Names Origin

Origin of the name BASCH

By Micheline Gutmann - GenAmi no 29

I took part in a discussion about the origin of the name Basch which took place on GERSIG, the Jewishgen forum for Germany. Many gave their views and as previously stated (see GenAmi no12) there can be a variety of different origins of a name.

Our friend Lars Menk of Berlin said that in his database of German Jewish names, soon to be published by Avotaynu, there are several possible origins, the majority of which revolve around the acronym “BaSh” for Bierschenk or Bundschuh for Ben Shmu’el/Shlomoh. Plus it could be derived from the female first name “Basha” becoming Baschwitz.

One explanation emanating from Furth seems better than others: the name Basch (ancestors of Philippe Gutmann) are associated with Weinschenk (pouring wine for religious services). The earliest known person Lammlein Basch-Weinschenk died in 1723 and in his case we know of the assumption of the name Bierschenk and the various spellings and alternatives used by his descendants: Bass, Busch, Bachfeger, Badinger, Baschinger, Beerstrauch, Beispringer, Bernstein, Billmann, Birnstiel. Some moved away from the original name quite quickly and we know that at that time surnames were rarely fixed.

Some people suggest the name is connected with Bass which comes from the German “contrabass” (double bass) or singer with a bass voice. Another view is that it resulted from the acronym “BaS” from “ba’Al segan” Hebrew for Synagogue administrator. Others think of Bach, an acronym of “Ben kohanim” or Boas (usually related to the Hebrew first name Booz).

There can be a lack of logic amongst onomasticians. In a case like this it is necessary to consider which is the most compatible with what you know about the family being researched, eg if there was a singer in the family then perhaps that theory is correct.

The name MARCUS

By Micheline Gutmann

I have studied my maiden name Marcus for ten years, it is a widespread patronym from one end of Europe to another as well as in America and Israel. Alexandre Beider says in his dictionaries, that the name is mostly the kinnui (equivalent of the name used in the country of residence) of the Hebrew first name Mordekhai. This is the case in our family.

There are alternatives such as Marcu in Romania, Markus in Germany, some include a suffix ie Marx, Markhof, Markwitz, Markowitz (son of Mordekhai) and in the Netherlands Marcus is generally a first name rather than a surname.

Where does the first name Marcus come from? Of course from Latin (see Marcus Vinicius, hero of Quo Vadis or Ciceron actually Marcus Tullius Cicero) taken from Mars the god of war.

According to information from Beth Hatefusoth, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv, this first name can be found in 13th century Paris, in 16th century Morocco, in 17th century Prague with Margolis.

We recommend that you check because there is an error that the word marquis has the same origin. No, the marquis were those who controlled the boarders of feudal provinces. Also the use of the name Marcus as an equivalent for Moses or Menahem is rare.

To add to this study I telephoned numerous Marcus’ found in the telephone directories of Paris and surrounding areas. Many came from Romania and some from Poland while others are pure Catholic back to 17th century. The destruction of the registers and cemeteries during the wars, in particular the thirty years war and the 1914-1918 war prevented me from going back further.

Jewish Animal Names

By Michael Bernet, New York

Following a question asked by a Jewishgen member, our friend Michael Bernet mades the following answer..


I was under the impression that Hirsch meant "deer" which would be a translation of Tzvi, the name that often goes with Naftali (such as Naftali Tzvi Imber, who wrote Hatikva, the national anthem of the Zionist movement and now Israel). I believe that this juxtaposition of the names is due to the Biblical description of Naftali (one of the 12 tribes) that he is swift as the deer."


More than an impression, it's absolutely correct! All the way through. But the development of Jewish animal names from the Biblical origin in Jacob's blessings (Genesis 49: 1-27), is more complicated than this and can be of help in our genealogy research.

There were no animal names among Ashkenazi Jews until, the 13th/14th centuries.

[They are still very rare among Sefardim, who joke about Ashkenazim with their bears and wolves.]

Beider cites the first recorded usage of Naftali in Brandenburg in 1308, of Hirsch [the German for the deer to which Naftali is compared by his father], in Nurnberg in 1338. This is typical of the formation of animal- name kinnuyim for Germany.

The animal kinnuyim later became so entrenched that they were often coupled (Naftali-Hirsch) as a "sacred name" used in Jewish ritual, at circumcision, in calling someone to the Torah reading; they were frequently used also in ketubot and gittin (divorces), but more rarely on tombstones.

Using the actual Hebrew form of the animal name was very much an afterthought. In Germany, this back translation to the Hebrew form of the animal names dates from around 1800; according to Beider, it was nearly a century later in Eastern Europe.

Oddly, the designation given by Jacob for his son Naftali was not Tzvi but "Ayalah Shlucha" (correctly translated as "a hind let loose" in the KJV). Ayalah (hind) is actually the feminine form of Ayal, which is a male stag.

Tzvi is a back formation into Hebrew for Naftali-Hirsch but totally incorrect. There is no mention of Tzvi by Jacob; in fact, the first time the Torah speaks about Tzvi is in Deuteronomy (Dvarim), the Fifth Book of Moses, ch 12:15, in connection with animals fit to be kosher; the word is repeated three or four times in this and subsequent chapters, in all cases in the context of permitted animals.

The choice is doubly strange, for the meaning of Ayal[ah] is a name that anyone would bear with pride: "might, power, strength, potency, valor." I wonder whether the back formation of Hirsch into Tzvi rather than Ayal was inspired not by rabbis but by relativrely uneducated laymen, who were unaware of the connection of the name with Jacob's blessing, or might have been confused by the feminie form of the animal in that blessing. [The feminine Ayalah is relatively common in Israel today, but the "original" in the masculine form of Ayal is relatively rarer.]

The change back of animal names from Loeb, Baer, Wolf and Hirsch to Aryeh, Dov, Ze'ev and Zvi occured in Germany around the year 1800, and in Eastern Europe much later.

This transformation of the name derived from a tribe in Jacob's blessing to a German animal name and then to a back-translation into a Hebrew animal name is thus a useful guide in genealogy, helping with rough dates, locations, and the search for ancestors (e.g. if you have Hirsch b. 1730, don't look for a tombstone for Tzvi but for Naftali, and never, never expect to find an Ayal, except perhaps the 4-footed kind munching on the peaceful grass).

Here are the four male "animal names" used among Ashkenazim, and their transformations.

Yehuda (Judah)Loeb, LeibAryeh
Binyamin (Benjamin)WolfZe’ev
NaftaliHirsch, HerzTzvi

I leave this last name for the end, because the translation of Issachar to Dov is totally incorrect, but has nevertheless survived on pragmatic grounds.

Its history is worthy of a separate explanation.

Michael Bernet, New York

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