Re: Origins of Jewish names SITE CITE and name questions #germany
I would not recommend this article. It gives no sources, contains
internal contradictions as Christine notes (not to mention having two
divergent sections devoted to animal names); and is full of errors and
Start with the "Ekelnamen" (ugly names) myth, which he calls "insulting
names." Not only does he not give any reason to believe that surnames
were assigned, but none of the examples he gives is insulting! Anyone
who thinks it's an insult to carry the name GANS (which means goose, but
probably has a different derivation in this case) should read a little
Jewish history. There have been famous GANSes since the 16thC.
Mistakes abound in the article. "Zweig" means "branch/twig," not
"wreath." "Fried" means "peace," not "happiness." HOFFMANN has nothing
to do with hope--it's a job (estate manager). So is HOLLAENDER,
sometimes (dairyman). KAGAN has nothing to do with the Khazars--it's
KOHEN spelled the Russian way. LONDON was spelled that way long before
anyone emigrated. What's the plural of 'shtetl'? And what is a
GOLDMANN is an actual German surname, and also a German-Jewish one (half
a column in Menk); but it doesn't necessarily denote a goldsmith;
besides, we have the ultra-widespread GOLDSCHMIDT for that.
The patronymics/matronymics business is also confused. There are
matronymic-based surnames (REICHLIN, RIFKIN); but women were generally
referred to by the name of their father or their husband.
The names he gives as acronyms include METZ and SACHS, which could just
as well be toponyms (place-name derived).
The list goes on and on.
On the other hand, the map at the top of the page is one of my very
Finally, along with Menk's German-surname dictionary I'd recommend
Alexander Beider's fine books on Eastern European Jewish surnames, not
to mention his (now-out-of-print) one on old surnames >from Prague.
Roger Lustig Princeton, NJ USA research coordinator, GerSIG
On 1/9/2014 7:00 PM, Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer wrote:
We sometimes have questions about this on the list, so I thought I'd[Mod note: The above is a SLATE.com blog page containing advertising.
The time tested and favored sources on this subject are the classic
_ A Dictionary of Jewish Names and Their History_ by Benzion C. Kaganoff
and, for Germany, _A Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames_ by Lars Menk ]