Segal/Siegel Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Segal/Seigel Meaning
Segal and
Siegel appear to have been variations on the same name, particularly in
Jewish context, but they do have different origins.
Segal is a Jewish name.
The best evidence suggests
that Segal was an acronym of the Hebrew phrase segan
, a designation applied to Levites many centuries
before Segal first appeared as a surname. The name surfaced at Worms
along the
Rhineland in Germany as early as the 11th century.
One variant of the
Segal name in France was Chagall. The
painter Marc Chagall was in fact a Levite.
Siegel is Germanic in origin and can also be traced back to the 11th century, in this
case to Bavaria
. It was used then by people who made the wax seals for
documents (and were called siegelbeamters).  
Siegels outnumber Segals  in America by about three to one today.

Segal/Seigel Resources on

Segal/Siegel Ancestry

Siegels number about 15,000 in Germany today.
They started arriving in America in the 18th century. Segals may have had Germanic origins. But the Segal immigrants to America in the
late 19th century came mainly from the various parts of the Russian
that time.

England. Moshe Zvi Segal was a
Jewish rabbi from Lithuania who came to England in 1896.
One of his sons Samuel was a doctor and a Labor
party politician who as Baron Segal was the Deputy Speaker of the House
Lords in the 1970’s. Another son Ben was
a Professor of Semitic Languages at the School of Oriental and African

America. Siegels
came first, Segals followed.

Siegels. Some early Siegels were from the
Baden area in south Germany:

  • Frederick Siegel came to Pennsylvania sometime in the
    1750’s, first in
    Bucks county and later in Northampton county where he died in 1798.
  • while some
    hundred years later, Franz Sigel, part of the revolutionary government
    in Baden
    in 1848, fled to England and then to America when that revolution was
    quashed. He was a major general in the
    Unionist army during the Civil War and a newspaper editor and political
    in New York after the war. There is a
    statue of him in Riverside Park at the corner of 106th Street in

From nearby

came George Siegel as a young boy in 1848.
He later worked as a shoemaker in Cincinnati, Ohio; while John
Siegel, also from Wurttemberg, arrived in 1852
and settled four years later at Mendon township in Clayton county, Iowa.

Siegel from Dresden came to Butte, Montana in 1890 where he worked in a
brewery, a mine, and then for three years as a florist in the employ of
Knox who owned the first greenhouse in Montana. Later Victor became
superintendent of the Columbia Gardens located outside Butte.

By that time
there were Jewish Siegels in America. Three
Seigels have been:

  • Benny Siegel, known
    as Bugsy, who was born in New York in 1906 to Russian immigrants Max
    and Jennie
    Siegel. H
    andsome and charismatic, he was one of the first
    front-page celebrity gangsters. He was
    later a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas strip.
  • Jerry Siegel, also
    first generation from Russian immigrant parents, who in the 1930’s was
    co-creator of Superman, the first of the great comic book superheroes.
  • and David
    Siegel, second generation in America, who grew up in Florida and made
    fortune in time-share resorts. His wife
    Jackie starred in the 2012 TV documentary The Queen of Versailles.

Segals. Segals in America were
invariably Jewish,
with many of them settling in New York.
Their numbers here included:

  • Samuel Segal who arrived as a boy from
    Russia in 1893 and started the Segal
    and Hardware Company
    in Manhattan twenty years later.
  • a later Samuel Segal,
    a rabbi, who made his home in Brooklyn. His
    son Erich was a classics professor at Yale University. He became
    famous when his novel Love Story was
    made into a blockbuster film in 1970.
  • and Jacob Segal who arrived in the 1910’s
    from Poland and ran a small kosher butcher’s shop in the Bronx. His son George was a prominent American
    painter and sculptor in the Pop Art movement of the 1960’s.

The Segal name is well-known in fashion circles on the
West Coast. Fred Segal grew up in Los
Angeles and opened
a clothing store on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1958.
He caused a sensation at that time with his
form-fitting jeans. The store is now run
by the third generation of Segals and celebrities still shop there. Shelli Segal meanwhile is a Los Angeles based
clothes designer, the daughter of comedy writer Jerry Segal. Her
Laundry line, with its
trendy, slim-fitting designs, has become a major seller in all
stores that have carried it.

. A
Hasidic Segal family arrived in Montreal from Ukraine around the year
1910. Their numbers included Jacob Isaac Segal and his
sister Esther
who were both poets in the Yiddish language.

Joseph Segal was born to Jewish
immigrants parents in rural Alberta in 1925.
His wealth was based on a chain of discount department stores
which he founded. He later expanded into
estate. In 2017 he put his 25 year
mansion in Vancouver on the market for $63 million.
Its centrepiece was an Italian Ormolu
chandelier which had once belonged to the Italian dictator Benito

South Africa. Many Jewish Segals moved
to South Africa in the
early 1900’s. Morris Segal came in 1910,
it was said, as a representative of the Russian gymnastic team. He went on to start a jewelry business in

Segals from Poland were:

  • Leon Segal who settled in Cape Town and began a
    discount clothing store which made him rich. His
    son Ronald, born in 1932, became a
    prominent anti-apartheid activist.
  • while Abe Segal, born two years earlier in
    1930, had been the son of poor immigrant parents in Johannesburg
    (although his
    father was later able to start a small textile factory).
    Abe ran away from trade school to make his
    mark in the 1960’s as an international tennis player.


Segal/Siegel Miscellany

Segal Name Origins.  The origins of the Segal name are not that clear.  The best evidence suggests that
Segal was an acronym of the Hebrew phrase segan
, a designation being applied to Levites many centuries
before it
was used as a surname.

The earliest use
of this Segal designation was by Rabbi Isaac ben Eliezer who died in
1070.  He was one of the great scholars of
Worms and
was known as segan Leviyyah, meaning a Levite.
The acronym of Segal was used in the introduction to his Sefer Maharil.  Segal thus
was originally a function and
title and then became a family name.

David ha-Levi Segal was one of the great Polish rabbinical
authorities of the 16th century.  Other distinguished bearers of the
name included the 18th century artist Hayim ben Isaac Segal who created
interiors of the wooden synagogue at Moghilev in Russia and the
German painter Arthur Segal of the early 1900’s.  Arthur’s
son Walter emigrated to England
where he developed a system of self-build housing in the 1950’s.

Segals and Siegels Today.  The following are the numbers in America today:

Numbers (000’s) Segal Siegel
America 4    12

And this is where they came from:

Country Segal Siegel
Germany    15%    86%
Austria/Hungary     5%     4%
Poland    18%
Russian empire    48%     5%
Elsewhere     4%     5%

The Segal Lock and Hardware Company.  Samuel Segal, born in Russia, came to New York with his
parents in 1893 when he was eight years old.
One of his early jobs was
as a night
watchman in Miner’s Theater on the Bowery.
There he learned the English alphabet from the letters on the
rows of
seats.  As a young man he also was an
amateur wrestler and weight lifter.

In 1912, while he
was working in the New
York Police Department, Segal began to experiment with burglar-proof
locks.  His vertical deadbolt lock
eliminated the horizontal bolt and concentrated on the hinge
principle.  He had noticed that burglars
forced locks but never hinges.

The following year he founded the Segal Lock
and Hardware Company in Manhattan with an original capital of $1,000.  The firm relocated to Brooklyn in the
mid-1920’s.  It was said that Segal and
his associates later refused an offer of one million dollars in cash
for their
fifty separate lock patents.

Samuel Segal lived onto 1964.  In
his later years he gave over the
management of the company to his brother Louis.

Joseph Isaac Segal in Montreal.  Born in Ukraine in 1896, Segal, whose native language
was Yiddish, arrived in Montreal in 1910.  He spent the rest of
his life there.
He quickly found work in the garment industry where it was possible at
the time
to work without having to know any language other than Yiddish.  He turned to writing poetry in his spare

Successful in his community, he
left 12 collections and some 5,000 poems at his death in 1954.

Pierre Anctil in his 2017 biography Jacob
Isaac Segal: A Montreal Yiddish Poet
and His Milieu
noted that Segal’s work reflected in many ways the
of Jewish immigrants to North America at the beginning of the 20th
century, as
well as the tragic experiences of Jewish intellectual refugees during
interwar period.

other immigrant authors, whose work was mainly inspired by
homesickness, Segal
turned to the city in which he was living for inspiration.
His Montreal is full of bell towers, parks
and neighborhoods.

Benny Siegel and Las Vegas.  At the age of forty one, Benny Siegel had carved
out a notorious name for himself in the annals of organized crime and
in Las
Vegas history as well.  Somehow he had
managed to walk between the raindrops and avoid conviction on a
plethora of
crimes ranging from bootlegging to murder.
If he had not become a silver screen gangster, which his closest
believed he secretly wanted to be, he had accomplished the next best
thing.  He had become a genuine gangster
with movie
star looks and had surrounded himself with the Hollywood glitterati.

When people
thought of Las Vegas, they would always think of Benny Siegel.  He had turned the Fabulous Flamingo there
into the snazziest carpet joint in Sin City.

Siegel and his friends had
bankrolled construction of the Flamingo with $1.5 million.
But in the months following the end of World
War II, materials were scarce.  The job
immediately ran over budget.  It didn’t
help that the four-floor Flamingo was built like a fortress, a
testament to
Siegel’s paranoia. The thick concrete walls were reinforced with steel
from naval shipyards.  Siegel’s top-floor
suite was riddled with trap doors and escape hatches, one leading to a
car in his private garage. There were gun portals and hallways leading
nowhere.  The Flamingo was in short a
physical manifestation of Bugsy Siegel’s troubled brain.

But it also was filled
with the sort of posh amenities never before seen in Las Vegas. Siegel
not only
poured big money into carpets and fixtures.
He spared no expense on a pool, tennis courts and riding stables.  Siegel’s idea was to create a real resort
capable of not only attracting the Hollywood set, but also to give
gamblers a
variety of diversions from their inevitable losses at the tables.

Siegel would
go down to Los Angeles every two weeks or so to meet up with his
Virginia Hill who lived in Beverley Hills.
He was there on the night of June 30, 1947 when an assassin
wielding a
Army-issue carbine aimed at the back of his carefully coiffed head and
blew his
brains out.

The Flamingo is still one of the large casinos in Las Vegas.  It has long since shed its association with
Siegel’s kind.  But management saw fit to
honor the Flamingo’s founder with a bronze plaque and a small rose
garden not
far from the original site of the Flamingo’s first pool.

The Queen of Versailles.  In certain ways David and
Jackie Siegel were just trying to live the American dream – succeed at
business, own a big house, and enjoy the spoils of their labor.  But after achieving those dreams, they found
themselves wanting more – much, much more.

Their 26,000-square-foot house was
simply not enough.  Happiness could be
found, the couple thought, only by building the largest house in all of
– a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot mansion in Orlando, Florida which was
after the French palace of Versailles.
The mansion was complete with a bowling alley and roller-skating
rink, a
wing for the children, ten kitchens, and $5 million of marble.

But when the U.S.
economic bubble burst in 2008, the Siegels – who were so wealthy that
seemed untouchable – turned out to be no different from the tens of
of families who lost their far-humbler dream homes.
And film director Lauren Greenfield was there
to capture their financial downfall, from Jackie Siegel’s $1-million
budget zenith to the family’s stuck-in-coach-class nadir.
Her documentary, The Queen of Versailles, came
out in 2012.

In one scene, a nanny
asks Jackie – a former beauty queen from a small town who was 30 years
junior – if one large, cavernous room in Versailles was a future
bedroom.  “No, that’s my closet!” Jackie
exclaimed, her
eyes wide, grinning as if she almost can’t believe her good fortune.

Later in
the film, after the family arrives in an airport after having flown
coach (a
first for the children), Jackie walked up to a rental-car counter and
asks the
clerk earnestly, “What is my driver’s name?”

Greenfield had met Jackie Siegel by
chance at a Hollywood party and immediately fell for the couple’s tale.  The filmmaker had asked if she could
photograph Siegel’s ostentatious metallic purse and the image
eventually became
one of Time magazine’s
Photos of the Year, illustrating the “high life” and “gilded age” of
America.  But that was in 2007, when
David Siegel’s company – the largest privately owned time-share company
in the
world – had netted him a billion dollars.

Greenfield commented on the film:

me, when I started the Queen of
, it was a little bit similar.
We see so much of the life of the affluent as
these packaged, manipulated reality-TV shows.
I wanted to do a real-life look at this family, particularly
Jackie and David had this other quality – a down-to-earth American
quality.  They came from humble origins
and were a rags-to-riches story.”

David himself spoke as if this was a morality
tale at the end when he said:

“We need to learn to live within our means, we
need to get back to reality.  I was using
cheap money to buy big buildings and I thought it would go on forever.  And when they took away the money I was like,



Segal/Siegel Names

  • Benny Siegel was an American mobster, one of the most feared gangsters of the 1930’s. 
  • Walter Segal was an architect who developed a system of self-build housing in the UK in the 1950’s. 
  • Abe Segal was a prominent South African tennis player in the 1960’s. 
  • Joseph Segel was a pioneer of direct marketing
    companies in America in the 1960’s and 1970’s, most notably the QVC television network and the Franklin Mint. 
  • Erich Segal was the American author of the
    best-selling Love Story in 1970

Select Segal/Siegel Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Segal 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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