Meaning and pronunciation of Yiddish surname #lithuania #yiddish #names

Michele Lock

I and several of my Lock relatives have long been puzzled by our uncommon Jewish surname, which we have erroneously assumed to have been shortened from something else. From numerous Jewishgen records, it’s clear that this simple one syllable name has been in my family going back at least to 1834, from a Revision list record for Efroim and Mire Lok of Plunge, Lithuania (my ggg grandparents).

Below is how the surname is spelled on several family gravestones here in the US:



1. How would this surname have been pronounced by a Yiddish speaker from Lithuania? Would it rhyme with ‘lock’ or with ‘lack’?


2. On Jewishgen, the name has been transliterated into English with various spellings from Russian/Hebrew records, such as the one below, for the 1874 birth of Elias Lak in Telsiai, Lithuania (only details shown):


I have seen the surname transcribed as Lak, Lack, Lok, Liak, Lyak, Ljak, Liack, Lyack, and Ljack. Is there a reason for the ‘i’, ‘y’, or ‘’j’ being inserted before the ‘a’ in the name?


3. I’ve found an 1891 Yiddish-English dictionary written by an Alexander Harkavy, in which the word לאק is given several different meanings, either a curl/lock of hair, or a lacquer/wax/varnish, or a jug. For those of you who are Yiddish speakers, which of these meanings makes more sense in terms of being taken as a surname – or could any of them be plausible? I don’t have a copy of Beider’s surname dictionary that I can consult about his take on the meaning, though I’d appreciate it if someone could do so.

Michele Lock

Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock and Kalon/Kolon in Zagare/Joniskis/Gruzdziai, Lithuania
Lak/Lok/Liak/Lock in Plunge/Telsiai in Lithuania
Trisinsky/Trushinsky/Sturisky and Leybman in Dotnuva, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine/Lev/Lew in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Vilna gub., Belarus

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