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150+ Popular Jewish Surnames and Their Origins

Judaism has a long, rich history, so it’s no surprise that the world is full of Jewish last names— even some you might not even realize are Jewish. You may even recognize the surnames of some of your favorite TV characters sprinkled throughout the list, from Seth Cohen to Jean-Ralphio Saperstein. Browse the list below to find the origin of your own Jewish last name and discover the meaning behind it. Or, scan the list of names to see which Jewish surname embodies the character you’re writing. Either way, this list of Jewish surnames is sure to have you uncover something new about the history of Judaism and Jewish people.

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History of Jewish Surnames

Jewish surnames sprouted for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons, like many other cultures, was due to population surges and the need to differentiate between two people of the same first name. Another main reason family names came about was due to the mass expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Thus, Sephardic Jews claimed their surnames as a way of maintaining their culture and community identity after being outcasted. The other main source of surname creation was due to the governments of Eastern Europe and Germany. Approximately, between the years of 1787 to 1830, the governments within this area of Europe required their countries to register their Jewish citizens. Because of this requirement, many Ashkenazi Jews were forced to create surnames that served the purpose of differentiating between Jewish residents of the same name.

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Categories of Surname Creations

Jewish surnames were inspired by or derived from a plethora of different sources. Due to the long, complex history of Judaism and its diverse range of names, there may be multiple explanations for the same name. Explore the different origins of Jewish family names with the descriptions below.

Patronymic/Matronymic Surnames

Patronymic surnames are those that are based upon a father or grandfather’s name, thus linking the father’s name with a suffix of “son of” or “belonging to”. For example, if a father’s given name was Abraham, then the child’s surname could stem into Abrahams, Abrams, Abramov, Abramoff, Abramsky, Abramovitch, Abramesku, Abrahms/zon, Abrampur, Abramzada, Barhumi, Barami, Ben Avraham, Avrahami— all of which mean “son of” or “belonging to” Abraham. It’s important to note that in Eastern Europe, many given names in Hebrew also had Yiddish vernacular forms which also sparked many patronymic surnames. For example, in Genesis 49:9, Jacob compared Yehudah to a lion, producing Yehudah’s Yiddish name “Leib” (lion). Leib then formed Leibovitch, Leibeles, Laybl, Leibinson, etc. all meaning “son of Leib” or “belonging to the lion”, otherwise known as Yehudah.

Matronymic surnames are similar in the sense that a “son of” or “belonging to” suffix is attached to their base root. However, the root word, in this case, is the child’s mother’s name vice their father’s name. For example, if a mother’s name is Soros, their child would be “Sorotskin” or “belonging to Soros”. Another example would be, if a mother’s name is Zipres, their child would be “Zipkin”. If a surname ends in “man(n)”, it means “husband of” the root word. For example, if a man’s name is Esterman, their name means “husband of Ester”.

Surnames Based on Lineage

Lineage surnames stem from those associated with the traditional Israelite priesthood (kohanim) and are descendants of Aaron the first High Priest and the older brother of Moses. Many ritual functions dwindled after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70CE. However, to keep priestly families tied to their roots and community, many of them were given ceremonial functions within the Synagogue. Their functions thereafter are what led them to hold family names connected with the traditional Israelite priesthood. In addition to these names, Levites who assisted priests in Jerusalem’s ancient Temples also received lineage surnames that reflected upon their duties. For example, last names like Levine, Levitt, or Levitas were given to Levites that work in the Temple.

Geographical Last Names

Otherwise known as a toponymic or habitational name, geographical surnames are based on places that a family lived, traveled through, were expelled from, etc. Essentially, they reflect Jewish migration patterns throughout history. These names could have been self-inflicted with the family choosing to remain connected with an area through their surname or imposed upon them for various reasons e.g. governmental practices, name differentiation, etc. An example of a geographical name is Toledano, which most likely means this person or family lived in, traveled through, or were expelled from Toledo, Spain.

Occupational Family Names

Occupational names are based upon the occupation of the person who heads a household. Surnames based on occupations may be in Hebrew, Yiddish, or other languages spoken and understood by surrounding Jewish communities at the time. A few examples of these last names include baker (Becker, Habaaz), glazer (Glazer, Glassman, Sklarsky), tailor (Hayyat, Schneider, Schneidman, Kravitz), etc. Instruments or materials used in a particular trade were also used to indicate occupational family names. For example, someone who embroiders using pearl or gold is given the surname “Perlsticker” or “Goldsticker”. This naming method was also used for those who headed or frequently occupied communal settings. For example, names such as Rabin, Rabinowitz, Rabiner, Rabi, Hacham, Lamdan, all stem from the occupation of a Rabbi. Another example would be the name Tillimzoger, representing a person that frequents community prayer and says the Psalms.

Surnames Based on Personal/Physical Characteristics

Although they were less common, some last names were given to people that had striking personal or physical characteristics. An example of this would be granting someone the name Yaqar, Toeier, Karido, or Caro to represent how honorable they are. A physical trait example would be naming a person Lang, Gross, Tawil, Klein, Kurtz, Katan, or Malik because of their great height.

Surnames Based on Aspects of Time

A small number of surnames were derived from different aspects of time such as days, seasons, or holidays. For example, Yomtov and Bondi stem from particular Jewish holidays, or names like Kislev, Nisan, Sivan, or Tammuz are derived from month names in Hebrew.

Acrostic Last Names

Certain surnames were created by forming an acronym out of the initial letters of a Hebrew word or Hebrew phrase. Some of these acrostic names related to relatives such as “Berag” from “Ben Rabbi Gershon”. Others stemmed from occupations such as “Shub” from “shochet ubodeq” (ritual slaughterer and inspector). Another common form was deriving acrostic names from famous lineage ties, such as “Katz” from “cohen zedeq” (of authentic priestly lineage).

Ornamental Surnames

Many Ashkenazic names are known as “artificial” or “ornamental” because they aren’t derived from any true source in the family’s life at the time. This means that the names were most likely made up by local authorities in an attempt to give last names to Jewish families. Oftentimes, these names are created from the following categories: colors, nature, metals and gems, plants, material, or physical traits. Using words that fell within these categories, Jewish family names were formed by either leaving the word to stand alone or combining two words together. For example, Grin (green) could be used as a last name, and Grinberg (green mountain) could also be formed into a surname.

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Popular Jewish Last Names

There are so many different ways a Jewish surname could be formed or tied back to history. Scan the list below to uncover the meanings behind some of the most popular Jewish names we hear and see today.

Aaronson

A lineage surname that technically stands for “son of Aaron”.

Abelman

Unknown origins.

Abrams

Son of “Abraham”.

Acker

A toponymic name for someone living near a field. It’s derived from the German word “acker” meaning “field”.

Adelmann

Unknown origins.

Appelbaum

Unknown origins.


Bach

A geographical name for someone living near a stream. It’s derived from the German word “bach” meaning “stream”.

Benowitz

A “son of the south” or “son of the right hand”.

Berenson

Might be a patronymic name meaning “son of Beren” but could also be pulled from the German word “ber” meaning “bear”.

Berg

A habitational name for someone living near a mountain. It’s derived from the German word “berg” meaning “mountain”.

Bing

A toponymic name meaning “dweller of the hollow”.

Bloom

Stemming from the word “bloem” or “blum” meaning “flower”.

Bloomberg

A combination of the word “bloom” meaning flower and “berg” meaning “mountain”.

Brockman

May potentially stem from the Yiddish word “bruk” meaning “paver” and thus would be an occupational name.

Broder

A geographical family name for people from Brody, a town in the Ukraine.


Cohen

A Hebrew name meaning “priest”.

Cohn

Unknown origins.

Cooper

An occupational name for a coppersmith.


David

A Hebrew name meaning “beloved”.

Dickman

Derived from the German word “dic(ke)” meaning “strong”.

Dillon

Unknown origins.

Dreyfus

A habitational name for the German city of Trier with the Latin name being “Treveris”.

Drucker

Unknown origins.


Ecker

Unknown origins.

Edelman

An ornamental name stemming from the German name “Edelstein” meaning “precious stone or gem”.

Efron

A Biblical mountain mentioned in Joshua 15:9 and a city mentioned in 2 Chronicles 13:19. This name can also be derived from the Hebrew word “ephron” meaning “small deer”.

Einstein

Derived from the German “ein” (one) and “stein” (stone).

Engel

Derived from German to mean “angel”.

Erlich

Unknown origins.

Ezra

Ezra is a prophet in the Old Testament and the name itself stems from the Hebrew word meaning “help”.


Falkowitz

Unknown origins.

Feigenbaum

Unknown origins.

Feinberg

Unknown origins.

Feldman

A toponymic name derived from the German word “feld” meaning “field”.

Fineberg

Potentially a surname based on the physical trait of someone be “fine” meaning “fair-skinned”.

Finkelstein

Stemming from the German word “finch” or “funko” meaning “spark”, this surname is an ornamental name for a fun or lively-spirited person.

Fishler

An occupational name for a fisherman or someone who worked with fish.

Flint

Unknown origins.

Fogelman

An occupational name derived from the German word “fogal” meaning “bird” and was given to someone who was a birdcatcher or enjoyed singing.

Ford

A geographical name for a person who lived near a ford.

Franco

A German name that related to a Germanic tribe called “the Franks”.

Frisch

Derived from Yiddish as meaning “fresh”.


Gabel

Unknown origins.

Garfield

A toponymic name that means “triangle field” in Old English.

Garfinkle

An Ashkenazic Jew name that can either denote an occupational name for a person that works with stones or a person with a boil, in which case it would be a name based on physical traits.

Gelber

Unknown origins.

Geller

Can stem from the German word “gellen” (to yell) for a person who speaks loudly or yells often.

Gerwitz

Unknown origins.

Ginsberg

A habitational name stemming from either Gunzberg in Bavaria, Günsburg in Swabia, or Gintsshprik (Königsburg) in East Prussia.

Glaser

An occupational name for a glassblower as it connects to the German word “glas” meaning “glass”.

Glen

Could stem from the Gaelic word “gleann” meaning “valley” and thus would be a toponymic name.

Glick

Unknown origins.

Gold

Could be an occupational name for a person that worked with gold.

Goldbaum

Could be an occupational name for a person that worked with gold.

Goldblum

Could be an occupational name for a person that worked with gold.

Goldman

Could be an occupational name for a person that worked with gold.

Gordon

A habitational name for a place located in Berwickshire, Scotland.

Green

An ornamental name stemming from the German word “grün” meaning “green”.

Gurwitz

Could stem from the Hebrew word “gur” meaning “lion cub”.

Guttenberg

An Askenazic Jewish surname stemming from the German word “guot” (good) and “berg” (mountain).


Hagen

Shortened from the Hebrew word “haganah” meaning “soldier”.

Haim

Derived from the Hebrew word “chaim” meaning “life”.

Halpert

A habitational name for a person who lived or traveled through the city of Heilbronn in Germany.

Hamberg

An Ashkenazic habitational name for the various places named Hamberg.

Hearst

Unknown origins.

Helberg

It could be an occupational name stemming from the German word “helwe” indicating a thresher or it could be a habitational name related to Helba near Meiningen.

Heller

Unknown origins.

Hersch

In Yiddish, “hirsh” means “deer” and it’s connected to the Biblical tribe Naphtali.

Himel

Unknown origins.

Horowitz

A habitational name connected to the town Hořovice in the Czech Republic.

Huberman

Could be a patronymic name meaning “son of Heber”.

Hurwitz

A habitational name connected to the town Hořovice in the Czech Republic.

Hyatt

An Anglicized spelling of “chiat” meaning “tailor” in Hebrew.


Isaac

A Biblical name that means “he will laugh, he will rejoice” in Hebrew.

Israel

A Biblical name that means “God contends” in Hebrew.


Jablonsky

A habitational name connected to places such as  Jablonka, Jablonna, or Jablonica that stem from the word “jablon” meaning “apple tree”.

Jacobi

A Biblical name that stems from the Latin term “son of Jacob”.

Janowitz

Unknown origins.


Kalinsky

Unknown origins.

Kane

Could stem from the Irish name Cathán which stems from the word “cath” meaning “battle”.

Kaplan

Stemming from the German word “kaplan” meaning “chaplain”.

Katz

A lineage surname linked to the phrase “kohen tsedek” meaning “righteous priest”.

Kempler

Could stem from the Middle English word “kempe” meaning “champion, warrior”.

Kilman

An Ashkenazic name stemming from the Yiddish word “kil” meaning “cool”.

Kleinfield

Stemming from the German words “klein” and “feld” meaning “small field”.

Knopp

Linked to the German word “knopf” meaning “button”, thus is an occupational name for a button maker or seller.

Kofman

Unknown origins.

Kohn

A varient of “Cohen” meaning “priest” in Hebrew.

Koppel

A toponymic name from the German word “koppel” meaning “paddock, pasture”.

Koslosky

Unknown origins.

Kovitz

Unknown origins.

Krakow

A habitational name linked to the city Krakow, Poland.

Kravitz

An occupational name stemming from the Polish word “krawiec” meaning “tailor”.

Kroll

A name based on a physical trait linked to the German word “krol” meaning “curly” for someone with curly hair.

Krone

An occupational name for someone who worked in a royal household; linked to the German word “krone” for “crown”.

Kugel

Unknown origins.

Kugler

Unknown origins.


Lachman

Unknown origins.

Landman

Derived from the Yiddish word “landau”, representing the town Landau in the Palatinate region of Germany.

Laubenstein

Unknown origins.

Lebowitz

Unknown origins.

Lehrer

An occupational name that stems from German meaning “teacher”.

Leibovitz

Unknown origins.

Leichtman

Unknown origins.

Leven

Could be a lineage name related to the Levites.

Levi

Could be a lineage name related to the Levites, also stems from the Hebrew word “levi” meaning “joining”.

Levine

Could be a lineage name related to the Levites.

Liberman

Linked to the Yiddish word “lib” meaning “dear” or “beloved”.

Lindenberg

A habitational name connected to Lindenberg in Germany.

Lipman

Could be a habitational name stemming from the Polish word “lipa” meaning “lime tree”.

Lipschitz

Could be a habitational name stemming from the Polish word “lipa” meaning “lime tree”.

Loewe

A variant of the name “Löwe” meaning “lion” in German.


Maltzman

Unknown origins.

Mayer

An occupational surname linked to the German word “meier” meaning “bailiff, administrator”.

Mehler

Unknown origins.

Mendelson

A patronymic name meaning “son of Mendel”.

Milgram

Unknown origins.

Mindal

Unknown origins.

Morganstein

An ornamental name stemming from the German words “morgen” and “stein” meaning “morning stone”.

Moses

A Biblical name meaning “deliver” in Hebrew.


Nacht

A time-oriented name or an ornamental name stemming from the German word “nacht” meaning “night”.

Nemeroff

A habitational name related to the town Nemirov in the Ukraine.

Nerenberg

An Ashkenazic name connected to Nuremberg, Germany.

Nichols

Linked to the German word “nicht” meaning “sober”, this surname could be occupationally given to a bartender.


Oberman

Unknown origins.


Perlman

An occupational name for someone who works with pearls.

Polansky

Could be a habitational name connected to someone who is Polish or came from Poland.


Rayman

Unknown origins.

Reidel

Unknown origins.

Reuban

Unknown origins.

Romanoff

Meaning “son of Roman”; this was the surname of the last dynasty of Roman Tsars during the Russian Empire.

Rosenbaum

An ornamental name stemming from the German name “Rosenbaum” meaning “rose bush”.

Rosenkranz

An ornamental name stemming from the German name “Rosenkranz” meaning “rose wreath”.

Ross

A habitational name for various places named Ross in Northern Scotland.

Rothchild

A name based on physical characteristics as it stems from the German word “rot” meaning “red” for those with red hair.

Ruderman

Could be linked to the German word “rude” or “rü(e)de” meaning “hound”, thus becoming an occupational name for a hound hunter.

Rutenberg

Unknown origins.


Sachs

Tied to the Germanic tribe known as the Saxons stemming from the German word “sah” meaning “knife”.

Sackman

A German occupational name for a baggage servant.

Sagan

Unknown origins.

Salzberg

Stemming from the German word “salz” meaning “salt”, this is an occupational name for a salt seller.

Sandler

An ornamental name for someone who lived on a sandy patch of soil.

Saperstein

An ornamental name that combines the Hebrew word “sapir” (sapphire) and the German word “stein” (stone).

Savitz

Unknown origins.

Schatzman

Stemming from the German word “schatz” for “treasure”, this is an occupational name for a treasurer.

Scheffer

Unknown origins.

Scheiber

Unknown origins.

Shapiro

With Aramaic influence, this name drives from Hebrew to mean “pretty” or “lovely”.

Sheffer

Unknown origins.

Shick

Unknown origins.

Shifman

Unknown origins.

Shur

Unknown origins.

Schwartz

Linked to the German word “swarz” meaning “black”, this name stems from physical characteristics and given to those with black hair or a dark complexion.

Siegal

Occupational name for a seal maker, stemming from the Latin word “sigillum” meaning “seal”.

Speer

Unknown origins.

Spiegelberg

A geographical name linked to the German words “spiegel” (lookout point) and “berg” (mountain).

Steinbach

A toponymic name inked to the German words “stein” (stone) and “bach” (stream).

Stillman

Unknown origins.


Talman

An ornamental name stemming from the Hebrew word “tal” meaning “dew”.

Tenenbaum

An ornamental name stemming from the German word “tannenbaum” meaning “fir tree”.

Tilman

Unknown origins.

Truman

In Middle English, this name translates to “trusty man”.

Turner

Derived from the Old English word “turnian” meaning “to turn”, thus it’s an occupational name for one that worked with a lathe.


Uhr

Unknown origins.

Ullman

A habitational name related to Ulm in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.


Vogel

An occupational name derived from the German word “fogal” meaning “bird” and was given to someone who was a birdcatcher or enjoyed singing.


Wallace

Stems from Germanic origin to mean “foreigner” or “stranger”.

Weiner

A variant of the German name “Wagner” which stems from the word “wagener” meaning “wagon maker”.

Weinrich

Unknown origins.

Weisz

An ornamental name linked to the German word “wiz” meaning “white”.

Wilderman

A toponymic name linked to the word “wild” for someone who lived in an area where the habitation was uncontrollable.

Winterstein

An ornamental name linked to the Old English word “winter” (cold) and the German word “stein” (stone).

Wohlberg

An ornamental name linked to the German word “wohl” (pleasant) and “berg” (mountain).


Yager

Anglicized spelling of the German word “jäger” meaning “hunter”, thus is mos likely an occupational surname.

Yampolsky

Unknown origins.

Yurkovich

Unknown origins.


Zalman

A Biblical name meaning “peace” in Hebrew.

Zechman

An occupational name stemming from the Yiddish word “tsekh” meaning “build”.

Zelinger

Could be a habitational name connected to Celle, Germany.

Zimmel

Unknown origins.

Zion

A Biblical name that refers to Heaven.

Zuckerberg

An ornamental name stemming from the German words “zucker” (sugar) and “berg” (mountain).

Zukerman

Could be an occupational name linked to German word “zucker” (sugar), thus referring to a person that sells sugar.


It is common for a Jewish surname to be derived from various languages or places. The most common derivation for Jewish last names stems from the German language, various Hebrew names or parts of the Hebrew language, or Yiddish.

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About the author
Part-time writer, full-time romantic. Future author, forever Pisces. Read more articles from Maria on Thought Catalog.

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