It is well known that is a person has a certain surname (last name) they are more likely to be a Kohen.


  • Cohen - for obvious reasons
  • Kahn
  • Katz - stands for "Kohen Tzedek"

What are some of the other names that are popular by Kohanim, and how did they come to be?

  • connected to: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7502/… Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 18:10
  • See also judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4873.
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 22:56
  • My father's maternal grandfather's surname was Sagan. The family came from Lita vicinity of Slonim. I was told that this name signifies that of an assistant cohen in ivrit. Is there any truth in this?
    – user6932
    Commented Aug 27, 2014 at 22:47
  • Off-topic as Jewish nation and not Judaism?
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 22:14
  • @DonielF I believe this falls into the history of Judaism aspect of the site.
    – Naftali
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 0:06

7 Answers 7


Hebrew Wikipedia has an extensive discussion on the matter.

Also see Chapter 2 of יופי של עברית by אבשלום קור

, כהנא, כגן, קוגן, קגן, כגנוביץ, קאהן, קון ,קיהן, כהנמן, כוהנר, ברכגן, ברקן , קצמן, כצובר

Kahana, Kagan, Kogen, Kagen, Kagnovitch, Kahan, Kohn, Kihan, Kahanamen, Kohner, Brechgan, Barkan, Katzman, Katzover (the last two being later extensions of Katz)

The 'g' sound comes in place of the 'h' sound in Slavic languages.

מזא"ה (= מזרע אהרן הכהן)‏

Maza - MeZera Aharon HaKohen (from the descendants of Aharon the Priest)


Hadad - according to the community of Jews from Djerba, Tunisia, Hadad is a Kohen family which was disqualified (because of inappropriate marriages)

זלכה - זכר לכהן הגדול

Zalka - common among Iraqi priests, Zecher LeKohen Gadol - in memory of the high priest


Gindi - among Jews from Halab (Aleppo), Syria this is a priestly family




Rappaport - many of them descended from the author of the Shach ש"ך (a book which itself means שפתי כהן, lips of the priest). (See for instance, Rabbi Shabtai Rapaport, a teacher in Bar Ilan University).

כהן אברי"ש - אני בן רבי ישמעאל

Avrish - Ani ben Rabbi Yishmael (I am the son of Rabbi Yishmael) - according to legend, this family is a descendant of Rabbi Yishmael the High Priest.


Kaplan - from the same Latin root as 'chaplain'

תומא הכהן - תורה וברכת משרתי אל

Tuma - Torah U'Birkat Meshartei El (Torah and the Blessing of the Servants of God) - a priestly family living in Pekiin since the Second Temple

הכהן מלמד

Malamud - priestly family from Shiraz, Iran with a number of scholarly descendants (of course most Malamuds are not priests)

כהן ירמו"ש - יורו משפטך ליעקב ותורתך לישראל

Yarmush - Yoru Mishpatecha LeYaakov, VeToratecha LeYisrael - Teach your laws to Yaakov and your Torah to Israel - a quote from Yaakov's blessing to the tribe of Levi

כהן יהונתן

Yonatan - family of Algerian priestly Jews

כהן טנוג'י

Tanugi - family of Moroccan priestly Jews from Tangier

כהן אלמג'רבי

Al Magerbi - family of Tunisian priestly Jews from Djerba. Name is from the Tunisia's region in North Africa, commonly known as the Maghreb

Some funny stories -- In the 9th Knesset, Yigal Cohen was elected as a representative for Likud - except they already had a Yigal Cohen in the Knesset! So the first one changed his name to Cohen-Orgad כהן-אורגד (Orgad being the initials of the names of his children)

In 1980, there were two soccer players on the same team named Eli Cohen. So the newspapers simply referred to one as אלי כהן הקטן (the small Eli Cohen) and אלי כהן הגדול (the big Eli Cohen).

There are many cases in history (as seen above) and in modern Israeli life where individuals with the last name Cohen hyphenated their names in order to be more easily identifiable.

  • To add to the list: ‘Cohn-zadeh’, a conmen Persian surname which translates to Kohen Zedek.
    – Oliver
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 16:26

My great grandfather was a Kohain and his last name was Kentof. My grandmother always told me that it came from Kohain Tov.

  • Was he Bukharian or from that area?
    – Oliver
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 16:27
  • @Oliver He lived in Cologne, Germany Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 21:06

A couple of others:

Kaplan - Ohr Somayach's Ask the Rabbi says that it is an acronym for kohen ploni, "so-and-so the kohen"; Wikipedia relates it to terms in various European languages for "priest."

Rapoport - descendants of a famous family of kohanim from Italy, the Rapas of Porto, notably including R. Avraham Menachem Rapoport (author of Minchah Belulah). There's a popular notion that the Vilna Gaon said that they are the only family of kohanim known to be meyuchasim (of provable status), although this post at Mail-Jewish cites the actual source from a book about the Gaon, from which we learn that it's simply that the Rapoports have a chazakah (reputation) of being real kohanim.


I know a Cohen whose surname is Cashdan. He explained that it was derived from the initials of

Hanei C​ahanei Sh​eleuchei D​erachmono N​inhu

These priests are agents of the All-Merciful.

It is a question in the gemoro; Kidushin 23b.


I made redemption of my first son at one well-born cohen whose surname is: Kopshitz. Later I heard that his surname is in yiddish "Kop Tzitz", which would be in English "Head Tzitz". The reason for that is because they have a tradition that they are related to Kehuna Gedola.


Some variations of Kohen:

I had an uncle who's surname was Cain

I chuckle at the Irish leaning surname of the late Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas- Horav Nesanel Quinn (The relation to Kohen is an assumption on my part)

Kagan is from a dialect where the g sound is substituted for the h, but do not recall which region or why it is so.

["Kagan" and "Kogan" are Russified variants of "Kahan" and "Kohan".]

  • 1
    In Russian, there is no "H" sound so for example, Gurevitch and Horowitz are the same last name. Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 22:10
  • Why didn't they just say chorovitz? Whenever I hear a Russian immigrant try to say an h it sounds like a ches, not a g.
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 0:31
  • @user6591, many attempt to pronounce "h" and end up with "ch" due to unfamiliarity. My town has a large amount of Russians, so I have some familiarity with morphologies consistent with Russian phonology. Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 0:40
  • I wouldn't see any association between Quinn and Cohen.
    – TRiG
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 18:28

There's also "Azulai", which supposedly (see here) comes from the initials of:

אִשָּׁה זֹנָה וַחֲלָלָה לֹא יִקָּחוּ

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