Friedman Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Friedman Surname Meaning

The Friedman origins were German, from the elements fried, meaning “peace,” plus mann or “man.” Fried itself evolved as a diminutive of the old Germanic personal name Friederich, a hereditary name of the medieval Hohenstaufen family of SW Germany. Friedman or variants thereof then began to emerge as surnames, in SW Germany and in Silesia.

By the time that Jewish families were obligated to take a surname in the early 19th century, many opted for this non-Jewish name Friedman. It approximated in meaning to their shalom (“peace”) or Solomon (meaning “peaceful”).

The Friedman surname has no connection with the English Freeman, which means “a free man.”

Friedman Surname Resources on The Internet

Friedman Surname Ancestry

  • from SW Germany and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America and Australia

The Friedmann name is mainly to be found in Baden-Wurttemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany today. It also appears to a lesser extent in Hungary. In the 19th century, with the larger Jewish population, there was a wider spread.

Emigration data to America showed sizeable numbers of Friedmans coming from Germany and Hungary and also from Poland and Russia.  The Friedman family circle, now numbering more than 2,500 members, is composed of the descendants of the marriage of Pinchas Friedman and Clara Glicksman in Poland in 1808.

The principal destination for these emigrants was of course America. Friedman (pronounced “Freedman”) was the main spelling there. Some, however, did change their name to Freeman (Solomon Friedman, for instance, made this name change on his arrival in Hartford, Connecticut in 1861).

Other Friedman destinations were England, Canada, Australia, South America and, later, South Africa. The spelling here ended up being either Friedman or Freedman.

America. The Friedman emigrants to America seemed to show a pattern, coming first from Germany in the 1840’s, then from Russia in mid-century (or rather Latvia and Lithuania of the Russian Empire at that time), and, by the turn of the century, increasingly from Hungary (then still part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire).

Some went South.  The earliest Friedman arrival in America from Hungary was probably Bernard Friedman, a travelling peddler in Alabama and Mississippi at the time of the Civil War. After the War he settled in Tuscaloosa where he became a successful entrepreneur. In 1875 he had acquired a magnificent antebellum mansion there from a bankrupt owner. Battle House was to stay with the Friedman family until 1965 when it was willed to the state as a historic house museum.

Another Jewish Friedman outpost in the South was Natchitotes, Louisiana where Samuel and Caroline Friedman settled in the mid 1800’s. Two generations later Sylvan Friedman, a large landowner and cattleman there, became a prominent Louisiana politician. Less fortunate was JB Friedman, a justice of the peace in Boutte, Louisiana.

“On June 11 1888, Mr. Friedman was just stepping off the porch of his store, intending to go to the railroad station nearby, when the assassin stepped around the corner and shot him. He was taken back into his house and a doctor called, but he died before midnight.”

But most went North.  They went in particular to New York City.  In 1965 it was calculated that Friedman was the 17th most common surname there.

It has been the first and second generation American born Friedmans who succeeded most brilliantly there, as businessmen, entrepreneurs, lawyers, economists, scientists, writers, and in a host of other professions as well. Milton Friedman’s upbringing shows how an immigrant son without any particular advantages could make it in his chosen profession.

There have also been more recent Friedman arrivals, such as Lily Friedman, among those who escaped or survived the Nazi holocaust.

Australia. The first recorded Hungarian in Australia was merchant Isaac Friedman who arrived with his wife and daughter in 1833. He was recorded as a shop-keeper in Hobart in the 1840’s.

Friedman Surname Miscellany

Friedman Name Origins.  The German surname of Friedman was derived from a combination of a patronymic and a local source.

The element Fried was derived from an old Germanic personal name which tended to be handed down from generation to generation.  This name was a pet form of the popular medieval name Fridila, composed of the elements vriedel (“loved one”) or vridelin (“peace-maker”).  It was also the locational name for someone who lived near or in a wood.

The name was born by a canonized 9th century bishop of Utrecht and was a hereditary name of the medieval Hohenstaufen ruling family in SW Germany.

Friedmans to America by Place of Origin

From: Numbers Percent
Germany   242   36
Russia   131   20
Hungary   112   17
Poland   105   16
Elsewhere    80   11

Friedman Emigrants: 1840-1870.  These were some of the Friedmans that emigrated from Europe from the 1840’s to the 1870’s:

Name From: Date To:
Franklin Fridman Germany (Wurttenburg) 1840’s Kentucky
Joseph Friedman Germany (Baden) 1840’s Missouri
Max Friedman Germany (Muhlhausen) 1850 NYC
Aaron Friedman Poland (Stavisk) 1850’s NYC
Chaim Fridman Lithuania 1856 Australia
David Friedman Latvia (Libau) 1860’s England
Joseph Friedman Latvia (Kurland) 1860’s NYC
Herman Friedman Lithuania 1865 Texas
Johan Friedman Germany (Pfalz) 1871 NYC

Friedman Emigrants: 1880-1910.  These were some later migrants:

Name From: Date To:
Abraham Friedman Hungary 1882 USA
Jacob Friedman Hungary (Kirchdraft) 1880’s USA
Jacob Friedman Hungary (Chelmno) 1900 South America
Louis Friedman Hungary 1900’s Pittsburgh
Jacob Friedman Hungary (Debrecen) 1900’s Ohio
Jeno Friedman Hungary (Beregszasz) 1900’s NYC
Solomon Friedman Romania (Jassy) 1904 NYC
Charles Friedman Moldova (then Bessarabia) 1904 Illinois
Adolph Friedman Hungary (Debrecen) 1906 NYC
Nathan Friedman Ukraine (Zhythomyr) 1911 Canada

Friedmans from Lithuania to Jerusalem.  Boris Friedman of Johannesburg gave the following account of the Friedmans who came to Jerusalem:

“An orphan boy named Hersch Zaidel was brought to Jerusalem in Palestine in the middle of the 19th century by a childless uncle Reb Hersch Friedman from Ponavesz in Lithuania.   Hersch Zaidel adopted the name of his uncle, hence Hersch Friedman. At the same time some good people brought to Jerusalem a little orphan girl of nine, Eigeleh (Eiga) from Pasvalys in Lithuania, who had lost her mother at a very young age.  Hersch married Eiga in Jerusalem when Hersh was twenty one and Eiga was twelve.  Eiga gave birth to her first child at the age of sixteen.  They had ten children, of whom seven survived.”

Later branches of this family migrated to South Africa and Australia.

Friedmans in Natchitotes, Louisiana.  A Jewish cemetery was established in Natchitotes, Louisiana in 1847.  The following Friedmans were buried there.

Name   Birth   Death
Friedman, Samuel   1848   1888
Friedman, Harry   1881   1895
Friedman, Caroline   1847   1906
Friedman, Samuel   1868   1931
Friedman, Isadore   1885   1943
Friedman, Leon   1886   1948
Friedman, Isaac   1871   1949
Friedman, Henrietta   1872   1959
Friedman, Mamye   1880   1959
Friedman, Harry   1911   1965
Friedman, Elizabeth   1912   1969
Friedman, Sylvan N.   1908   1979

Milton Friedman’s Upbringing.  The famous economist Milton Friedman described his growing up as follows:

“I was born July 31, 1912, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the fourth and last child and first son of Sarah Ethel (Landau) and Jeno Saul Friedman.  My parents were born in Carpatho-Ruthenia (then a province of Austria-Hungary).  They emigrated to the US in their teens, meeting in New York.

When I was a year old, my parents moved to Rahway, N.J., a small town about 20 miles from New York City.  There my mother ran a small retail “dry goods” store while my father engaged in a succession of mostly unsuccessful “jobbing” ventures.  The family income was small and highly uncertain. Financial crisis was a constant companion.  Yet there was always enough to eat and the family atmosphere was warm and supportive.

Along with my sisters, I attended public elementary and secondary schools, graduating from Rahway High School in 1928, just before my 16th birthday.  My father died during my senior year in high school, leaving my mother plus two older sisters to support the family.  Nonetheless, it was taken for granted that I would attend college, though, also, that I would have to finance myself.”

It was college which provided him with the way forward.

“I was awarded a competitive scholarship to Rutgers University, then a relatively small university. There I had the good fortune to be exposed to two remarkable men: Arthur F. Burns, then teaching at Rutgers while completing his doctoral dissertation for Columbia; and Homer Jones, teaching between spells of graduate work at the University of Chicago.

Arthur Burns shaped my understanding of economic research, introduced me to the highest scientific standards, and became a guiding influence on my subsequent career.  Homer Jones introduced me to rigorous economic theory, made economics exciting and relevant, and encouraged me to go on to graduate work.”

Lily Friedman’s Wedding Gown.  Lily Friedman doesn’t remember the last name of the woman who designed and sewed the wedding gown she wore when she walked down the aisle more than 60 years ago.  But the grandmother of seven does recall that when she first told her fiancé Ludwig that she had always dreamed of being married in a white gown.

She had been raised with her siblings in a Torah-observant home in the small town of Zarica, Czechoslovakia where her father was a melamed (teacher), respected and well liked by the young yeshiva students he taught in nearby Irsheva.  He and his two sons were marked for extermination immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz. For Lily and her sisters it was only their first stop on their long journey of persecution, which included Plashof, Neustadt, Gross-Rosen and finally Bergen-Belsen.

On January 27, 1946, four hundred people marched 15 miles in the snow to the town of Celle to attend Lily and Ludwig’s wedding.  The town synagogue, damaged and desecrated, had been lovingly renovated by the DPs with the meager materials available to them.  When a sefer Torah arrived from England, they converted an old kitchen cabinet into a makeshift Aron Kodesh.

When President Truman finally permitted the 100,000 Jews who had been languishing in DP camps since the end of the war to emigrate in 1948, the gown accompanied Friedman across the ocean to America.  Unable to part with her dress, it lay at the bottom of her bedroom closet in Brooklyn for the next fifty years: “not even good enough for a garage sale.  I was happy when it found such a good home.”

Friedman’s dress had one more journey to make — the Bergen-Belsen museum which opened on October 28, 2007.  The German government invited Friedman and her sisters to be their guests for the grand opening. Although they initially declined the invitation, the family finally traveled to Hanover the following year with their children, their grandchildren and extended families to view the extraordinary exhibit created for the wedding dress made from a parachute.

Friedman Names

  • Joseph Friedman, a first generation American, was an independent inventor with a broad range of interests and ideas. His most successful invention was probably the flexible drinking straw.
  • Milton Friedman was probably the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century. A monetarist in his approach, he was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976.
  • Herbert Friedman was a pioneer in rocket technology in relation to solar physics and astronomy.
  • Thomas Friedman, the author of The World is Flat, is the Pulitzer Prize winning writer on foreign affairs for the New York Times.

Friedman Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 23,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

Friedman and Like Jewish Surnames

The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders.  They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered.  There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.

In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany.  Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora.  Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy.  Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer).  Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s.  The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example.  Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island.  And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.

Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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