Sephardic Naming Patterns


Sephardic Jews, unlike Ashkenazi Jews often name their children after living relatives.


Naming Patterns

These naming patterns are generally fixed although there are a couple of rule exceptions.  The main rules are:


Children are named after the forebears.


The pattern of choosing names is rigidly prescribed


 The first son is named after his paternal grandfather


 The second son is named after his maternal grandfather


 The third son is named after his paternal great-grandfather


 The fourth son is named after his maternal great-grandfather


 Daughters are similarly named after their grandmothers and great grandmothers.


Where the custom obliges both parent and child to take the name of the same ancestor, they will share the same name.  It is quite common for a son to be given the same name as his father (or daughter as her mother).


A Posthumous son is named after his father or daughter after her mother.


The younger children are sometimes named after their other uncles and aunts.



It is NOT strictly correct that until 200 years ago Jews did not use family names. There are many families both Ashkenazim and Sephardim who retained common family names through generations. This is more particularly true off Sephardim Families or those families of Sephardic origin many of whom had family names that can be traced back many centuries all be it in slightly changed or a derived format. Certainly by the 12th Century Family names were well established in the Iberian Peninsula . It is true that many European states did force Jews to adopt family names either particular names or to take on a family names during the 18th and 19th centuries 

To clear up a matter which has led to many discussions with those who say that Jewish lineage cannot be traced because Jews used only first names, hence, no lineage. This does not happen to correspond with the facts. Documentation shows that the Sephardim had family names and this dates back to BCE. It is a fact that some names underwent a change under the impact of the persecution before and during the inquisition. Thus we find some Iberofied names, Castro, Franco, Esfuerzas, Cardoza, etc. and those taken from the names of cities Toledo, Toledano, Catalano, Leon etc. The taking of the names of their trade as family names was not a practice among the Sephardim. Names now common among the Sephardim are the same names we find in the history of the Spanish Jews 700/1492 both in our literature as well as in the archives and documents both of the inquisition as well as royal records.


What's in a Name?

SEPHARDIM: While Sepharad means Spain in Hebrew, the term Sephardim encompasses all of the Jewish people who follow the Sephardic rituals and customs. Now days Sephardim are regarded as Jews from the Middle East and Arab countries, whether they originated in Spain or not.
In fact only a small percentage of Sephardim are descendants of those who lived in Spain. While Spanish Jews refer to themselves as Sephardim they also refer to themselves as Spanish Jews. Greek, Italian, Moroccan, Yemenite, etc., Sephardim have lived in their respective countries (some dating back to B.C.E) usually speaking the language (or a dialect of the language) of their country and their customs and culture in the main are native to those countries. The one exception among all Jews are those pertaining to our religious practice, (with some differences.)

After 1492 as the Spanish Jews were dispersed to many lands, the local Jews of those countries where they went were attracted to the highly cultured and upbeat lifestyle of the Spanish Jews and sometimes adopted it as their own (including in some cases Ladino).


Arising from a Hebrew word meaning "German" it has taken on a broader definition that includes not only German Jews but those of Central and Eastern Europe and Russia as well. Refers to Jews of Central and Eastern European origin

PROBLEMS OF TERMINOLOGY: The only language that is common to all Jews is Hebrew and it is the only one that can be properly called the "Jewish" language.

The practice of referring to "Yiddish" as "Jewish" is Iwrong as if "Ladino" speakers were to refer to Ladino as "Jewish". Both "Yid"-dish and "Jud"-esmo translate into English as "Jewish". Further complicating and compounding this is the habit (to Sephardim offensive) of referring to Ashkenazic food, language, music, culture, etc. as "Jewish" instead of Yiddish.

There is an interesting article in the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England (JHSE) written by Edgar R Samuel "New Light on the Selection of Jewish Children's Names".