The name "Alter" #poland #names


One of my relatives in some documents is named "Alter" Kukuk in Poland in about 1850.  In another document he seems to be named "Efraim" Kukuk.  I'm wondering whether the name Alter was maybe given to him in his older age, something like an "elder"?   Yet, his grandson was named Alter Kukuk and kept that name even though he came to the US at 18 years old.  Any thoughts?

George Frankel
San Francisco

Researching:  Fish, Rudner, Zahler,  from Radgoszcz, Biskupice, Brzostek, Tarnow, Dabrowa Tarnowska,


The name Alter was given so he would live a long life, for luck.  Female version of that name is Alta.
If this is indeed the same person, perhaps Efraim was another one of his names - Alter-Efraim or Efraim-Alter.

Mike Vayser

Joseph Hirschfield

This is from Jewish Personal Names by Rabbi Shmuel Gorr:

"Alter is one of the amuletic names. If a male child died soon after birth or very young, the next born male child was sometimes given the name Alter alone, or in combination with another name. The parents, in giving the name, expressed their prayer that the newborn child should live to be an old man."
Joe Hirschfield
Portage, MI USA
Minoff, Minowitzki, Minowicki--Brest Livovsk, Wysoka_-Litovsk BELARUS
Hirschfeld, Herzfeld, Hirszfeld, Toppermann,Buxbaum, Buchsbaum--Skwarzawa, Gliniany, Sielec Bienkow-GALICIA

Lisa Steinberg

The name Alter is a boy's name meaning "old". Alter was originally used as an epithet for the eldest when in the company of one with the same name. Jewish parents also used it for their sons who were born sickly or after the death of an older sibling in an effort to ward off death. Men who were called Alter or Zeidel from childhood, were carrying warding names designed to protect them. "This is not the infant you are looking for Angel, this is an old man." 

Lisa Steinberg
Riverdale, The Bronx, New York
Shatz/Shatzman and Toubis from Medzhybizh, Kamieniets Podolsk, Ukraine
Segal from Porchamowycz, Poland
Ackerman from Brichany, Khotin, Bessarabia
Kuperman from Yedinitz, Khotin, Bessarabia

Karen Heller Key

I had a great uncle called Alter, and I was told in my family that a child was called Alter when he was sick or premature as a baby, as a wish that he would survive, or grow older (alter).  My great uncle had a given name but was always called Alter.

Karen Heller Key

Jeffrey Knisbacher

One Arthur TISSENBAUM, who arrived in Minneapolis around 1900 from Zhvanetz in SW Ukraine, got that English given name from an original Netanel Alter, as discovered from his tombstone in Oklahoma. His exact relationship to my great great grandfather Aaron Shmul Tissenbaum, who mentioned him on his own arrival manifest in Baltimore in 1900, is still unknown.  Jeff Knisbacher, Lakewood Ranch, Florida