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Updated January 17, 2024

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Jewish last names are a relatively new phenomenon, historically speaking. Sephardic Jews (from areas around the Mediterranean) did not start adopting family names until the 15th century, when expulsion from Spain meant finding a way to keep family ties. Ashkenazi Jews (from Eastern Europe and Germany) didn't take on last names until well into the 18th and 19th centuries, when governments in Europe began registering Jews as subjects. Later still, Jews from places like Yemen and India didn't adopt last names until they emigrated to Israel in the 20th century.

Typically, European Jews use four different types of surnames

  1. Place Names: For example, the surname Greenberg refers to the towns of Grunberg in Germany and Poland that both once had thriving Jewish communities.
  2. Occupational Names: For example, Hoffman is a Jewish name meaning "steward."
  3. Patronymic names: These last names indicate familial relationships. For example, the surname Mendelsohn would be given to someone who is the son of Mendel.
  4. Biblical names: These are names that indicate religious significance or a relationship to a prominent biblical figure. For example, many Jewish surnames are used to designate someone as a Levite (a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi). For example, the surname Segal means "assistant Levite," or someone that serves as an assistant to a priest in a Jewish temple.

Many Jewish people also choose meaningful Hebrew names in order to honor their culture and heritage. Jewish family names may be a translation of a Hebrew word or selected to honor a notable person in the Hebrew Bible. Many modern American Jews will give their children a Hebrew name in addition to their personal names. Use our lists below to find your last name and learn about its meaning and origins!

Popular Jewish Surnames (with English Name Meanings) 

Here are some of the most popular Jewish family names and their meanings.

  1. Levin - A derivative of the German name Liebwin. As a Jewish name, it sometimes represents a pet form of the western Yiddish term for "lion."
  2. Goldberg - Goldberg is a surname of German/Yiddish origin meaning "mountain of gold."
  3. Cohen -  From the Hebrew word kohen, meaning "priest." In Jewish culture, priests are traditionally regarded as members of a hereditary caste descended from Aaron, brother of Moses. Common variations of this name include Kohn and Kaplan.
  4. Kaplan - An Ashkenazic Jewish surname used as a translation of Cohen, from German Kaplan or Polish word for "chaplain" or "curate."
  5. Schwartz - German nickname for someone with black hair or a dark complexion.
  6. Katz - An acronym from the Hebrew phrase kohen tsedek, which translates to "priest of righteousness."
  7. Friedman -  An Ashkenazic Jewish name derived from the Yiddish word frid, meaning "peace."
  8. Perl - A surname from the old German word for "pearl."
  9. Levi/Levy - In Hebrew, Levi means "united." In the Bible, Levy was the son of Jacob and Leah.
  10. Abrams - An Ashkenazic patronymic name derived from Abraham. In the Bible, Abraham is regarded as the first patriarch who established a covenant with God.

Common Jewish Last Names (and Meanings)

A common Jewish last name is a surname that is often associated with individuals of Jewish heritage. Some examples of common Jewish last names include:

  • Horowitz - A patronymic and habitational surname derived from the Hebrew name Horovitz, meaning "son of Horowit" and "from Horovice." It refers to individuals who are descendants of Horowit and/or originate from the town of Horovice in Bohemia. This surname is popular among Ashkenazic Jews.
  • Mizrahi -  A geographical surname meaning "from the east," commonly associated with Jews who originate from North Africa or the Middle East.
  • Shapiro - A German occupational surname adopted by Ashkenazi Jews, meaning "tailor."
  • Weiss/Weisz - A descriptive surname meaning "white" in German, commonly associated with Jewish families from Eastern Europe.
  • Roth -  A toponymic surname meaning "red" in German, commonly associated with Jewish families from Germany.
  • Jacobs - A patronymic surname meaning "son of Jacob," it is one of the most common last names among Jews worldwide.
  • Feldman - A German and Jewish surname meaning "field man," representing someone who works in the fields.
  • Silverman - An Ashkenazi Jewish surname, Silverman indicates someone who works with or trades in silver.
  • Epstein - Of German origin, Epstein means "from Eppstein," a town in Germany.
  • Weinstein - A patronymic surname meaning "son of Wine," this name may have originally referred to someone who produced or sold wine.
  • Klein - A German and Jewish surname meaning "little" or "small."
  • Zimmerman - An occupational surname meaning "carpenter" in German, it was often given to individuals who worked as carpenters or woodworkers.
  • Mendelson -  A patronymic surname meaning "son of Mendel," it is derived from the Hebrew name Menachem and is commonly found among Jews with Eastern European heritage.
  • Schneider -  An occupational surname meaning "tailor" in German, it was often given to individuals who worked as tailors or seamstresses.
  • Greenberg - A common Jewish surname of German origin, meaning "green mountain."
  • Rosenberg - Of German origin, Rosenberg means "rose mountain."
  • Steinberg - A Jewish surname of German origin, Steinberg means "stone mountain."

How Can You Tell if a Last Name Is Jewish?

Jewish surnames, particularly those from Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, often have distinctive endings. Here are six of the most common suffixes in Jewish last names:

  1. -berg: This ending is derived from the German word for "mountain". Examples include Goldberg, Rosenberg, and Silverberg.
  2. -man or -mann: This is a common ending in both German and Yiddish names. It often denotes a profession or characteristic. Examples include Feldman (field man), Kaufmann (merchant), and Weisman (white man).
  3. -stein: This ending is derived from the German word for "stone". Examples include Bernstein (amber), Einstein (one stone), and Goldstein (gold stone).
  4. -baum: This ending comes from the German word for "tree". Examples include Kirchbaum (church tree), Stalbaum (mature tree), and Apfelbaum (apple tree).
  5. -witz or -vitz: This is a Slavic ending that was often adopted by Jews in Eastern Europe. Examples include Rabinowitz (son of the rabbi) and Horowitz (from Horovice, a town in the Czech Republic).
  6. -sky or -ski: This is another Slavic ending, common in Polish and Russian names, including among Eastern European Jewish surnames. Examples include Minsky, Abramovsky, and Lipski.

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