The meaning of names among Mediterranean Jews

Marc Eliany ©

Abensour (EvenZur, Tsur, Zur)

among other possible variations depending on the country and language of the person.

AbenSour is represented here mostly by rabbis of Moroccan and Spanish origin but the name was widespread in Morocco. At least one of the Abensours (Itshak) contributed to the formulation of Takkanot hamégorachim (Rulings for the Expulsed from Spain) which distinguished them from the ancient Jewish inhabitants of Morocco led by the AbenDanans.

The name is believed to be of ancient Hebrew origin.
It consists of the prefix avi (aben, Ben, Ibn or Even) which implies fatherhood or lineage, the root 'Zur' = rock or the town of 'Zur' = Tyr in Northern Israel (contemporary Lebanon). The prefix 'even' = stone may be part of the name root rather than a prefix and may have expressed an emphasis (stone+rock).

Prefixes attached to the root name such as (aben, iben, abe, abi, abou, avi, am, ben, bin, abou, a, aj, al, bel, even, ha, i, la, lel, me, m, o, wi, vi, ) denotes usually a relation to a person, i.e., the father of or the son of X, a place, i.e., a person from X, an occupation, i.e., a person who practices a specific occupation, a characteristic of a person, i.e., beautiful... The prefixes al, el are equivalent to 'the' in English or the article 'le' in French. In the Moroccan Berbers tradition, prefixes such as 'wi' 'vi' 'i' means usually a family relationship to X, the equivalent of Abu in Arabic, i.e., 'the father of', 'son of' a man, a tribal affiliation and so forth.In the Hebrew tradition, the prefix ‘M ‘ is an abbreviation of the word 'from.'

Complex prefixes such as 'BarHa' in the name BarHaNess consist of two elements Bar=son and Ha=the.

Suffixes such as 'an' or 'in' denote affiliation or a characteristic in Aramaec.
Suffixes such as 'a' characterize ancient Hebrew names, i.e., AviHatsir'a'
Suffixes such as oulah, oulay, ilah, ily, el, eli are used in Hebrew and Arabic to associate a name with God' blessing.
Suffixes such as 'i' or 'ri' 'ti' refer to an association with a person or a location, for example: arditi= from ardou or ard.
Suffixes such as 'illo' 'ano' 'ino' 'nino' are used in Spain and Italy to indicate descendence or association with an attribute.
Suffixes such as 'yah', 'yahu' 'hu' are used in Hebrew to denote God's benediction, for example: aviyah, aviyahu, avihu...
Suffixws such as 'oun' 'on' 'yout' 'out' characterize adjectives in Hebrew, for example: Hayoun, hayout...

Abensour Isaac (1861-1927). Morocco (Tanger). Banker. Merchant. Community leader (1903-1932). Founder of the Hygene Commission. Honorary consul of Austria. British representative to the legislative assemblee in Tanger.
ABENSOUR Chalom (?-1727?). Morocco. Rabbi. Poet. Linguist. Author of Séfér Chir hadach (New Poems) contains poems/lithurgy for the Jewish calendar and life cycle.
ABENSOUR Chélomo Éliahou (1822-1873). Morocco (Fès). Rabbi. Author of Péné Chélomo (Solomon's scale), a compilation of ancient rabbinical rulings.
ABENSOUR Chémouèl (XVes.). Spain. Rabbi. Community leader of Valladolid.
ABENSOUR Moché (XVes.). Spain. Rabbi. Converted to Christianity to escape the Spanish Inquisition. Escaped to Fes where he returned to Judaism.
ABENSOUR Itshak (?-1605?). Morocco. Rabbi (Fès). One of the rabbi who formulated Takkanot hamégorachim (Rulings for the Expulsed from Spain). Assassinated due to one of his rulings.
ABENSOUR Moché (XVIIes.). Morocco. Rabbi. Poet. Lived in Salé. Author of commentaries on the Kabala.
ABENSOUR Moché (XVIIIes.). Morocco. Rabbi in Meknès and Fès. Author of an abstract of the work of Rabbi Haïm Vital. His work remains in manuscript form.
ABENSOUR Raphaël (1830-1917). Morocco. Rabbi. Notary. Chief of the rabbinical court (Fès). Author of rabbinical court rulings and commentaries. ABENSOUR Réouven (16??-17??). Morocco. Rabbi. Kabalist. Author of rulings relating to ritual baths (cleansing).
ABENSOUR Yah’acov (YABETS) (1673-1753). Morocco. Son of Réouven Abensour above. Rabbi in Fès, Meknès and Tétouan . Kabalist. Linguist. Astronomer. Poet. Re-established the rabbinical court in Fes. Author of E't lékol héféts (A time for everything); Michpat outsdakah béyah’acov (Justice and charity for Israel). His eulogy for the destruction of the Second Temple is part of the 9th of Av ritual.


ABEHSSERA Chalom Séfér youhassin (Genealogy Registers).

Azoulay, Hayim Yossef Shem Hagdolim (the names of the great)

AZOULAY Haïm Yossef David (Hida) (1724-1807) Chém haguédolim va’ad lahakhamim (The names of the Great Council of Sages).

Levi, J et. al. 2000        Dictionnaire biographique du monde Juif Sepharade et Mediteranean, Editions Elysee, Montreal.

Toledano, J. 1983        La saga des familles, Les juifs du Maroc et leurs noms, Editions Stavit, Tel Aviv

Laredo A. 1978           Les noms des juifs au Maroc (Madrid, 1978)