The meaning of names among Mediterranean Jews

Marc Eliany ©

Atar, Attar, Abenatar, Abiatar, Benattar

Prefixes such as (aben, iben, abi, avi, ben, bin, abou) 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, a profession, i.e., Atar or spice maker, spice seller, perfume maker, perfume seller.

In the Arab tradition, the prefix Abu means usually the father of, or a tribal affiliation, i.e., a relation to the tribe of Atar. The word ‘atar’ in Arabic means spice maker, spice seller, perfume maker, perfume seller.
In the Hebrew tradition, the prefix ‘Avi ‘ denotes patrilineal ancestry, i.e., father of Atar or ben Atar = son of Atar. The word ‘atar’ in Hebrew and Aramean means ‘place.’

Jews in North Africa often were spice traders or spice makers. It is likely that ‘atar’ does denote the Arabic meaning but one cannot exclude the possibility that the name is an ancient Hebrew or Aramean name transformed into Arabic.

ABENATAR David Mélo (?-1625). Spain. Poet.
ABIATAR Ibn Crescas Hacohen (1450-1479). Spain. Doctor of Jean II, King of Aragon.
BENATTAR César (XXes.). Tunisia. Authored ‘Le bled en lumière’
BENATTAR Moché (?-1725). Morocco. Banker, jeweler, diplomat.
BENATTAR Ralph (1945-). Morocco. Businessman in Québec (Montréal).
BENATTAR Chem Tov (XVIIIes.). Morocco. Rabbi, merchant, king’s counsellor.
BENATTAR David (XVIIIes.). Morocco. Rabbi, poet, lithurgy leader/singer.

BENATTAR David (XVIIIes.). Morocco. Rabbi, poet.
BENATTAR Haïm Ben Moché (Or HAHAÏM) (1691?-1743?). Morocco. Rabbi, author of ‘Or hahayïm’ (the light of life). Celebrated saint.
BENATTAR Maïmon (1867-1958). Morocco. Rabbi, educator in Egypt.
BENATTAR Mordékhaï (XVIIIes.). Morocco. Rabbi. Celebrated saint Originaire du Maroc.

BENATTAR Raphaël (XVIIIes.). Morocco. Rabbi, poet of ‘Chir Mi kamokha’ (who compares to You).
BENATTAR Yéhoudah (1725-1812). Morocco. Rabbi. Judge. Authored ‘Zikhron livné Yisraël’ (A memorial to the children of Israel).
BENATTAR Yéhoudah ben Yah’acov (1655-1733). Morocco. Rabbi. Judge. Authored ‘Diné get véhalitsah’ (Divorce laws).


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).

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

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

Laredo A. 1978           Les noms des juifs au Maroc