Silver, Gold, Brown, Black, Green, Diamond for instance a often indicators of Jewish ancestry. Why is that? And how long has that been a trend as opposed to older Middle Eastern traditions of being identified by whom you are related to: Son of… Father of… Mother of… ?
Most of those names were given to them by Gentiles. They are not Hebrew names like Cohen and Levi. Some (the ones with “gold” in them) were fully intended to be ironic and insulting.
Ashkenazi Jewish surnames date back to the 18th or 19th Centuries, and were imposed on them by the European powers of the time (before that, they were mostly “son of” and so on). Gold, Silver and Diamond are all professional names, originally given to jewelers and metalworkers (some may have been given ironically). Brown and Black aren’t usually associated with Jews, IMHO - they both sound very WASPy to me. Green, I don’t know.
Green is Irish and apparently “stereotypically Jewish” in Ireland, but why the heck did it become associated with Jews, also no idea.
Sephardim Jewish lastnames include some color-related ones, but AFAIK they’re the same ones used by gentiles.
Certainly not exclusively, but put it in German and add …stein or …man to it and the first best guess is “Hmmm, Jewish?”
And I could be totes ignant here, and am willing to entertain the idea that names like Grünbaum, Schwartzweiss, and Braunstein are fairly common among German Christians.
Silver, Gold, Black, & White are occupational names: Goldsmith, silversmith, blacksmith, whitesmith (tin). Diamond is also occupational, referring to jewelry. Green could come from either greengrocer or greenskeeper, though I don’t know if that is the origin.
Note that these are all service occupations. They are open to people who are forbidden from owning land. And common to many locations (so that when all the Jews are forced out of one country, they can still carry on this occupation elsewhere).
But you were apparently asking about those names in English, not German. I don’t think either one is thought of a Jewish name in English.
Schwartz/Schwarz, meaning black, of course is recognized as a common Jewish name, although it’s also found in non-Jews. As a name, it would have referred to someone with a dark complexion.
I don’t think that Braun is recognized as a Jewish name, however.
Is diamond a color?
I was oversimplifying, including the minerology with the colors, because I’m a sloppy person.
My grandmother grew up as Brown, but arrived from Odessa as a child as Brunfenbrenner. Interestingly enough, her granddaughter (my 1st cousin) ended up marrying another Brown. I don’t know what the original version of his family name was.
My family name is Green and from what I have been told it use to be Greenspan or Greenspoon and it was shortened upon arrival in Canada.
I have Greens and Blacks in my Ashkenazi family, though in other languages.
Here’s a long piece about Ashkenazi Jewish names:
Note that there’s a link toward the beginning of this to a webpage with some corrections.
I knew a Green who said his “maiden” name was Greenstein, a name that certainly sounds Jewish. And my wife has relatives named Brownstein (or maybe Braunstein, but a lot of the spellings were arbitrarily assigned at Ellis Island since they knew them only spelled in Hebrew letters. My family was similarly shortened by dropping -sky.
He doesn’t have a colour name, but the name of the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy has always struck me as a strange one, since i have no clue of its origin. (Though I can imagine it coming about similarly to Lochlann [“the Viking”] in Scotland, or Langlais [“the Englishman”] in France…)
Yes, there are -ski and -sky and -[nothing] in my family tree.
Not mentioned in the link above, but some Ashkenazi surnames are code names that reference Jewish prophets and biblical figures while seeming not to. “Eisenstein” may reference Isaac, for example.
It’s a common surname among Sephardic Jews, especially from the Balkans (probably indicating an Ashkenazic ancestor). Maybe Vladimir’s grandfather was Bulgarian or something similar.
How exactly is the surname Goldstein “ironic” or “insulting” to someone who works as a goldsmith? In what way are the names Goldberg (golden hill) and Goldbloom (golden flower) insulting?
Add another color: “Roth” is derived from “red.”
Because it is ignoring their historic connection to the honored Levi or Cohen tribe, and reducing them to being named by their occupation.