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CHAIM Origin of surname


Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a patronymic, derived from a male ancestor's personal name.

Chaim is a German spelling form of the Hebrew Hayyim, which means "life". Hayyim does not appear as a name in the Bible. Hayyim appears in its different forms - Hai, Hiyya, Yihye, and the feminine Haya. In the Middle Ages, it became a popular practice among Ashkenazi Jews to add Hayyim to a personal name either during circumcision or, in the event of sickness or danger, later on in life. This was done to ensure health and long life. Among Sephardi Jews, Hai/Chai ("alive") is still a popular additional name while Yihye ("he will live") was widespread among Yemenite Jews. In the course of Jewish wanderings, the name Hayyim was influenced by local pronunciation - becoming, for example, Aim or Haym in Spain, Heim or Hayems in Germany and Alsace, Chajjim in Turkey, Hagin in England. It was translated into Latin as Vives, Vita, Vidal, and into Arabic as Yaish and Ayash. Under German and Yiddish influence Vives became Feives, Feis, Feivush and even Feischel.

In the 20th century Chaim is recorded as a Jewish family name with Alfons Chaim who perished in the German death camp at Auschwitz during World War II.
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Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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