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5.  JEWISH GIVEN NAMES, 1795-1925


All of the common Hebrew names used in Europe are legal Jewish names. Hebrew names consist of one or two names in combination, sometimes, three, occasionally, four.  Some or all of these names might appear in archival documents, along with kinuim used by the individual.

By the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment (1700), Hebrew names and "Hebrew-equivalent" names included the following:

  1. Tanachic Hebrew names (Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov)
  2. Aramaic and other names from the Talmud (Akiva, Shamai, Yeshu)
  3. Miscellaneous Hebrew/Aramaic names and Hebrew calques (i.e., derived from Yiddish names) (Chaim, Zeev/Volf, Tzvi/Hirsh)
  4. Absorbed Greek and Latin names (Aleksander, Antignos, Hurkanus, Marcus)

and by the beginning of the 20th century, some authorized Yiddish La'az names were added to form legal double names:

    5.  Yiddish names (Leyb, Leml, Zelig, Zusa; Beylka, Galya)

In Germany, Poland, and Hungary, specified groups of about 500 European secular La'az names were also authorized by the rabbis to be used in almost the same way as the above Yiddish names.  So, these names ("Legal Secular names") may be added to the above list for those countries:

    6.  Secular names (Adolf, Albert, Alexandra, Benno, Elisabeth, Fritz, Leopold)

All of the above names are legal names;  in accord with the laws of Hilchot Gitin, rabbis would normally require that the La'az (Yiddish or secular) names be used in a Get together with the Hebrew (Primary) name with which they normally form a Hebrew double name.  In this document, all six names are called Legal names, regardless of their origin, and names of types 2, 3, and 4 are frequently called "Hebrew-equivalent" names.

Hebrew || Patronymic || Combinations || Hamechune || Demitkari || Mixed-Lineage || Mixed-Secular ||


At the beginning of the Given Names Data Base project, as many Hebrew names as could be found were gathered together.  The sources were varied: The Five Books of Moses, Prophets, Scriptures, Mishna, Gemara.  This led to a data base of several thousand names, beginning with the very first names in the Bible, and extending up to the year 500 CE when the Talmud (Mishna and Gemara) was completed.  Of course, only a very small fraction of these Hebrew names survived the centuries and were eventually used in 19th century Europe (the object of this research).

In order to create a basic data base of Hebrew names as the starting point for 19th-century European Ashkenazic Jewry, the data from European archival research were used, coordinating these data with the larger data base.  These names were in the first four categories above, with some Yiddish names.  As Hebrew given names made their way into the data bases from European archives, they were extracted and placed in a special core data base.  Eventually, this data base stabilized at a much smaller size for 19th century Europe and has been used as the starting point for each European country's data base of Hebrew names.

It has been found that the core data base was indeed a good foundation for all European countries, yet it was also immediately clear that some names were more popular than others and were used more extensively in some countries than in others.  Indeed, it was possible to discern statistical variations in given names concentrations within any given country.

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Patronymic double names appear at first glance to be non-legal Hebrew double names:  A combination of a Hebrew name with another Hebrew name or with a Yiddish name.  In reality, such names are simply an alternative way of writing a Hebrew single name together with the father's name.

Before permanent family names were widely adopted (beginning about 1800), double names were frequently used in Germany (and sometimes in other countries) to present both the individual's name (the first given name) and that of his father (the second name), for example, Nathan_Joseph or Yitzchak_Yehuda.  Such double names also helped to distinguish between two Jews with the same given name.  For about the first generation after adoption of a surname, these double names would be combined with the "permanent" surname, and names such as Yitzhak_Yehuda Aizikowitz might appear in archival documents (the patronymic Aizikowitz means "son of Aizik").  As time went on, this type of double name disappeared.

It sometimes happened that the father's name was a Yiddish name, say, Ziskind, and that the son's Hebrew name Moshe and the father's Yiddish name Ziskind did not form a standard legal double name with the son's name Moshe.  Later, such names were replaced by true patronymic double names, such as Moshe Ziskinovich.

In such cases, the son would be called to the Tora in the classical way, namely, Yitzchak ben Yehuda, or Moshe ben Aleksander Ziskind (the true legal double name of the father).  This same format would have been used in legal documents as well.  Thus, the father's Yiddish name did not acquire the status of a Hebrew name through use with the son's name. Neither the earlier nor the later patronymic double name can be considered a legal double name under the present definition, but rather a special way of indicating the name of the father.

Patronymic Double Names of the H_H format in archival documents are difficult to distinguish from Mixed-Lineage H H Double Names without additional information.  When H_Y Patronymic Double Names appear in archival records, they are difficult to distinguish from Defined Double Names of type HaMechune (H Y) without additional information.

Such names were more common in the first half of the 19th century, than in the second half.

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Yet another type of double name found wide use during the 19th century, in this case the legal double name.  It was the typical Hebrew-Yiddish (H Y) name, for example, Arye Leib, where the second (Yiddish) name was a kinui (nickname) linked to the first (Hebrew) name. This was particularly common in Eastern and East-Central Europe where Yiddish was widely used, and much less common in Western Europe, where by this time, Yiddish was no longer a popular language, except among Religiously Observant Jews.  This type of legal double name generally involved two names that were linked to one another in some logical way (other than naming the person after two ancestors), forming a legal name. But not all Hebrew names had a kinui, and some Hebrew names had many kinuim, and even more confusingly, not all Yiddish kinuim formed legal double names.

The Hebrew term "kinui" means a nickname, but today the term covers two different categories of nickname:

(1) A nickname in the usual sense that it is derived from the Hebrew name, but has no legal function in combination with the Hebrew name, and
(2) A nickname that is linked somehow to the Hebrew name but which must be used together with the Hebrew name to form a legal Hebrew double name.

The first category is exemplified by the Hebrew name "Yaakov" and its diminutive "Yankl";  Yankl is never used in any formal way together with the original name Yaakov -- it is just a diminutive -- and indeed, the rabbis that wrote the Hilchot Gitin sometimes decried addressing a learned person using such a diminutive Yiddish name.  However, the legal double name Menachem Mendl combines a Hebrew name Menachem and a Yiddish name Mendl which must usually be used together when calling this man to the Tora -- because that is his legal name.  Thus, "Mendl" and "Yankl" are both kinuim (as defined today), but one can form legal names, and the other cannot.  The rabbis who wrote books of Hilchot Gitin always used the Hebrew technical term "kinui" in the second sense only.

Yet another type of legal double name was composed of unlinked combinations:  two unlinked Hebrew names, a Hebrew and an unlinked Yiddish name, or unlinked combinations of Hebrew, Yiddish, and secular names.  This type of name generally resulted from naming a newborn child after two different deceased ancestors.  This practice was more common in Eastern and East-Central Europe than in Western or West-Central Europe.

There are a number of sources available which explain the origins and nature of the linkage between Hebrew names and their kinuim. (5, 6, 7)

We may bring some order to this system of double names as follows.

Legal double names were created by combining two names from any of the following types of 19th-century European Jewish names:

Hebrew namesH
Yiddish namesY
Legal secular namess *
Secular names local to the subject countrySL
Secular names from outside of the subject country   SO

* Only in certain Western or Central European countries.

For this section, we shall consider the last two sets of names as a single set S.

We conceptualize these groupings of names as follows:

1.Defined Double Names (using HaMechune)H Y
Example: Menachem Mendl (H Y)
2.Defined Double Names (using DeMitkari)H Y, H H, Y H
Tamar Tamara (H Y)
Saadia Yeshaya (H H)
Bunem Shmueyl (Y H)
3.Defined Double Names (legal secular, ham.)H s
Avraham Adolf (H s)
4.Defined Double Names (legal secular, dem.)H s, s H, s s
Avraham Abraham (H s)
Abraham Avraham (s H)
Kati Kethchen (s s)
5.Mixed-Lineage Double NamesH H, H Y, Y H, or Y Y
Dvora Esteyr (H H)
Meyir Michl (H Y)
Michl Meyir (Y H)
Mendl Usher (Y Y)
6.Mixed-Secular Double NamesH S, S H, S S, Y S, S Y
Chana Bernhardine (H S)
Clementine Dvora (S H)
Doretta Gerda (S-S)
Leyb Reinhold (Y S)
Henrik Zalman (S Y)

Groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 are Defined legal double names, in that they were defined, controlled, and sanctioned in rabbinic religious books (the Hilchot Gitin) where Jewish legal requirements were presented in order to write given names in Hebrew divorce (Get) documents.  Groups 5 and 6 were not specifically dealt with in Hilchot Gitin books, but were never the less used by Jewish parents in giving their children Hebrew names.  Their legality for use in Jewish legal documents was determined by an officiating rabbi, and their use by men being called to the Tora in an aliya was an ad hoc decision by the owner of the name, with the agreement of the caller.

Types 1 and 3 Hebrew double names are those requiring the use of the term "HaMechune" ("known as"), while types 2 and 4 names are those requiring the use of the term "DeMitkari" ("called").  Type 1 was by far the more common of the first two in Eastern and East-Central Europe, and type 3, of 3 & 4 in Germany, Poland, and Hungary.  Since the Get is a legal document, the legal definition of such double names was deemed necessary in order to be precise in recording the names, so as not to introduce future problems for divorced men and woman as to their legal marriage status. Because of this over-riding goal, diminutive or pet Yiddish kinuim (like Yankl) were but infrequently used to form Defined double names.

The same stringency applied for non-defined double names (e.g., Mixed-Lineage Double Names), but in those cases, the decision as to legality for Jewish contracts was usually left up to the officiating rabbi.

Usually, Defined legal names were originally given to a single person in memory of a single ancestor.  On the other hand, the two names in Mixed-Lineage and Mixed-Secular legal double names were generally drawn from two different deceased ancestors -- but there were exceptions.

In Western and West-Central Europe, since Yiddish was much less commonly used, legal double names usually did not involve a Yiddish name, but were rather Defined Double Names involving legal secular names, Mixed-Lineage (two Hebrew names), or Mixed-Secular (a mix of a Hebrew and secular names).  Occasionally, "Hebrew" double names consisting of two secular names, or of a combination of a secular and a Yiddish name are to be found, but many of these may be more properly considered as LEGAL double names in that they might have been used in Jewish legal documents.

Much of the discussion below will apply mostly to East-Central and Eastern Europe, and only in part to Western and West-Central Europe.

There is a temptation to think of all legal double names as being applicable throughout Europe.  However, this cannot be done, for the reasons given above, as well as for other reasons.  First, there were varying regional preferences throughout Europe in the cases of both legal and non-legal names.  Secondly, regional Hilchot Gitin books reflected these differences, leading to different legal requirements as well as non-legal names listings.  Thirdly, the set of names used in smaller countries was itself smaller than the set used in larger countries;  for example, the set of Defined given names used in Lithuania is much smaller than the set for Poland, and furthermore, the Lithunanian set is not a complete sub-set of the Polish set, although there are frequently some similarities.

In this project, the Defined legal double names were prepared separately for each region, using Hilchot Gitin books for each one.  Where applicable, Defined Double Names involving legal secular names are included in the GNDBs if the Hilchot Gitin book(s) specifically mentioned this combination;  otherwise, only the legal secular name is given, and it is understood that it might be used with any Hebrew name.  Mixed-Lineage and Mixed-Secular given names are not listed in this project's data base, because each such combination is a result of special local conditions and would not be meaningful.

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One writes "hamechune" in the Get only when the Primary name is Hebrew and the subsidiary name is La'az (Yiddish or accepted secular), creating a Defined legal Double Name (H Y).  Such legal double names must be used in two different formats:

1. To call a man to the Tora in an aliya in shul:
   Menachem Mendl ben Ploni
2. To designate the legal name of a man or woman in a legal document
(Ketuva, Get, or business contract):
   Menachem HaMechune Mendl ben Ploni (for a man)
   Leah HaMechuna Leyke bat Ploni (for a woman)

The likely formats found in archival documents would be:

        Menachem Mendl, Leah Leyke (or:  Menachem, Mendl, Leah, or Leyke)

Examples of Defined HaMechune legal Double Names:

Men:  Aharon Hermaln, Arye Leyb, Asher Entshil, Avraham Everman, Azarya Zusa, Baruch Bendit, Dov Ber, Imanueyl Zusman, Lapidot Khlavne, Menachem Mendl, Nasan Zenvil, Saadia Khlavne, Shabsai Shepsil, Shneyur Zalman, Shraga Fayvl, Tzvi Hirsh, Yehoshua Falk, Yehuda Idl

Women:  Asnat Asne, Avigayil Galya, BasSheva Bashe, Dvora Dvoshe, Leah Leyke, Miriam Maryashe, Nechama Nekhe, Tsipora Tsipe

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One writes "demitkari" when both Primary and subsidiary names are Hebrew, or both are La'az, or if the Primary name is La'az and the subsidiary name is Hebrew.  Such legal double names must be used in two different formats:

1. To call a man to the Tora in an aliya in shul:
   Ezra Ozer ben Ploni, or Pindit YomTov ben Ploni
2. To designate the legal name of a man or woman in a legal document
(Ketuva, Get, or business contract):
   H Y:  Tamar demitkarya Tamara bat Ploni (for a woman)
   H H:  Uri demitkari Ahuvya ben Ploni (for a man)
   Y H:  Bunem demitkari Simkha ben Ploni (for a man)

The likely formats found in archival documents would be:

        Ezra Ozer, Pindit YomTov, Uri Ahuvya, Bunem Simcha;  Tamar Tamara
        (or any of the individual names)

Examples of Defined DeMitkari Hebrew Double Names:

Avshalom AviShalom, Achsilrod Bendet, Achsilrod Itzil, Bindet Achsilrod, Berachya Baruch, Berachya Berech, Bunem Simcha, Bunem Shmuel, Chalfon Chalifa, Chananyahu Chananya, Chizkiyahu Chizkiya, Elchanan Chanan, Ezra Ozer, Kayem Kadish, Paltiel Palti, Pindit Baruch, Pindit YomTov, Rechavia Khavie, Saadia Yeshaya, Uri Ahuvya;  Tamar Tamare

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Undefined Mixed-Lineage Double Names of these formats are those which DO use Hebrew and/or Yiddish names in various combinations, but which are not defined in the Hilchot Gitin books of the subject country as either "HaMechune" or "DeMitkari" names.  They therefor did not have formal rabbinic control, except at the level of a rabbi preparing a get or contract.  In the case of non-linked names, such double names came about most frequently as a result of naming a newborn child after two different deceased ancestors ("mixed-lineage").  Inverted names of the Y H variety and Y Y names were rarer.  Since the Hilchot Gitin books usually did not provide guidelines for officiating rabbis to use for these names, general usage was as follows:

  1. In being called to the Tora, the man could choose to use both names or either name.  Local custom may have been a factor.
  2. In legal documents (Ketuva, get, or business contract), the officiating rabbi used his own judgement as to how to specify the name to be used.  In many cases, the full double name would be used.  Some examples (in decreasing frequency) are:
       H H:  Avraham Menachem ben Ploni
       H Y:  Meyir Michl ben Ploni
       Y H:  Michl Meyir ben Ploni
       Y Y:  Bunem Bendet ben Ploni
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The use of secular names varied considerably from country to country. In some Eastern European countries (like Lithuania), virtually no secular names from the country of residence were used, but secular names from other countries were used, as if to express a silent protest against the persecution meted out to Jews in the country of residence.  Yet, in Poland, a number of local and other-country secular names (both legal and non-legal) were used in addition to Yiddish names.  And in Western Europe, local secular names were used almost exclusively and other-country secular names only occasionally, but Yiddish names, hardly at all.

In Eastern European countries where secular names existed, it is sometimes possible to use the knowledge that a certain person had an other-country secular name as a possible indicator that he or some of his ancestors originated in that other country.  But such indications should be used as working hypotheses rather than as facts, since other-country secular names were adopted for a number of reasons other than origin.

Since assimilation was much higher in Western Europe, there are many instances where newborn Jewish children may have been given a Hebrew name which was then promptly forgotten in favor of the child's secular name(s). Thus, it may not be possible in some instances to find Hebrew names, but only secular names.  It is also true that Western European Jews or persons of Jewish origin had preferences for certain secular names over others.

Applying the above observations to legal double names is problematic. For the most part, when Jews of Eastern and East-Central Europe adopted secular names, they modified them into Yiddish names, that is, the end name is recognizable as having come from a secular name, but the end result is a Yiddish name.  So, most such names fit into group 1, 2, 3, or 4, their category being Yiddish rather than secular.

In most cases where the secular name was adopted as-is (without modification) by Eastern European Jews, it was not combined with a Hebrew name in order to form a legal double name, but rather was used mainly for contacts with non-Jews, that is, as an unlinked secular kinui.

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