Papo - surname
Aviad Ben Izhak
The source of the surname Papo (פפו) or Pappo (פאפו) intrigued me since childhood. Nobody in my family was able to provide a decent explanation for the meaning of the name.
My father (RIP) carried this surname and Hebraized it upon immigrating to Israel. My father’s family was considered a Sephardi (originated in Spain) family. I found hard evidence for my family members attending the Jewish synagogue in Ruse (Русе, Rusçuk), Bulgaria. Nonetheless, the name doesn’t appear on the list of families who are “entitled” to a Spanish passport due to their Spanish origins.
Moreover, the name doesn’t appear on the extensive database holding tens of thousands of surnames at the Museum of the Jewish People - Beit Hatfutsot website.
So, what is the source of this surname?
I found the first documentation for the name at the Spanish institute Sol del Rev. Catolico. The first mention of the name there appears in 1466 and according to the documentation, the source is the word Papos – grandpa in Greek. In 1466 it also spelled Papa.
According to the researcher Rosanès, the name Pappo is typical to Jews that lived in the Balkan area since the days of the Roman Empire. During the Roman and Byzantine times, the Jews spoke Greek. I would like to state that those Jews attended synagogues called “Romaniots”, i.e. the remains of antient communities from the times of the Roman emperors (Encyclopedia of the Diaspora – Bulgarian Jews – page 29).
If so, I have a few questions unanswered:
· Why was my father’s family considered to be a Sephardi family?
· Why did his family speak Ladino?
· How come all the man of the family attended a Sephardi synagogue?
The explanation begins with the Spanish exile, dated back to 1492, when the banishment of Jews from Spain begun. In the following tens of years, waves of Sephardi Jews immigrated to the Balkan. As part of this process, the “Romaniots” Jews became a minority and gradually assimilated in the massive majority of Jews arriving from Spain. As this process accelerated, the ancient “Romaniot” communities disappeared.
A few words about geography – the Jews carrying the surname Pappo were found around Bulgaria, in the cities Belgrade and Sarajevo, as well as in Turkey.
The name Pappo comes from Greek – meaning grandpa or old man and characterizes Jews who lived in the Balkan since the times of the Second Temple.
The author – (Lieutenant-Colonel), former commander of the Academy of Computing and Information Systems at the IDF (“Mamram”). Expert in building genealogical trees and family ancestry. Has vast and diverse experience in building family trees that include thousands of people. Aviad is a Geni curator – among the few in Israel who are certified to manage the world Geni genealogical tree.
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