The Meaning of Names – AMSELLEM AMSELEM (A’mshalem, amsalem)

The meaning of names among Mediterranean Jews

Marc Eliany ?

AMSELLEM AMSELEM (A’mshalem, amsalem)
among other possible variations depending on the country and language of the person.

The root of the name may consist of two components in Hebrew ‘am’ and ‘shalem’, infering to an origin from Jerusalem or to an affinity to the people of Israel. It may also mean ‘entire people’ or ‘perfect people.’ The name is widespread among North African Jews, mostly in Morocco and Algeria.

The root of the name ‘amsalem’ may have an Arabic meaning, refering to ‘convert to Islam’ or a person who is protected by Islam as ‘dhimi’ under the Pact of Omar.

Prefixes attached to the root name such as (aben, iben, abi, avi, ben, bin, abou, a, aj, al, bel, i, la, lel, me, m, o, wi, vi, ) denotes usually a relation to a person, i.e., the father of or the son of X, a place, i.e., a person from X, an occupation, i.e., a person who practices a specific occupation, a characteristic of a person, i.e., beautiful… The prefixes al, el are equivalent to ‘the’ in English or the article ‘le’ in French. In the Moroccan Berbers tradition, prefixes such as ‘wi’ ‘vi’ ‘i’ means usually a family relationship to X, the equivalent of Abu in Arabic, i.e., ‘the father of’, ‘son of’ a man, a tribal affiliation and so forth.In the Hebrew tradition, the prefix ‘M ‘ is an abbreviation of the word ‘from.’

Suffixes such as ‘i’ or ‘ri’ refer to an association with a person, for example: Mori = my teacher.
Suffixes such as ‘illo’ ‘ano’ ‘ino’
‘nino’ are used in Spain and Italy to indicate descendence or association with an attribute.

AMSELLEM Georges-?lazar (1947-). Morocco. (Midelt). Film producer. Author and poet. Producer of Dead ringer. Author of Le c?ur en voyage (A heart on a voyage).
AMSELEM Mo?se (1932-). Morocco. (Larache). Pharmacist. Community leader. Chair of the Sepharadi community in Quebec in1998.
AMSELLEM Makhlouf (1837-1927). Algeria. lived in Morocco and Israel. Author of Tapouh? zahav bemichk?lot k?ss?f (Golden apples in silver weight).
AMSELLEM Ch?lomo (1879-1963). Morocco. (Midelt). Rabbi. Judge. Author of B?n? Ch?lomo (Solomon’s children).
AMSELLEM Simah (1850-1906). Algeria. Rabbin of Oran.


Azoulay, Hayim Yossef Shem Hagdolim (the names of the great)

AZOULAY Ha?m Yossef David (Hida) (1724-1807) Ch?m hagu?dolim va?ad lahakhamim (The names of the Great Council of Sages).

Levi, J et. al. 2000        Dictionnaire biographique du monde Juif Sepharade et Mediteranean, Editions Elysee, Montreal.

Toledano, J. 1983        La saga des familles, Les juifs du Maroc et leurs noms, Editions Stavit, Tel Aviv

Laredo A. 1978           Les noms des juifs au Maroc (Madrid, 1978)

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