the eldest, after the paternal (sometimes the maternal) grandfather, of which only nine instances are known during the Talmudic period, became more popular, especially in European states. Maimonides' grandfather was Joseph b. Isaac b. Joseph b. Obadiah b. Solomon b. Obadiah, and certain families seem to have confined themselves to a few chosen names. Thus, in the Kalonymus family there occurs Meshullam b. Moses b. Ithiel b. Moses b. Kalonymus b. Meshullam b. Kalonymus b. Moses b. Kalonymus b. Jekuthiel b. Moses b. Meshullam b. Ithiel b. Meshullam—only five names among fourteen persons throughout three centuries. As a consequence certain names became characteristic of certain districts: Japheth and Caleb in Greece, and hence among the Karaites; Kalonymus in south Italy; Sheshet and Joab in Rome; Sinai and Pesaḥ in Germany.Some of the older names were revived—Meïr, for example, of which only two previous instances had been known, the tanna Meïr and the Meïr mentioned by Josephus ("B. J." vi. 5, § 1). Samson was never used by Jews before the eleventh century. But the most striking tendency of the post-Talmudic period is the general choice of local names by the Jews for their civic relations. This led to the adoption of two names, one for civic purposes, known as the "kinnuy" (probably from the Arabic "kunyah"), the other ("shem ha-ḳodesh") for use in the synagogue and in all Hebrew documents. The latter, the "sacred" name, was as far as possible associated with the former, and was often a translation of a civic one, e.g., Asael for Diofatto, Manoah for Tranquillo, Ḥayyim for Vita; at times the civic name was merely a contraction of the sacred one, e.g., Leser for Eliezer, Sender for Alexander. In other cases mere similarity in sound was sufficient to determine the sacred name, as Mann for Menahem, Kalman for Kalonymus, and the like. Especially noteworthy was the use made of Jacob's blessing to transfer a personal name from the civic to the sacred sphere. Judah being compared to a lion's whelp in Jacob's blessing, Judah became Leo, or Löwe, in lay relationship, and Fischlin became Ephraim. Later on these name-equations became so usual that they formed doublets, which were almost invariably found together, as Dob Bär, Naphtali Hirsch, Judah or Aryeh Löb, and these again gave currency to similar correlative names, as Uri Phoebus.

Titular Abbreviations.

It was during the Middle Ages that the somewhat curious custom arose of combining the abbreviation of a title with the initials of a name to form a single personal name. This almost invariably implies frequency of mention, and, therefore, celebrity. The best-known examples are those of RaSHI and RaMBaM, who are hardly ever quoted in rabbinical texts except by these names; but there exists a large number of similar contractions, of which the following are the best known:

ADaMAbraham Dob Michaelischker (Lebensohn).
ARIRabbi Isaac (Luria) Ashkenazi.
Rabbi Isaac Ash.
BeSHṬBa'al Shem-Ṭob.
HaGRAHa-Gaon R. Elijah (of Wilna).
HIDAḤayyim Joseph David Azulai.
MaBIṬMoses b. Joseph Trani.
MaHaRaLMorenu Ha-rab Rabbi Liwa (ben Bezaleel).
MaHaRaMMorenu Ha-rab Rabbi Meïr.
MaHaRḤaSHMorenu Ha-rab Rabbi Ḥayyim Shabbethai.
MaHaRILMorenu Ha-rab Rabbi Jacob Levi (Mölln).
MaHaRITMorenu Ha-rab R. Joseph Trani.
MaHaRSHAMorenu Ha-rab Rabbi Samuel Edels.
MaHaRSHaḲMorenu Ha-rab Rabbi Solomon Kluger.
MaHaRSHaLMorenu Ha-rab Solomon Luria.
MaLBIMMeïr Löb ben Jehiel Michel.
MISHOBMordecai Jonah Shob.
RABaDRabbi Abraham ben David.
RABaNRabbi Eliezer ben Nathan.
RABIHRabbi Eleasar ben Joel ha-Levi.
RaDBaZRabbi David ibn Zimra.
RaLBaGRabbi Levi ben Gershon.
RaMaKRabbi Moses Kohen.
RaMaKRabbi Moses Cordovero.
RaMBaMRabbi Moses ben Maimon.
RaMBaNRabbi Moses ben Naḥman.
RaMBeMaNMoses ben Menachem Mendel.
RaNRabbi Nissim.
RaSHRabbi Shimshon.
RaSHBARabbi Solomon ibn Adret.
RaSHBaMRabbi Samuel ben Meïr.
RaSHBaẒRabbi Simeon ben Ẓemaḥ (Duran).
RaSHDaMRabbi Samuel da Medina.
RaSHIRabbi Solomon ben Isaac (Yiẓḥaḳi).
RaZaHRabbi Zalman Hanau.
Rabbi Zerahiah ha-Levi.
ReDaḲRabbi David Ḳimḥi.
ReDakRabbi David Kohen (of Corfu).
ReMARabbi Moses Isserles.
ReMaHRabbi Moses ha-Kohen.
RIRabbi Isaac (tosafist).
RI'AZRabbi Isaac Or Zarua'.
RIBARabbi Isaac ben Asher.
RIBaḲRabbi Judah ben Kalonymus.
RIBaMRabbi Isaac ben Meïr (tosafist).
RIBaNRabbi Judah ben Nathan.
RIBaSHRabbi Isaac ben Sheshet.
RIFRabbi Isaac Alfasi.
RIḲRabbi Joseph Kolon (Colon).
RIṬBARabbi Yom-Ṭob ben Abraham (Ishbili).
RIẒBARabbi Isaac ben Abraham.
ROSHRabbi Asher.
SHaKShabbethai ha-Kohen.
SHeDaLSamuel David Luzzatto.
SHeReẒSamuel Raphael Ẓebi (-Hirsch).
Ya'ABeẒJacob Emden ben Ẓebi.
YaSHaR (ofCandia) Joseph Solomon (Delmedigo).
YaSHaR (of Göritz) Isaac Samuel Reggio.

For a fuller list see Händler's list of abbreviations in Dalman's "Talmudisches Wörterbuch."

A somewhat similar use of a title is the combination with Messer, as in the Italian Messer Leon, while in Provence the honorary prefixes en, for men, and na, for women, are combined with the name to form Engusek (En-Joseph), Nabona, etc.

Apart from these tendencies, the general trend of nomenclature among Jews in the Middle Ages was to adopt that of the countries in which they lived, the given names being often identical with those of the surrounding peoples, and other means of identification being derived mainly from localities or offices. Certain peculiarities of various countries may be taken separately.

Arabic Names.

Among the Arabic-speaking Jews the local Arabic names were adopted, such as Ḥassan, Abdallah, Sahl; or Hebrew names were translated into the corresponding Arabic, as Eleazar into Manẓur, Maẓliaḥ into Maimun. A peculiarity of the Arabic onomatology is the "kunyah," the by-name given to a father after the birth of his son, by which he isnamed after the latter (see Abu). It may be added here that Abu al-Walid is a "kunyah" or by-name for Jonah. Akin to this is the use of Ibn to form a family name, the first of this kind among Jews. Among the best known of this formation are Ibn Aknin, Ibn Danan (hence Abendana), Ibn Laṭif, Ibn Migas, Ibn Verga. Abu also forms family names, as in the case of Abudarham, or Aboab. The Arabic article al appears in quite a number of names, as in Al-Ḥarisi. Other names of interest, given by Steinschneider in a long list of eight hundred Arabic names in the "Jewish Quarterly Review" (ix. -xiii.), are Ghayyat (in Spanish "Gayet"), Ibn Danan and Ibn al-Dayyal, Al-Haruni ("the Aaronide," the same as "Cohen"), Ibn Waḳar, Ibn Zabara and Ibn Zimra, Ḥaji (applied to Karaites who had performed the pilgrimage to Jerusalem), Yaḥya (equivalent to John or Judah). Morel is said to be derived from Samuel; Molko means "royal"; Mas'ud is equivalent to Baruch; Muḳattil ("champion") would be a proper origin for the family name Mocatta; Najar and Najara refer to carpentry; Sasun is merely a transcript of Sason ("lily"). The proper names Sa'id, Sa'ad, and Sa'dan are equally popular among Jews and Arabs. 'Abbas ("lion") corresponds to Judah, as Leo and the like in Europe. Very many Judæo-Arabic names are compounded of 'abd ("servant"), as Abdallah and 'Abd al-Walid. Al-Faraj occurs as the name of the translator at Girgenti, and it is possibly the remote origin of the curious name of Admiral Farragut, whose grandfather came from Minorca. It is considered doubtful whether the name of the Ḳimḥis is Hebrew in that form, or whether it should be pronounced as an Arabic word, Ḳamḥi ("formed of wheat").

In Spain, France, and England.

The use of surnames thus became common among the Arabic-speaking Jews, who naturally carried the custom into Spain. Among Spanish Jews are found such names as Abeldano, corresponding to Ibn el-Danan; Abencabre, corresponding to Ibn Zabara; Avinbruch, corresponding to Ibn Baruch; and the like. Biblical names often take curious forms in the Spanish records, Isaac appearing as Acaz, Cohen as Coffen or Coffe, Yom-Ṭob as Bondia, Ẓemaḥ as Crescas or Cresquez. The Ḥen family appears to have adopted a translation of the name of their home-village, Gracia, near Barcelona (Loeb, in "R. E. J." iv. 73). Indeed, among the Spaniards the tendency to adopt family names from localities is largely developed; hence were derived such names as Spinoza, Gerondi, Cavalleria, Delmonti, Lousada, and Villa Real. The name Sasportas deserves special attention, as it is really the Balearic dialectal form of La Porta.

In France the use of Biblical names appears to have been more extended, judging by the elaborate lists at the end of Gross's "Gallia Judaica." True surnames occurred, especially in the south, like Abigdor, Farissol, Bonet; but as a rule local distinctions were popular, as Samson of Sens, etc. The early Jews of England, who spoke French throughout their stay, also used Biblical names; the most popular name, in the twelfth century at least, being Isaac, next to which came Joseph. On both sides of the British Channel there was a tendency to translate Biblical names into French, as Deulesalt for Isaiah, Serfdeu for Obadiah, Deudone for Elhanan, but the ordinary popular names were adopted also, as Beleasez, Fleurdelis, and Muriel for Jewesses, or Amiot, Bonevie, Bonenfaund, Bonfil, among men. Deulacres and Crescas both occur (probably corresponding to Solomon or Gedaliah). In Germany the tendency to adopt Christian names was perhaps most marked, such names as Bernhard, Bero, Eberhard, Falk, Gumprecht, Knoblauch, Liebreich, Süsskind, Weiss, and Wolf being among those noticed in the early Middle Ages. Especially popular were compounds with mann or man, as Feldmann, Kaufmann, Lieberman, Lipman, and Seligman.


As has been seen, surnames were not unknown among the Jews of the Middle Ages, and as Jews began to mingle more with their fellow citizens the practise of using or adopting civic surnames in addition to the "sacred" name, used only in religious connections, grew commensurately. Of course, among the Sephardim this practise was common almost from the time of the exile from Spain, and probably became still more common as a result of the example of the Maranos, who on adopting Christianity accepted in most cases the family names of their godfathers. Among the Ashkenazim, whose isolation from their fellow citizens was more complete, the use of surnames became at all general only in the eighteenth century.

In the Austrian empire an order was issued in 1787 which compelled the Jews to adopt surnames, though their choice of given names was restricted mainly to Biblical ones; a list of permitted first names is given in Kropatschat's "Gesetzsammlung" (xiv. 539-567), the names marked in black letters being those reserved for Jews. Commissions of officers were appointed to register all the Jewish inhabitants under such names. If a Jew refused to select a name the commission was empowered to force one upon him. This led to a wholesale creation of artificial surnames, of which Jewish nomenclature bears the traces to the present day. Among the latter class are the following, mentioned by Karl Emil Franzos: Drachenblut, Ochsenschwanz, Nachtkäfer, Ladstockschwinger, Pulverbestandtheil, Temperaturwechsel, Eselskopf, Rindskopf, Gottlos, Wohlgeruch, Singmirwas, Veilchenduft, Stinker, Bettelarm, Nothleider, Geldschrank, Diamant, Smaragd, Karfunkel, Edelstein, Goldader, Galgenvogel, Galgenstrick, Todtschläger, Lumpe, Taschengreifer, Durst, Hunger, Fresser, Säuger, Trinker, Weinglas, Schnapser, Schmetterling, Elephant, Nashorn, Pferd, Maulthier, Maulwurf, Wanzenknicker, Saumagen, Küssemich, Groberklotz. Napoleon also, in a decree of July 20, 1808, insisted upon the Jews adopting fixed names ("L'Univers Israélite," lvii. 472). While various governments thus forced the Jews to adopt surnames, they were at the same time inclined to limit their freedom in the selection of given names. In Bohemia the provisions of the law which was passed in 1787 restricting them to Biblical names were not rescindeduntil Aug. 11, 1836. The Prussian government in the same year attempted to introduce a similar restriction in that state, which led to Zunz producing his classical monograph, "Die Namen der Juden," in which he showed, from examples taken from all periods, that the Jews had freely adopted the current and popular names of their neighbors in all parts of the globe. Owing mainly to this "tour de force" the enactment was not pressed. Similar rules have been passed by the Russian government from time to time, but without producing much effect; though even at the present day a Jewess must not bear such a name as Clara.

A recent investigation into Berlin prænomens shows that modern Jews of that city adopt the ordinary given names of their neighbors, but that they tend to keep a certain number of names, though not of Biblical origin, popular among themselves. Thus Harry is mainly Jewish, and the same may be said of Isidore, Jacques, James, and Sigbert. Almost all the Moritzes are Jewish, as well as the majority of Ludwigs, and Julius is almost equally popular among the Berlin Jews. The following popular names in most places represent the accompanying Biblical names: Isidore, Isaac; Jacques and James, Jacob; Ludwig, Levi; Moritz, Moses. Benno is used for Benjamin, and in one case Dagobert for David. Among Jewish girls Regina and Rosa are popular names (N. Pulvermacher, "Berliner Vornamen," Berlin, 1902).

But notwithstanding this permission to adopt arbitrary surnames, there was still a tendency, at any rate among German-speaking Jews, to adapt these from Biblical names in one or other of their variant forms. Thus among the 5,000 names of patrons connected with Anglo-Jewish charitable institutions in 1878 Jacobs found the most popular names to be the following:

Issac and Isaacs1"52
Myer and Myers1"64
Solomon and Solomons1"66
Jacob and Jacobs1"78
Abraham and Abrahams1"84
Woolf and Wolff1"115
Barnet and Barnett1"127
Hyam and Hyams1"135
Hyman and Hymans.1"149

It is accordingly of interest to study the different forms which Biblical names assume in various countries when used as Jewish surnames. The following is a list of the more usual forms, the original Biblical name being given first:

Aaron = Aarons, Aaronson, Aronoff, Aronson, Aronovich. Abraham = Aberke, Aberl, Aberlein, Aberlieb, Aberlin, Abers, Aberzuss, Abraham, Abrahams, Abrahamson, Abram, Abrams, Abramovitch, Abramovitz, Abreska, Abromovitch, Afroemche, Afrom, Afromle, Babrahams, Braham, Ebermann, Ebril. Alexander = Alexander, Saunders, Sender. Asher = Anschel, Ansell, Archer, Ascher, Asher, Asherson, Assur, Maschel.

Baruch = Bendit, Bendict, Benedict, Beniton, Berthold, Borach, Boruch. Benjamin = Lopes, Lopez, Seef, Seff, Wolf, Wolff, Wulf.

David = Bendavid, David, Davids, Davidson, Davies, Davis, Davison, Tewel, Tewele, Teweles.

Elchanan = Elkan, Elkin. Eleazar = Eleasser, Eleazar, Ellosor, Lasar, Lazan, Lazar, Lazarus. Eliezer = Leeser, Leser, Lewis, Leyser, Löser. Elijah = Elias, Eliasaf, Eliassof, Eliason, Elie, Elijah, Ellis, Ellison. Emanuel = Emanuel, Manuel, Mendel. Ephraim = Fischl, Fischlin, Fraime. Ezekiel = Eheskel, Ezekiel, Heskel, Kaskel.

Gabriel = Gafril, Gefril. Gedaliah = Guedallz. Gershon = Geronymus. Gideon = Gedide.

Isaac = Eisech, Eissig, Gitzok, Ickzack, Isaac, Isaacs, Itzig, Izaaks, Hickman, Hitchcock, Lach man, Sachs, Sack, Sacks, Sace, Seckel, Sichel, Zeklin. Israel = Israel, Israels, Israelson, Isril, Isserl Isserlein, Isserles. Issachar = Achsel, Bar, Baer, Barell, Barnard, Barnett, Berusch, Beer, Berlin Bernard, Berthold, Schulter.

Jacob = Benjacob, Jackson, Jacob, Jacobi, Jacobs, Jacobson, Jacobus, Jacoby, Jacof, Jainof, Kaplan, Kaplin, Kaplowitch, Kaufman, Kaufmann, Kopinski, Koppel, Koppellmann, Koppelvitch, Leppok, Marchant, Merchant, Scobeleff, Yokelson. Joel = Jool, Jolchen, Julius. Jonah = Jonas, Jonassohn, Jones. Joseph = Jees, Jessel, Jessop, Jocelyn, Josel, Joseph, Josephi, Josephs, Josephson, Joskin, Joslin, Jossel, Josselson, Yoish, Yosl. Judah = Ben-Ari, Ben-Löb, Judah, Jewell, Judel, Judelson, Judith, Leo, Leon, Leoni, Leonte, Leontin, Leuw, Lion, Lionel, Löbel, Löblin, Leubusch, Löbusch, Löwe Löwel, Lyon, Lyons.

Levi = Aleuy, Elvy, Halevy, Ha-Levi, Lavey, Lebel, Leblin, Levay, Leib, Leopold, Leve, Levene, Levenson, Levi, Levie, Levien, Levin, Levinsky, Levinsohn, Levison, Levy, Lewey, Lewi, Lewin, Lewinsky, Lewinson, Lewis, Löb, Löbel, Loewe, Loewi, Louissohn, Lovy, Low, Löwy, Lowy.

Manasseh = Manasse, Mannes, Menasci, Mones. Marcus = Marx, Mordchen. Menahem = Man, Mandl, Manin, Mann, Mendel, Mendelson, Mendelssohn, Mendl, Menke, Menken, Menkin, Menlin, Menzel, Monitz, Monnish. Moses = Mausche, Moise, Moritz, Mosche, Mosely, Mosen, Mosessohn, Mosesson, Moskin, Moss, Mosse, Mossel.

Naphtali = Cerf, Harris, Harrison, Hart, Herschell, Hershkovitz, Hertz, Hertzen, Hertzl, Herz, Herzl, Hirsch, Hirschel, Hirschkovitsch, Huzka, Zewi.

Samson = Sampson. Samuel = Samuels, Samuelson, Sanvel, Sanville, Sanwil, Saville, Schmuel, Zangwill. Simeon = Simeon, Simmel. Simon = Schimme, Schima, Schimchen. Solomon = Salaman, Salman, Salmen, Salmon, Salmuth, Salom, Salome, Salomon, Salomone, Salomons, Schlemel, Schlome, Sloman, Slowman, Solomons, Suleiman.

Zachariah = Zacharias.

Next to Biblical surnames, local ones have the greatest popularity among Jews, as can be seen from the following list of the most popular names among Alsatian Jews in 1784:

Bähr and variants22
Barach and variants31
Bernheim or Bernheimer43
Bicart and variants24
Bolack and variants13
Brunschwig and variants63
Cahen and variants15
Elias or Elie36
Gerson or Gerschem10
Guntzburg and variants16
Guntzburg and variants16
Hemerdinger and variants.17
Hirsch or Hersch30
Hirtz and variants10
Hirtzel or Hertzel48
Judas and variants18
Kahn and variants90
Lazare or Lazarus35
Lippmann and variants26
Mayer or Meyer99
Moyses and variants86
Nordemann and variants16
Picquer and variants.17
Samuel and variants81
Woog, Wogue16

Local names form, perhaps, the larger number of surnames among modern Jews, though no one locally derived name occurs so frequently as the least common Biblical one. Besides general names like Hollander, Deutsch, Frank, Franco, Frankel, almost every European country has contributed its quota. Holland has contributed Lleuwarden, Neumegen, Limburg, Van Thal, and various other Vans, as Van Ryn (= Rhine), etc.

Local Names.

Germany, of course, has contributed the largest number. Besides such well-known cities as Posen (hence Posner), Berlin (hence Berliner and Berlinsky), Bingen, Cassel, Treves (whence, according to some authorities, originated the very popular Alsatian name of Dreyfus), Dresden, Fulda (hence Fould), and Oppenheim, less familiar towns, like Flatau, Hildesheim, Bischoffsheim, Auerbach, Behrendt, Landshuth, Sulzberg, have contributed their share. A certain number of names which might at first sight seem to be derived artificially are merely names of towns, like Birnbaum (translated into "Peartree"), Rosenberg, Sommerfeld, Grünberg (hence Greenberg), Goldberg, and Rubenstein. The English Crawcour comes from Cracow, while Van Praagah is obviously the name of a Prague family that settled in Holland before going over to England. The name Gordon is said to be from the Russian Grodno. From Poland have come various general names, as Polano, Pollock, Polack, Polak, Pollak, Poole, Pool. Sephardic surnames, as already mentioned, are almost invariably local, as Almanzi, Castro, Carvajal, Leon, Navarro, Robles (Spanish), and Almeida, Carvallo, Miranda, and Pieba (Portuguese). Many Italian names are also of this class, as Alatino, Genese (from Genoa), Meldola, Montefiore, Mortara, Pisa, and Romanelli (with its variants Romanin, Romain, Romayne, and Romanel). Even in the East there are names of these last two classes, Behar (from Bejar), Galante, Veneziani, though there are a few Arabic names like Alfandari and Ḥaggis; Greek, as Galipapa and Pappo; and a few Turkish, as Jamila, Bilbil, and Sabad (Franco, "Histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman," pp. 284-285).

Going still farther east, the curious custom which prevails among the Bene Israel may be mentioned of changing Biblical names to similar Hindu names with the addition of jee, thus Benjamin into Benmajee, Abraham into Abrajee, David into Dawoodjee, Jacob into Akkoobjee. Before dismissing the local names, the names Altschul or Altschuler, derived from the Altschul of Prague, should be mentioned. To the signs of the Frankfort Judengasse are due the names of some of the best known of Jewish families: Rothschild ("red shield"), Schwarzschild, Adler, Ganz or Gans ("goose"), Schiff ("ship"), Strauss ("ostrich"), and Ochs. Schudt gives a list of these signs ("Jüdische Merckwürdigkeiten," iii. 151-154).

Official Names and Nicknames.

Turning to the next great source from which have been derived the surnames used in ordinary nomenclature—trades and occupations—such names as Kaufmann and Marchant ("merchant") become prominent. Others of the same kind are: Spielmann ("player"); Steinschneider ("engraver"); Schuster, Schneider, Schneiders, and Snyders ("tailor"; in Hebrew Ḥayyat; hence Chayet); Wechsler ("money-changer"). But there are others that are more distinctively Jewish: Parnass and Gabbay, from the synagogue officials who were so called; Singer, Cantor, Voorsanger, Chazan, Cantarini, from the singers of Israel; Shochet, Schaechter, Schechter, from the ritual slaughterer; Ballin, a bath-keeper; Shadkun, a marriage-broker; Moreno, Rabe, Rabinowitz, and Rabbinovitz, rabbis; Benmohel, one who performed the sacred rite of Abraham. A number of Arabic names are of similar origin: Al-Fakhkhar, a potter; Mocatta, a mason or possibly a soldier (Al-Muḳatil). For the various forms of Cohen see Jew. Encyc. iv. 144.

Descriptive titles, again, are mainly derived from modern languages, and are sometimes translated into Hebrew: thus, Azariah dei Rossi is known as Azariah Min ha-Adummim; or sometimes the Hebrew name is translated into the current languages: thus Jafeh ("beautiful") is translated into Schön, Schöndel, Schandel, Bonfet.

Nicknames seem not to be so frequently adopted as surnames among Jews, though so usual among them in the ordinary life of the ghetto. Yom-Ṭob and Purim are possibly to be included in this class, and it is said that the various forms of Kaiser and King are derived from players of that part in the Purim plays. Instead of nicknames, modern Jews use contractions of Hebrew descriptive names; thus, Shön represents Sheliaḥ Ne'eman, and Schatz, Sheliaḥ Ẓibbur; Katz ("cat") represents Kohn Ẓedeḳ; Goetz (in English, Yates) equals Ger Ẓedeḳ; Sack is used for a member of the Zera' Ḳodesh, or "holy posterity," and it is said that when an "s" is attached this reference is to the fraternity of that name at Speyer. Bran, Braun, or Brown is said to represent Ben Rabbi Naḥman; while Bril represents Ben Rabbi Judah Löb.

A few miscellaneous names may be referred to:Speranza, which is used as a woman's name, occurs in the form of Sprinzer in Russia; Margolious and Margolioth are variations of Margaret; and Marguerite ("pearl") finds equivalents in Perel and Perles. The Wahls claim to descend from Saul Wahl, who was king of Poland for one day. Schöntheil is supposed to be a translation of Bonaparte, and Stiebel is derived from the little room kept for the "baḥur" in rich Jews' houses.

Change of Name.

Change of name was not an unusual occurrence in Biblical times, if one may judge by the instances occurring among the Patriarchs, and it seems to have been not altogether unknown in later times. Thus, Moses Benveniste mentions a certain Obadiah who wandered from Germany to Turkey in 1654 and changed his name to Moses because the former name was unusual (Responsa, i. 40). Later in the Middle Ages a person who was dangerously sick would change his name in the hope that the Angel of Death, who summons persons by name, would be baffled thereby. This custom, known as "meshanneh shem," is given in the Talmud (R. H. 17a) and is mentioned by Judah Ḥasid ("Sefer Ḥasidim," No. 245). One of the names thus adopted was the appropriate one of Ḥayyim, for the various forms of which see Jew. Encyc. vi. 271. In order to prevent any misunderstanding at the resurrection the cabalists later recommended persons to learn a psalm the first and last verses of which began and ended with the first and last letters of their names. Particular care is to be taken in the writing of names in legal documents, the slightest error in which invalidates them. Hence there are quite a number of monographs on names, both personal and geographical, the first of which was that written by Simḥah Cohen; the best known is that of Samuel ben Phoebus and Ephraim Zalman Margulies entitled "Ṭib Giṭṭin."


It was thought that Jews of the same name should not live in the same town or permit their children to marry into each others' families ("Sefer Ḥasidim," Nos. 24-34); this seems to have some reference to exogamy. It is even urged that one should not marry a woman of the same name as one's mother; or that she should be required to change it (ib. No. 23). Even to the present day it is considered unlucky in Russia for a father-in-law to have the same name as the bridegroom. When several children have died in a family the next that is born has no name given to it, but is referred to as "Alter," or "Alterke," the view being that the Angel of Death, not knowing the name of the child, will not be able to seize it. When such a child attains the marriageable age, a new name, generally that of one of the Patriarchs, is given to it. For a somewhat similar reason it is considered unlucky in Lithuania to call an only child by his right name. For geographical names see Place-Names.


Finally, it may perhaps be desirable to refer to the frequent practise among Jewish authors of adopting pen-names. It was, indeed, customary for well-known authors of medieval times to be known by the titles of their works rather than by their own names. Thus, Jacob ben Asher is referred to as the "Ṭur" or the "Ba'al ha-Ṭurim"; Joseph Caro is known as the "Bet Yosef"; and Ezekiel Landau as "Noda' bi-Yehudah"; while even more frequently were authors known by contracted forms of their names, with the addition of some honorary prefix, as given above. Among contemporary Hebrew writers this practise is still more widely observed, though no honorary title is prefixed. A list is given by M. Schwab in his "Repertoire" (Supplement, pp. 200-207). Most Yiddish writers, indeed, appear to prefer to write under some pen-name or pseudonym, and their example is at times followed by modern writers of Hebrew, though these, as a rule, prefer to give a name composed of their initials. Following is a list of the most prominent pen-names adopted in recent years by contemporary writers. Many of these print their Hebrew names in Latin characters, and their transliteration is followed here:

AdamAndermann, D. M.
AdirDeinard. E.
Ahad ha-'AmGinzberg
Aus KapelusmacherSelikowitsh
Bas-MalkeSamostshin, Mrs.
Ben DawidDavidovich
Ben EfraimBaranow, M.
Ben NezWinchevsky, M.
Ben OmiRabinovich, M. J.
Ben PoresBukanski
Ben-TomarPerez, J. L.
BenyeminiKatzenelson, J. B.
Bernstein, DawidCahan, Abraham
BücherfresserRabinowitsch, S.
Buki ben JogliKatzenellenbogen
Chaim BarburimWinchevsky, M.
Chaim BolbetunWinchevsky, M.
DawidPinsk, D.
Debkin, T. E.Winchevsky, M.
Der DasigerWinchevsky, M.
DofekPinski, D.
Elifeelet mi-SastschimSamostschin, P.
Eli Koẓin HazhakucliLinetzki, I. J.
EmesSpektor, M.
EssbücherRabinowitsch, S.
EstherRabinowitsch, S.
Finkel, L.Perez, J. L.
FremderFried, M.
Gam-SuPerez, J. L.
Genosse CerveraKobrin, L.
Goldberg, A.Frischmann, D.
GorinGoido, J.
Graf M. I. KweetlCantor
HaggaiHaishin, G.
Ha-Jossem mi-NimirowPerez, J. L.
HerdnerLerner, J. J.
Hoido, J.Goido, J.
IsabellaSpektor, Mrs.
IshShapiro, E. I.
Ish NomiWechsler, M.
Jainkele ChochemRombro, J.
JaknehuzGoldberg, I. Ch.
Jankele TraschkeWinchevsky, M.
JehalelLewin, I.
Kebebsigbm, A.Goido, J.
Krantz, Ph.Rombro, J.
LamedwownikSpektor, M.
LampenputzerPerez, J. L.
Lez vun der RedakziePerez, J. L.
Libin, Z.Gurewitsh
Litwisher PhilosophSelikowitsh
LuziperPerez, J. L.
MabsinGraunstein, M.
Magid van EwjenishokFeigenbaum, B.
Mendele Mocher SforimAbramowitsch, S. J.
Meshugener PhilosophWinchevsky, M.
Moshe GläzelCantor
Nachman ben WowsiLewner, J. B.
PaloiPerez, J. L.
Proletarishker MagidCahan, Ab.
Puls, D.Pinski, D.
P. Z.Samostshin, P.
Rafaelowitsh, Sh.Kobrin, L.
RäuberjüdelFeigenbaum, B.
Rebi KozinRabnizki
Selikowitsh, M.Schatzkes, M. A.
Sha PeshesFeigenbaum, B.
ShelumielRabinowitsh, S.
Sholem AleechemRabinowitsh, S.
ShomerShaikewitsh, N. M.
ShulamisRabinowitsh, S.
Ssar-schel-JamMeisach, J.
SsimchessossenFried, M.
Stizer, Dr.Perez, J. L.
Welwel ZopzerikCantor
Witeblanin, L.Kobrin, L.
YabhirRittenburg, I.
YahirRabbinowicz, J. E.
YazhirMohilewer, Samuel
Zelophehad bar ChuschimLilienblum

Of course, other Jewish litterateurs besides the above have adopted pen-names. I. Zangwill has written under the names "J. Freeman Bell" (in collaboration), "Countess von S.," and "Marshallik"; Mrs. Frankau is known as "Frank Danby"; and so on; but there is nothing specifically Jewish about this adoption of a pen-name.

Bibliography: Biblical:
  • G. Buchanan Gray, Hebrew Proper Names, London, 1898;
  • T. Nöldeke, in Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. (with extensive bibliography). Talmudic: Schorr, in He-Ḥaluẓ, vol. ix.;
  • H. P. Chajes, Beiträge zur Nordsemitischen Onomatologie;
  • Bacher, in R. E. J. xiv. 42-47. Modern: Andræe, Zur Volkskunde der Juden, pp. 120-128;
  • Zunz, Namen der Juden, in Ges. Schriften, ii. 1-82;
  • Löw, Lebensalter, pp. 92-109;
  • Orient, Lit. vi. 129-241; vii. 42, 620;
  • Steinschneider, in Hebr. Bibl. pp. 556, 962;
  • idem, in Z. D. M. G. xxxii. 91;
  • Hyamson, Jewish Surnames, in Jewish Literary Annual, 1903, pp. 53-78;
  • M. Sablatzky, Lexikon der Pseudonymen Hebr. Schriftsteller, Berdychev, 1902.