Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Are there sources for the etymology of the surname Katz being an acronym for Kohen Tzedek?

Is that simply a backronym?

share|improve this question
    
@ArielAllon, Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the interesting question! –  Isaac Moses May 16 '11 at 14:19
    
Good question; I would ask the same about other kohen acronymics, such as Pach (פיתוחי חותם) and Azulai (אשה זונה וחללה לא יקחו). –  Avi May 16 '11 at 14:45
4  
Looks like @Yahu's comments on this thread are relavent and good sources of Katz as an acronym. –  Ariel Allon May 16 '11 at 16:01
1  
How did you link that text? –  WAF May 16 '11 at 18:52
2  
@WAF If you meant the text in Ariel's comment, click on the help icon under the "add comment" button. Basically use a format [link](http://example.com) –  yydl May 16 '11 at 21:18

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are many manuscripts and early printed seforim in which this name appears and there is a " in between the kof and tzadi. This clearly indicates that it is an acronym. One source is the seforim of the Shach, in which, although he is commonly (currently) known by the last name Katz, he is called "Kohein Tzedek. Then look here. Notice that only 9 years later Kohein Tzedek has become Katz. The Salonika print is in Tav Kuf Samech Alef (5561 or 1801) and the Lvov print is in Tav Kuf Ayin (5570 or 1810.)

[This answer is adapted from my comments on this answer to another question. Thank you Ariel for the easy link!]

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks @Yahu. So it looks we have good chronological evidence for an actual acronym here. It's interesting that the earliest example we have (thus far in this thread) is the early 19th century. I suppose the question now turns to the general history or surnames/family names which is likely outside of the scope of of this site.* * If there is some difference in the history of surnames as they pertain to Jews, though, it is definitely a topic for another thread. –  Ariel Allon May 18 '11 at 18:01
    
@ArielAllon If there is such a pattern I think this author would be either very interested to hear about it or have already disproved it. –  WAF Jun 15 '11 at 21:48

It would most likely be a backronym if all the Katz families were related. In fact there appear to be many distinct Katz families, and many (although not all) are cohanim, which implies that the name arose either independently or imitatively, perhaps at a time when Jews were obliged to take surnames by the secular authorities.

One interesting thing to note is that I have seen some records transcribe the letters כ"צ on a tombstone as if it were the name "Katz" - e.g., גרשן בן משה כ"צ becomes "Gershon ben Moshe Katz". If this occurred in secular records it would imply that some families may have adopted the surname Katz without really meaning to!

share|improve this answer

While Katz is likely an acronym for Kohen Tzedek, there is something else to keep in mind. Many names - especially those of immigrants - changed. This is especially true with immigrants to the US. This means that the name Katz could reasonably be a shortened version of something considerably longer, such as Katzenellenbogen, which is a place name (somewhere in Southern Germany near the Italian border). In that case, it has nothing to do with being a Kohen.

share|improve this answer
1  
Sometimes, too, people get these names for no (seemingly) legitimate reason at all. I had some neighbors as a child whose last name was Cohen, but who were not kohanim (they spelled it in Hebrew with a ק, but I don't know whether that was the original spelling, or whether they deliberately altered it so as not to mislead others). –  Alex May 17 '11 at 13:59
2  
@Alex, I know of occasions on which people took their mother's maiden names. (I think some Old World countries required it if the parents did not have a civil marriage.) That could explain some of the Cohens who are not kohanim. –  msh210 May 17 '11 at 18:22

The Roshei Teivos of Cohen Tzedek is Kof Tzadi. My great grandfather was a Kohain and his last name was Kentof - which I was always told came from Kohain Tov.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.