Sephardic Jews are direct descendants of early Jewish communities belonging to the Iberian Peninsula.
Due to the Spanish Inquisition, many Sephardic Jews became victims of persecution and had to flee from their homes. A lot of Sephardic Jews decided to run away to cities that are currently located in present-day Spain and Portugal.
King Manuel's contradictory law in the late 13th century removed any protection that was previously provided to Sephardic Jews in the Portuguese Kingdom. Therefore, many Portuguese Jews were forced to evacuate their homes and ancestral properties in order to avoid extinction. Sephardic Jews were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula to various parts of North Africa, Southern and Southeastern Europe, South America, and Asia. They either relocated near pre-existing Jewish communities or created new territories of their own. This is the main reason why there are so many divisions within Sephardic surnames, such as Italian Sephardic surnames, Sephardic Jewish Names, Spanish Jewish surnames, and French Jewish surnames.
The main difference between the Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews is their place of origin. Sephardic Jews are mainly Spanish Jews that originate from regions in the Iberian Peninsula, while Ashkenazi Jews are defined as Jews that established communities in Germany and Eastern European countries. This means that their last names will have varying influences, but there are also common last names, for example, the surname Cohen can belong to both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews.
There are various ways to prove one's Sephardic lineage. A person's family name is the primary indicator of Jewish ancestry. If you or your family speak Ladino at your home or have an established connection to any Sephardic communities or synagogues, you will find it easier to prove your relation to any traditional Sephardic family names. Documentation is extremely necessary for those who wish to prove their Sephardic lineage. A certificate from a traditional Jewish community, your birth certificate, a copy of your passport, a legal form, and a criminal record certificate with an attached apostille are the main documents that are required to prove the legitimacy of Sephardic names and surnames. We've compiled together a list of Sephardic surnames along with their meanings for your reference.
Common Sephardic Last Names
Sephardic names are not just common in European and African countries, but also in many Asian and South American nations. The Jews make up one of the largest communities in the world, with fervent worshippers present in all corners of the globe. Many modern Sephardic names were influenced by regional changes, temporal decay, and ethnic oppression. Yet, the community persisted and flourished in all parts of the world with unrelenting grace.
Here is a list of common Sephardic Jewish last names.
1. Abeccassis meaning "storyteller". George Edgar Abecassis was a Formula One racing driver.
2. Abergel meaning "one-footed". This Sephardic surname is widespread among Morrocan Jews and other Jews of Meditteranean descent.
3. Abravanel meaning "priest". Many members of the Abravanel family claim to be direct descendants of King David, Israel's second king.
4. Abreu meaning "Abraham the Hebrew". Bob Kelly Abreu was a Venezuelan professional baseball player who played for various teams in Major League Baseball (MLB).
5. Alkana meaning "God bought".
6. Almo meaning "one who provides to the poor".
7. Amaral meaning "a plantation of amara grapes". Tarsila do Amaral was a leading Brazilian modernist painter.
8. Bassano meaning "short in stature". Jacopo Bassano was an Italian painter who studied under the renowned Rennaisance painter Bonifazio Veronese in the city of Venice.
9. Benayoun meaning "son of Ayoun".
10. Bernal meaning "bear-brave". Agustin Bernal was a Mexican producer, actor, writer, and film director.
11. Carvalho meaning "oak". Daniel da Cruz Carvalho is a former Portuguese football player who played in the midfielder position.
12. Cohen meaning "priest". Cohen is a prominent Sephardic surname found in many Jewish communities.
13. Curiel meaning "courier". Alonso de Curiel was a prominent Spanish diplomat and son of the prosperous merchant Diego de Curiel.
14. Franco meaning "free". This was a common surname acquired by Jewish families living in the Iberian Peninsula.
15. Gabay meaning "warden". During the Spanish Inquisition, wardens were mostly in charge of collecting fees, taxes, bills, and other payments from a country's citizens.
16. Galante meaning "chivalrous". Galante is one of the most ubiquitous Italian Jewish surnames.
17. Gill meaning "joy".
18. Isserlis meaning "Israel". Steven Isserlis is a distinguished British Cello Player who descended from a long line of Russian Jews.
19. Lattes meaning "a commune". Cesar Mansueto Guilio Lattes is credited as being one of the founders of the pion, a subatomic particle
20. Mansour meaning "victorious".
21. Marciano meaning "Martians".
22. Mena meaning "various". Juan de Mena was a Spanish poet in the Renaissance period.
23. Oliveira meaning "of the olive tree".
24. Pallache meaning "palaces". The Pallache surname was used by a well-known Sephardic Jewish family who dispersed throughout the Mediterranean after the Spanish Inquisition.
25. Pardo meaning "mixed-race".
26. Pereira meaning "pear tree". Jacob Rodrigues Pereira was a Jewish academic who was born in the 18th century.
27. Salomon meaning "man of peace". Jaques Solomon was a well-known French physicist, who was one of the main contenders in the quantum mechanics debate in France.
28. Schaal meaning "dish".
29. Serfaty meaning "Frenchman". The name Serfaty can be traced back to France.
30. Torres meaning "towers". Alberto Torres is a Spanish cyclist who currently trains with the UCI WorldTeam 'Movistar Team'.
31. Veneziano meaning "from Venice". Donato Veneziano was an Italian painter who lived during the Renaissance period.
Spanish Jewish Last Names
Here is a list of Sephardic Jewish surnames that are common in Spain.
32. Abulafia meaning "owner of the power". Meir Abulafia, also known as 'the Ramah', was a famous Sephardic Talmudist and central authority in the Spanish medieval era.
33. Alhadeff meaning "weaver". Brian Asher Alhadeff is a distinguished American music conductor who mainly performs in musical theatre and opera.
34. Angel meaning "angel". Juan Pablo Angel is a former Colombian footballer who played for Atletico Nacional.
35. Azuelos meaning "those with blue eyes". Azuelos is a customary Sephardic surname among Jews residing in North Africa.
36. Behar meaning "bee". Behar is a renowned town in the province of Salamanca, which is located in current-day Spain.
37. Benaroya meaning 'son of the river". Avraam Eliezer Benaroya was a Jewish socialist leader who played a key role in the spread of socialism in the Ottoman empire.
38. Beneviste meaning "my son came". This name is derived from a prominent Sephardic clan that inhabited the Ottoman empire after the Spanish Inquisition.
39. Benezra meaning "son of the supporter". This Sephardic surname is thought to be associated with the Cohen family.
40. Cabeza meaning "head". Alvar Nunez Cabeza was an eminent Spanish traveler who was turned out to be of the first explorers of the New World.
41. Cabrera meaning "goat herd".
42. Calvo meaning "bald-headed man". This is one of the most traditional Spanish Jewish Names, as it originated during the Roman Empire.
43. Cardoza meaning "thistles". Avery Cardoza is an American publisher, author, and gambler.
44. Corco meaning "duck".
45. Coronel meaning "officer".
46. Dabela meaning "table".
47. Danino meaning "dangerous".
48. Laniado meaning "hairy".
49. Maimon meaning "lucky". Maimon is a name mainly used by families with Jewish ancestry.
50. Mareli meaning "gift of God". Mareli is one of the most common names in the Sephardic culture.
51. Monsonego meaning "from Monzon".
52. Moreno meaning "brown". Leticia Moreno is an acclaimed Spanish violinist who has toured in countries all over the world like Russia, Mexico, Poland, Austria, and Britain.
53. Pinto meaning "chick". Pinto is one of the most renowned surnames in Jewish history as it is most commonly associated with the political elite in Portuguese and Spanish speaking nations.
54. Russo meaning "red".
55. Sasson meaning "merriment". Many Sephardic Jews moved to Turkey after facing ruthless cultural persecution at the hands of other communities.
56. Serrano meaning "mountain range". A lot of Portuguese Jews residing in Porto and Lagos decided to adopt this as their last name.
57. Silva meaning "woodland".
58. Soriano meaning "someone from Soria". Soriano is one of the most common Jewish Spanish last names found in the region of Castile in Spain.
59. Spinoza meaning "thorny". This family name can be seen among Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent.
60. Toledano meaning "someone from Toledo".
61. Varon meaning "male". Various families residing in Galicia and Castille adopted this Sephardic name to pay inheritance to their past.
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