Help with the given name "Kuna" (from Belarus) #belarus #names

David Gordon

My family has always said that my great-grandmother (born 1870 in Borisov) was named Kuna.  I had long doubted that that was her "real" given name but recently discovered one of her travel documents (she came to the US, through Latvia, in 1923) and the US consulate in Riga entered her name on a receipt as "Kouna."  I've poked around and have been unable to find out much about the name.  Can anyone tell me (1) whether it would be a Yiddish (or other) name and (2) whether it is likely to have been her given name?  Many thanks in advance.

David Gordon
Evanston, IL
HORWITZ (Lapichi and Smolevichi, Belarus); GIBALOVITCH (Borisov); GORDON (Butrimonys); HURWITZ (Gomel)

Harvey Kabaker

I have two women in my tree with the given name Kuna. My guess is that it's Yiddish, because it appears in marriage records that show Yiddish names for the husbands, rather than Hebrew names. Probably you will find a lot of material by searching for Kuna in Google as well as the JewishGen name databases for Poland and Lithuania, for example. Also, search for Kuna right here in the main discussion group.

Harvey Kabaker
Silver Spring, Md.

Joseph Hirschfield

Kuna is derived from the Old Spanish word for cradle, therefore as a name it implies "childish".
The surname Kunin has the same derivation. 

Joe Hirschfield
Portage, MI U.S.A.
Minowicki, Minowitzki, Minoff---Brest-Litovsk, Wyosoko-Litovsk, BELARUS
Hirschfeld, Hertzfeld, Buxbaum, Bucksbaum, Lindenbaum--Skwarzava, Gliniany, Sielec Bienkow, Jaryczow Nowy-UKRAINE (Galicia)

Sally Bruckheimer <sallybruc@...>

Alas, what is a 'real' name. My ggrandmother was one of 20 kids born to a couple in a tiny town in Nassau. On each birth record, the mother's name was different. My ggrandmother was apparently Rachel, but so was her mother (on a different record); when 'Rachel' married my ggrandfather, her name on the marriage record was Regina. Regina was her sister (according to a birth record) and so  was her mother on another birth record.

It seems that women often used a variety of Yiddish and secular names, so who knows if there was a 'real' given name if we asked her. Rachel / Regina's daughter, my grandmother, was Matilda or Aunt Tilly to all who knew her, but her birth record in NYC says Rosa (named for her grandmother, probably, as Reis / Rosa / Rachel / Regina / every other R name you can think of except Rebecca - and Teresa).

Who said genealogy was easy?

Sally Bruckheimer
Princeton, NJ


According A. Beider, A Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names, p. 530, Kune is a Jewish name borrowed from German Christians who used the form Cuna since the 10th century as a hypocorism for Cunigundis (Kunegonde). There are a lot a variants (Kuna, Kunya, Kina, Kuntse, Kunke, etc.)
Max Polonovski, Paris


In my family from various towns in Galicia (now Western Ukraine), we have an ancestor with the name of Kuna. 

I find Phillip Trauring's 'blood and frogs' website a good source of information for first names.  Mr Trauring helpfully cites the source of his information.  So, courtesy of Mr Trauring's website we can see the following: 

אלקנה    Elkana        Elkan, Elkun, Kuna

i'm inclined to 'go with' this source for the name Kuna, unless of course A. N. Other has a different explanation.  

Malka Flekier
London, UK

Michael Sharp

My wife's great grandmother who came from Rajgrod, Poland was called Khuna / Kune - that is her name on both Polish documents and English records

The Jewish Given Names Database suggests a Germn origin for the name The Polish Given Names Database (

This is surprising perhaps, but I have also throught that it may be a corruption of Chanah (Hannah)

Michael Sharp
Manchester UK

Michele Lock

To the original poster - 

What are your great grandmother's names on her gravestone, in English and in Hebrew/Yiddish? Those should provide some useful information. 

Here in the US, did she go by Kuna in everyday life and is that her name on census records?

Also - was she getting a visa at the US consulate in Riga?
Michele Lock

Lock/Lak/Lok and Kalon in Zagare/Joniskis, Lithuania
Olitsky in Alytus, Suwalki, Poland/Lithuania
Gutman/Goodman in Czestochowa, Poland
Lavine in Trenton, New Jersey and Lida/Minsk gub., Belarus


I think that is a reasonable explanation for the boy's name Kuna, however the female name is probably from a different source.
Binyamin Kerman
Baltimore MD

David Gordon

Although she adopted the name Kate, since she came to the US late in life, she never learned English.  She lived with her daughter's family and spoke only Yiddish.  Best I can tell, she used Kate only for dealings with government entities.  Her gravestone gives her name in Hebrew as "Kuna [kaf/vov/nun/ayin] bat..."  Finally, though I am not sure why it is relevant, she paid the US consulate $1 for "document processing."

David Gordon
Evanston, IL
HORWITZ (Lapichi and Smolevichi, Belarus); GIBALOVITCH (Borisov); GORDON (Butrimonys); HURWITZ (Gomel)