The meaning of names among Mediterranean Jews

Marc Eliany ©

ASSER (Asher)
among other possible variations depending on the country and language of the person.

Asser is in all likelihood a deformation of the Hebrew name/word Asher = happiness. Asher is one of the children of the patriarch Jacob and one of the tribes of Israel. It is a popular Hebrew name in Modern Israel too. It appears as a first name as well as a family name, in many cases with the prefix Ben, i.e., Ben Asher.

Prefixes attached to the root name such as (aben, iben, abi, avi, am, ben, bin, abou, a, aj, al, bel, 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.'

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...

ASSER Mosés Salomon (XIXes.). Netherlands. Lawyer. Social activist who pushed for the integration of Jews in the Dutch society. Advisor of King Guillaume I.

BEN ACHER Abraham (XVIIIes.). Palestine. Rabbi. Fund raiser for the old settlements in Jerusalem and Palestine. He also determined criteria for fund allocation in Palestine.

BEN ACHER Yah’acov (1260-1340?). Spain. Rabbi. Judge. Kabalist. Author of Arbah’a tourim (Four columns), a moral and legal commentary on the Torah.


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)