List of Common Jewish Last Names & Meanings |

Abramson: a patronymic name (from one’s father) meaning son of Abraham
Becker: Germanic name for baker, refers to an ancestor who was a Jewish baker
Blau: meaning blue, this name reflects the popularity of colors as surnames among German-speaking Jews
Blum: from the Jewish woman’s name Bluma, meaning “flower” in Yiddish
Cantor: one who sings in a synagogue (Chazzan in Hebrew)
Cohen: from the priestly caste who served in the Jewish Temple in ancient times
Cooperman: Cooper is a form of the Yiddish nickname Yankel, meaning Jacob
Diamond: this name reflects the popularity of using beautiful gems as surnames among German-speaking Jews
Ehrlich: a name bestowed in the Austro-Hungarian Empire meaning “honest”
Eisen: meaning “iron”, it was a popular choice for Austrian Jews
Elkayim: this Middle Eastern Jewish name refers to a family profession and means tentmaker
Fingerhut: from the Yiddish word for “thimble”, this name refers to an ancestor who was a tailor
Fishman: this name means fish-seller, and refers to a family’s profession
Gelb: Like Geller, this name means yellow in Yiddish, and was often given to people with light hair
Geller: Yiddish for yellow, this name was often given to people with lighter or reddish hair
Gold: many German-speaking Jews adopted the names of precious metals, like gold, as names
Goldberg: this name refers to the towns of Goldberg in Germany and/or in Poland, both once home to Jewish communities. The name means “golden town”.
Goldman: a popular choice among Austrian Jews for its beautiful connotation “gold” and “man”
Goldschmidt: this Germanic name refers to an ancestor who worked as a goldsmith
Green: adopting colors as surnames was popular among Austro-Hungarian Jews
Greenberg: referring to the towns of Grunberg in Germany and Poland, both once home to Jewish communities
Hakimi: this Persian surname is derived from the Arabic “Hakim” meaning wise
Horowitz: referring to the town of Horovice in the Czech Republic, once home to a Jewish community
Kaplan: a Germanic form of Cohen, the priestly workers who served in the Temple in Jerusalem
Katz: acronym of “Kohen Tzedek”, or “righteous Cohen”, one who served in the Temple in Jerusalem
Kauffman: a form of the Yiddish nickname Yankel (meaning Jacob) plus the German for man
Koppelman: derived from Koppel, a Yiddish nickname for Jacob, plus the German suffix “man”
Koval: this Slavic name refers to an ancestor who was a blacksmith
Kravitz: this name recalls an ancestor’s occupation, and is a Slavic version of the word tailor
Leib: meaning lion, this name refers to the Jewish name Yehuda, who was compared to a lion (Gen. 49:9)
Levi/Levy: of the Tribe of Levi, descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron; members worked in the Temple
Levin: derived from Levi – members of the Tribe of Levi who served in the Temple in Jerusalem
Lieberman: a nickname adopted by some Jewish families, meaning “dear man”
Maggid: from the Hebrew for teaching, refers to an ancestor who was a scholar and teacher
Margolis: meaning “pearl” in Hebrew, it often reflects a mother’s first name
Maze: an acronym – “M’zera Aharon Hakohen” – from the seed of Aaron the High Priest
Melamed: from the Hebrew for teacher, referring to an ancestor who was a teacher
Mizrahi: meaning “Easterner” in Hebrew, this name refers to families from the Middle East
Nudel: meaning needle, this name reflects an ancestor’s occupation as tailor
Perlman: husband of Perl (a common Jewish woman’s name in Eastern Europe)
Portnoy: this name refers to an occupation – it means “tailor” in Russian
Rabin: from the Hebrew word Rabbi, this name could refer to a rabbinic ancestor
Rabinowitz: a Slavic name meaning “son of Rabbi”
Rivkin: a matronymic (deriving from one’s mother) name, from Rebecca
Rivlin: derived from the name Rebecca, the Jewish matriarch who married Isaac
Roth: meaning red, this name reflects the popularity of colors as surnames among German-speaking Jews
Rothschild: this prominent family’s name pre-dates the forced adoption of surnames, and refers to the “red sign” (the meaning of the name) that graced the family’s home
Sas: an acronym of “sofer stam,” a writer of religious texts
Sasson: a matronymic name (derived from one’s mother) meaning Shoshana, “rose” in Hebrew
Schechter: from the Hebrew for butcher, one who slaughters animals according to Jewish law
Schneider: a Germanic name meaning tailor, reflecting one’s ancestor’s profession as tailor
Schreiber - from the Hebrew “sofer”, a writer of religious texts
Schwartz: this means black – many German speaking Jews adopted colors as surnames
Sebag: this name refers to the profession of a long-ago ancestor, it means dyer
Segal: a common name for members of the tribe of Levi, Segal is an acronym – “Segan Lekehunah”, or “second to the Cohen”, referring to working in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem
Shamash: reflecting an ancestor’s occupation, this means one who worked in a synagogue
Shapiro: referring to the town of Speyer, in Germany, once home to a Jewish community
Shulman: “shul” means synagogue in Yiddish – this name was adopted by some caretakers of synagogues as a surname
Singer: referring to an ancestor who sang in a synagogue as a cantor
Soros: from the Hebrew name Sarah, meaning “princess”
Stern: meaning “star”, many Austrian Jews thought this a beautiful name to choose
Weinberg: referring to any of various places in Europe which once were home to thriving Jewish communities, including the region of Mt. Weinberg in Westphalia, Germany, or towns named Weinberg in Germany, the Czech Republic or Poland
Weiss: meaning white, this name reflects the practice of adopting colors as surnames among German-speaking Jews
Wexler: Germanic form of moneychanger, one of the occupations to which Jews were restricted.

Have you ever wondered about the origins and significance of Jewish last names? These names carry a rich cultural and historical heritage, often reflecting a person’s lineage, occupation, or geographic origin. In this article, we will explore the meanings behind several common Jewish last names and delve into their fascinating backgrounds. Whether you want to reconnect with your Jewish roots or simply satisfy your curiosity, join us on this journey of discovery.

Key Takeaways:

  • Jewish last names hold deep cultural and historical significance.
  • They often reflect a person’s lineage, occupation, or geographic origin.
  • Understanding the naming conventions of Jewish surnames can provide insights into an individual’s background.
  • Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities follow different naming traditions.
  • Exploring Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish last names reveals unique meanings and contexts.

Understanding Jewish Surnames

When exploring Jewish genealogy, understanding the naming conventions of Jewish surnames is essential. The diverse Jewish community is composed of various ethnic groups, including the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. Each group has distinct traditions and practices when it comes to naming.

The Ashkenazi Tradition: Ashkenazi Jews originated in Central and Eastern Europe and have a unique way of naming their children. Traditionally, Jewish surnames in the Ashkenazi community were patronymic, meaning the surname was derived from the father’s first name. For example, if a father’s name was Jacob, his son’s surname would be Jacobson or Jacobs. This practice was influenced by Jewish naming customs where the child’s Hebrew name incorporates the parent’s name.

The Sephardic Tradition: Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, originated from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. Their naming convention differs from the Ashkenazi tradition. Sephardic surnames are generally based on geographic locations, occupations, or Jewish biblical names. For example, the surname “Benveniste” comes from the Hebrew words “Ben” meaning “son of” and “Veniste” referring to the city of Venice.

It’s important to note that there are exceptions and variations within these naming conventions, as surnames can evolve and change over time due to historical events and cultural interactions. Some Jewish individuals may have surnames that align with both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic naming practices due to intermarriage or migration between communities.

The following tables provide examples of common Ashkenazi and Sephardic surnames:

Ashkenazi Jewish Surnames Meaning
Rosenberg Rose mountain
Katz Kohen Zedek – righteous priest
Lieberman Dear man
Sephardic Jewish Surnames Meaning
Levi Descendant of the tribe of Levi
Ezra Help
Cohen Priest

These examples highlight the diversity in Jewish surnames and their origins. The rich history and cultural significance of Jewish last names add depth and context to individual and familial identities.

Ashkenazi Jewish Last Names

Dive into the world of Ashkenazi Jewish last names and uncover their meanings. Ashkenazi Jews are a Jewish ethnic group with roots in Central and Eastern Europe. Their last names often reflect their rich cultural and historical heritage. Here are some examples of common Ashkenazi surnames:

Last Name Meaning
Cohen The surname Cohen signifies that the individual is a descendant of the priestly class in Judaism.
Levi Derived from the Hebrew word “Levi,” meaning “attached” or “joined,” the last name Levi is associated with the tribe of Levi, tasked with religious duties in ancient Israel.
Rosenberg Meaning “mountain of roses” in German, Rosenberg is a common Ashkenazi surname that might have originated from a place with that name.
Friedman Derived from the Yiddish word “frayd” meaning “joy,” Friedman is a common Ashkenazi surname often associated with descendants of rabbis.
Zimmerman The last name Zimmerman has German origins and translates to “carpenter.” Ashkenazi Jews with this surname might have had ancestors involved in woodworking or carpentry.

These examples provide a glimpse into the diverse meanings and origins of Ashkenazi Jewish last names. They serve as a testament to the history, traditions, and connections that individuals with these surnames have to their heritage.

Sephardic Jewish Last Names

Delve into the fascinating world of Sephardic Jewish last names and uncover the rich meanings they carry. These distinctive surnames reflect the historical events, geographic origins, and cultural traditions of the Sephardic community. By exploring notable Sephardic names, we gain valuable insights into the diverse heritage of this vibrant Jewish group.

Meanings and Significance

Sephardic Jewish last names often have deep symbolic meanings rooted in language, history, and ancestral connections. These names act as a powerful link to the Sephardic Jewish community’s shared past, helping individuals preserve their cultural identity and heritage.

“Our Sephardic last names serve as a bridge between our ancestors and present-day generations. They tell a story and reflect our rich history, ensuring that our heritage endures.”

– David Franco, Sephardic Cultural Society

One common Sephardic last name is Abadi, derived from the Hebrew word for “Eternal.” This name signifies a connection to the infinite nature of God and reflects enduring values within the community. Another notable example is Amar, which means “to speak” in Hebrew. This name highlights the role of communication and eloquence in Sephardic culture and history.

Notable Sephardic Last Names

Last Name Meaning
Alfandari Prophet
Cohen Priest
Levi Descendant of Levi
Nachmani Comforter
Toledano Person from Toledo, Spain

These are just a few examples of Sephardic Jewish last names and their meanings. Each name carries its unique significance, reflecting the Sephardic community’s diverse roots and experiences.

By exploring Sephardic Jewish last names, we gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical context that shaped the Sephardic community. These names serve as a testament to the resilience, traditions, and pride of this vibrant Jewish group.

Symbolism and Cultural Significance of Jewish Surnames

Unravel the captivating symbolism and cultural significance embedded within Jewish surnames. These names go beyond their surface meanings, reflecting family history, religious beliefs, and the unique cultural identity of individuals. Understanding the symbolism behind Jewish last names allows us to appreciate the deep-rooted traditions and pride carried by these names throughout centuries.

Concluding Thoughts

After exploring the origins and significance of common Jewish last names, it becomes evident that these names carry a profound cultural heritage. Jewish last names are not simply labels, but rather powerful symbols of identity and belonging. Understanding the meanings behind these names allows us to appreciate the depth and richness that they bring to individuals and communities.

Preserving and celebrating Jewish last names is crucial for preserving our cultural heritage. By passing down these names through generations, we ensure that the stories and traditions they hold continue to resonate with future descendants. These names serve as a connection to our ancestors, reminding us of their struggles, triumphs, and enduring legacies.

As we embrace and honor our Jewish last names, we embrace our cultural identity. From the Ashkenazi names rooted in Eastern Europe to the Sephardic names shaped by the Mediterranean and beyond, Jewish surnames offer a glimpse into the diverse and resilient Jewish experience throughout history. They are a testament to our shared heritage and a source of pride.


What are the origins of Jewish last names?

Jewish last names have diverse origins, including Hebrew, Yiddish, and other languages. They can be derived from ancestral locations, occupations, patronymics, or personal characteristics.

What is the significance of Jewish last names?

Jewish last names hold cultural and historical importance as they reflect a person’s lineage, geographic origin, or occupational background. They provide a connection to Jewish heritage and identity.

What are some common Jewish last names?

Some common Jewish last names include Cohen, Levy, Goldstein, Rosenberg, and Friedman. However, Jewish last names can vary widely, depending on regional, cultural, and historical factors.

What are the naming conventions for Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish surnames?

Ashkenazi Jewish surnames often follow the tradition of using patronymics or ancestral locations. Sephardic Jewish surnames may be influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, or Arabic origins. Both traditions reflect the heritage of these Jewish communities.

Can you give examples of Ashkenazi Jewish last names?

Examples of Ashkenazi Jewish last names include Friedman, Cohen, Katz, Schwartz, and Rosenberg. These names often have variations and can provide deeper insights into an individual’s Ashkenazi heritage.

Can you provide examples of Sephardic Jewish last names?

Sephardic Jewish last names encompass a wide range, but some examples include Alhadeff, Abulafia, Benarroch, and Toledano. These names represent the rich Sephardic culture and its historical contexts.

What is the symbolism and cultural significance behind Jewish surnames?

Jewish surnames symbolize family history, religious beliefs, and cultural identity. They carry centuries of tradition and pride, serving as a tangible link to Jewish heritage and a sense of belonging.

Why is it important to preserve and celebrate Jewish last names?

Preserving and celebrating Jewish last names is vital as they honor and showcase Jewish cultural heritage. They contribute to the continued understanding and appreciation of Jewish identity, history, and traditions.