Meaning of surname “Moshchennik” #lithuania #russia #names #translation


I have 19th-century cousins in Eishyshok/Eisiskes using Moshchennik as a surname.  Online sources assure me it is Russian, but translate it as “cobbler,” or “paver.”  Then there are recent Russian newspaper articles that translate the word as “scammer” and “fraudster!”  The Polish equivalent, moszczenica, is a tiny town near Krakow, but is also translated as “cutworm.”  (Perhaps that is why it can mean “scammer” or “fraudster.”)  Any Slavic language etymologists out there?
Fred Millner
Trenton, NJ

Gary Dickman

On Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 03:21 AM, <flmillner@...> wrote:
I am not etymologist, but мошенник is fraudster.

Gary Dickman

Mevaseret Zion

David Barrett

That is very interesting  - true it means a' swindler' 
The immediate thought that came to mind was " the son of Moses" [ Moshe]
In other words I suspect it is an old Russian anti-Semitic word for a Jew -- which I hope is not being used today in Russia

David Barrett


Hi all

Having checked my pocket size 1960 edition of English/Russian, Russian/English dictionary,
мошенник means swindler.  So i agree that is the meaning of мошенник.

However, we have to look at this in the context of the timeline and documentation.  Russian was the official language to record matters such as birth marriage and death registrations.  I've seen many cyrillic records and very occasionally the cursive ' ш ' can look like the cursive ' ж ' (as in the 's' of  'usual').  On that basis the word wouldn't be мошенник but rather it would refer to someone of the Mosaic faith ie Moses which i take to mean Jewish.  

The registrations follow the same format: name of the informant in cyrillic, and in the case of 'Russian Poland' and possibly other areas within the Russian Tsarist Empire, followed by the name in brackets in Polish/latin characters, and lastly the occupation in cyrillic.  Very occasionally this reference to 'Mosaic' appears instead of the occupation.   

Malka Flekier
London, UK



First to address the name in question.  The name in the subject line is spelled with "shch", which is frequently used as latinization of a Russian letter "Щ", which looks similar to letter "Ш" (SH). The Russian sound, represented by "щ", sounds like sh and ch blended together. With this spelling - Мощенник - the root of the word implies that it's a person who paves roads, but I don't know if pavers were ever known by this word.  Мощеная дорога (paved road) or мощенная булыжником дорога (cobblestone road).  All searches for this word online return the context equal to moshennik - swindler.
Fred, would you be able to post a photo of the original page with this name?

Moshennik is not an anti-Semitic word and is not used as such, Russian language has far worse words for Jews.  Its root comes from the word moshna (leather money pouch with ties).  Russian - moshna, Polish - moshnya.  Moshennik - someone who steals a moshna.  Moshonnik - maker of these type of money purses.  These words, with the exception of "moshennik", have been out of use for a long time, as no one keeps their money in leather pouches or makes these pouches for a living.
Also, "son of Moses" is not a thing either.  Orthodox Christians (Ukrainians, Russians, etc) very frequently had Biblical names, unlike Jews, who had Yiddish names.  In late 19th-early 20th century Jews frequently used Russian-sounding equivalent names, until these names became known as "Jewish" names in Soviet Union.  At the same time these names fell out of use with non-Jews:

Jews - non-Jews
Movsha/Moshka - Moisey (Moses)
Avrum/Avram - Abram
Ios/Iosel - Iosif
Sura/Sora - Sara
Duvid/Dovid - David
Yankel - Yakov
cursive ' ш ' can look like the cursive ' ж ' (as in the 's' of  'usual').  On that basis the word wouldn't be мошенник but rather it would refer to someone of the Mosaic faith ie Moses which i take to mean Jewish.

I'm not sure what you mean by this - are you saying that Moshennik spelled with Ж (Моженник) means someone of Jewish faith?  Not sure how that's the case, there is no such word.  Moses in Russian is Moisey (МОИСЕЙ), there is no Ж there.  The word for Jews in the census/metrical records was universally iудей/иудей (iudey), related to Iuda/Judah (as in a Jew).  In Russian language iudey refers to someone practicing Judaism, evrey - someone of Jewish ethnicity.  Ethnicity was not much of a thing in Russian empire, people were tracked by their religion and they belonged to their locality's religious society - as in "registered to Minsk Jewish society".  In Russian empire once a Jew converted to Christian Orthodox faith, they gained all benefits of society, unavailable to Jews. There are references to Jewish ethnicity in some WWI records, but mostly all references are to faith, not ethnicity.  In Soviet Union the emphasis was on ethnicity, rather than faith, as religion was nearly outlawed.  Documents (internal passports, job personnel records, classroom rosters, etc) had a entry field for ethnicity (also known as the infamous 5th entry field, used as a clear marker for discrimination).

Mike Vayser


Thank you all.  One google result is “cobbler.”  I think this is a misunderstanding for “one who cobbles roads.”  Mike Vayser I think would agree.  I am inclined to thinking the word refers to one who cobbles things together - quick-fixing.  This would explain how a current meaning would be “fixer” in the illegal sense.  It also relates to cobbling roads- throwing rocks in the potholes. 
Thanks again.
How do you put Cyrillic characters in these posts?

Fred Millner
Trenton, NJ

Alexander Sharon

Village and stream Moshchenik аrе located in Russia proper:


populated place

58°29' N 33°54' E



235.1 miles NW of Moskva 55°45' N 37°37' E


In addition, there is village description in Russian Wiki at :

Alexander Sharon
JGFF editor


it seems unlikely that a last name would be formed from that specific village deep in Northern Russia.  There shouldn't have been any Jews in that part of Russia during the late 1700s.  A quick Google search brings up at least 2 villages with the same name in Poland, just like Fred indicated in his original post.

There is a simple solution to this question - Alexander Beider can provide the answer, but it's seems that the easiest way to ask the question if we knew what the original text looked like.  So I would like to ask if original source can be provided.

Mike Vayser

Alexander Sharon

Мoshchelnik (Мощельник) is identified as small town in Borovichi region of the Novgorod Oblast'. Back in 1897 during All Imperial Russia census, 183 Jews are identified as Residents of Borovichi uyezd (137 Jewish residents in town and 46 Jewish residents in rural vicinity - volost').

BTW, All Novgorod Guberniya in 1897 census had 1,999 Jewish residents. Fred Millner was not referring to 1700's but to 19th century data.
There are actually 10 villages by the similar names in Poland, mostly associated with the stream by the same name.

Alexander Sharon
JGFF co-ordinator


I mentioned late 1700s as that is the time by which most Jews of the Russian empire had already received their last names.  We were not discussing location of said family in the 19th century, but the origin of their family name.

Here is the answer from Alexander Beider about this family name:
Mostchenik (Lida) or profession from "paving", or Moshenka village (Brest district).
Mike Vayser


There is a difference in pronunciation between moshchennik (мощенник), a paver, and moshenik (мошенник), а swindler. Frankly, while a swindler in Russian is a very popular word, I have never heard about a paver as a profession. Must be an old word, not currently used, as this trade no longer exists. 

Efraim Gavrilovich