Simon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Simon Surname Meaning
Simon as a surname derived from the Hebrew Shimon which became Simeon in the Old Testament and Simon in the New (because of its association with the Greek byname Simos meaning “snub-nosed”). The name spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, mainly because of the association with the apostle Simon Peter.  Simon has many spelling variants.  It is also a popular Jewish name. In England, the name took the patronymic form with the addition of “s” (son of). So Simons and Simmons emerged there.

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Simon Surname Ancestry

Simon is a European name. Close to 200,000 bear that name today. The following are the main numbers estimated by country:

  • in France, 75,000
  • in Belgium, 5,000
  • in Germany, 60,000
  • in Hungary, 25,000
  • and in Spain, 30,000.

France leads the way.  However, the largest number of emigrants in the past have come from German-speaking lands, particularly to America. This reflects in large part Jewish emigration.

England. Louis Simon, a hatter, arrived from France in the 1770’s, married an Englishwoman, and settled in London. His son Louis Michael Simon became a stockbroker, moved to Blackheath, and was the father of fourteen children through his two marriages. The sixth of them, John, made his mark as a doctor and surgeon and served as the country’s Chief Medical Officer for twenty years from 1855.

Henry Simon came to Manchester from Germany in 1860 with hardly a penny to his name. But he had had a strong engineering
background and within seven years he had established his own consulting engineering practice. He was soon to set in motion “the rollermilling revolution” to mechanize the milling of flour in
England. His second son Ernest carried on his work, became a Manchester dignitary, and was made the first Baron of Wythenshawe.

Skid Simon came from a Russian-Jewish merchant family in China. He left for Britain in the 1920’s. He became an expert in the card-game of bridge, co-founding the Acol system of bidding.

America. The Simon name came with early Rhineland refugees to America. Johann Wilhelm Simon arrived with his family in 1709 and eventually settled in Dutchess county, New York.  However, much of his family later changed the name to the English-sounding Simmons.

The mid-19th century saw Simon migration from Europe to America. Two families headed West after their first landing in New York.

Firstly, August Simon left his home in a village in Neuchatel, Switzerland in 1849, eventually settling to farm in Kansas. His brother Charles followed him in 1856. They helped found the community of Neuchatel, Kansas.  

Then David Simon and his family from Hesse in Germany headed further West, reaching Portland, Oregon in 1857. His was one of the first Jewish families to settle there and his family remained an important family in the state:

  • son Joseph was elected to the Oregon State Senate and was US Senator for Oregon in 1898. 
  • later, Norton Simon became rich from his industrial projects and founded the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California.

Bernhard Simon came to America from a small village near Willebadessen in Germany in 1881. He settled in Baltimore, Maryland. His descendants hold a reunion in nearby Patapsco Valley State Park each year. Another Bernhard Simon, this time from Bingen on the Rhine in Germany, arrived in 1890 and also lived in Baltimore. But he moved around more, first heading West to South Dakota and then returning East to Pennsylvania. Bernhard had a number of siblings in Germany who also made it to America.

Jewish.  The later 19th century saw many more Jewish arrivals, from German and Russian lands, mainly to the New York area. Many must have struggled in the early years. But many in the next and later generations have left their mark on American life.

In the arts the playwright Neil Simon and the singer/songwriter Paul Simon are national treasures. There are also the concert pianist Abbey Simon and the singer Carly Simon (daughter of Dick Simon who founded the publishing house of Simon & Shuster in 1924).

In real estate the shopping mall moguls Mel and Herb Simon and Bob Simon. the developer of the Reston community in Virginia, have been particularly prominent.

Charles Simon was a French immigrant who had married into the Auger family of Philadelphia.  He came to Paterson, New Jersey in 1886 to co-found the silk dying company of Auger & Simon.  Charles’s grandson was William E. Simon who became US Treasury Secretary in 1974.

Canada.  Isaac and Ettie Simon were Jewish immigrants to Canada in the 1880’s.  In 1918 their son George was at the age of twenty-eight elected mayor of Alexandria, Ontario, the first Jew and the youngest ever to hold that office.  He was mayor over ten terms until his death in 1969.

Australia.  Michael and Margaretha Simon from Hesse in Germany came to Sydney in 1855 on the Wilhelmsburg with their five children as bounty immigrants.  Michael, who had experience as a wine grower, headed north in search of employment and the family established itself at Dondingalong, NSW.

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Simon Surname Miscellany

Simon in Various Forms.  The Simon name derived from the Hebrew personal name Shimon or Simeon, which means “one who harkens.”  Simon developed into a common surname throughout Europe.  Variants of the name are:

  • Jewish, Simeon, Simonski
  • in England, Simons and Simmons
  • in Germany, Ziemen and Ziemke
  • in France, Simonett
  • in Italy, Simeoni, Simonetti
  • in Czech, Schimann
  • and in Poland, Siaspinski.

Simon Arrivals in America by Country of Origin

Country Numbers Percent
Germany   1,591    86
France     226     6
England     157     4
Russia     149     4
Total   2,123   100

Louis Michael Simon at Blackheath.  The Paragon in Blackheath was Louis Michael Simon’s place of residence for fifty five years.  It lay on a private road, of crescent shape, facing the south-eastern corner of Blackheath, with a private field in front of it.  Blackheath at that time was a country district offering only restricted coach services to London, five miles away.

There were fourteen houses in The Paragon, built in seven blocks linked by colonnades.  In the Simon family, No. 10 became an institution and at the last became almost legendary.   The Paragon in their mouths meant that house and no other.

By the end of 1829 a family of fourteen children had come into the world.  Four of them died young and the remaining ten (four boys and six girls) were at that time of ages ranging from a few months to nearly twenty years.  The family was wealthy and there were governesses, of whom tradition long survived, and there must have been servants as well.

Louis Michael was then 47 years old and his wife Matilda 42.  His mode of addressing his wife was the “Til, my love,” which his descendants knew so well, while she would address him as “Simon,” as she did invariably to the end of his life.  She, like all at Blackheath and most in the City, pronounced the name like the first two syllables of the word “Simonian.”  His figure was short and thickset, she was slight but, when young, must have been strong and active.

An excellent portrait of Louis Michael, painted when he was nearly 90 years of age, was treasured in the family.  With his benevolent expression, his flowing white hair falling almost to his shoulders, his long frock-coat, his high cravat, his white top hat and gold-handled cane, he must have been a most picturesque figure.  It was recorded that on his death all the shops in Blackheath were closed as a mark of respect to his memory.

Simons from Hesse in Germany to America.  There were
two Simon brothers from Germany, David and Samuel, who left their home in Hesse for America in the early 1850’s.

David headed West with his wife Elise and baby son Joseph and eventually came to settle in the town of Portland in Oregon, buying farming land on what is now SE Powell Boulevard. Son Joseph grew up to serve on the city council and was elected to the US Senate for Oregon in 1898.  He was the head of a notable Jewish family in Portland.

His brother Samuel initially headed for New Orleans, meeting his wife Carolyn onboard the ship that took them there. When the news of the gold discovery in California reached New Orleans, Samuel took his wife and infant daughter back to Germany and secured a load of goods which he took with his family to Sacramento, California.  However, after a great fire in Sacramento destroyed all his merchandise, they moved back to Germany where six more children were born.  Eventually, on the
recommendation of his brother David, Samuel and his family moved to Portland in 1868.

However, Samuel was always a rover and it is estimated that he made in total thirteen voyages across the Atlantic.

Neil Simon Growing Up in Washington Heights.  Neil Simon the playwright grew up in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan at the time of the Great Depression.  In Simon’s household financial calamity was conflated with family collapse and marital betrayal.

Simon’s mother Mamie, had been disfigured as a young girl, scarred inside and out when her dress caught fire.  The man she married, a garment salesman named Irving Simon, left the household “as least eight different times” for periods ranging from a month to a year, Simon recounted in his memoir Rewrites.  In his absence, Mamie would give up her bedroom in the family’s Washington Heights apartment to two tenants, butchers who paid half their rent in cash and the rest in unsold meat.  She also ran card parties, essentially a small-scale gambling parlor, to make money.

On the occasions Irving Simon did return home, he specialized in a certain kind of emotional torment, not just to his wife but to Neil as well.  He would buy fireworks for the boy’s birthday, then hand them all out to other kids, claiming he didn’t want Neil to hurt himself.  His means of expressing tenderness was to tell Neil to pull a stick of gum or piece of candy from the stash in his overcoat pocket.

One time when Neil ran a high fever that his mother’s cold compresses couldn’t break, he recalled in Rewrites: “She would curse my father for his absence and run out to the hallway, banging on the doors of neighbors to help her find a remedy, screaming up to a God who had once again abandoned her.”

Finally the parents separated for good and the family was further shattered by poverty.  Neil and his mother went to live with cousins while his older brother was sent to live with an aunt.  Neil Simon has searing memories of losing his own home and having to live as a dependent guest in someone else’s house.

It took him a long, very long time, to tell this story in his plays.

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Simon Names
  • Henry Simon was a German-born engineer who revolutionized Britain’s flour milling industry in the late 19th century. 
  • Dick Simon was the co-founder of the publishing house Simon & Shuster in 1924.  His daughter is the singer Carly Simon
  • Mel and Herb Simon founded in 1960 what became the largest shopping mall company in America, the Simon Property Group. 
  • William E Simon was US Treasury Secretary from 1974 to 1977.   
  • Neil Simon is a well-known American playwright and screenwriter. 
  • Paul Simon is a highly-acclaimed American musician and singer/songwriter.

Simon Numbers Today
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 22,000 in America (most numerous in California)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
Simon 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.

AbrahamFriedmanKleinSachs
AdlerGoldbergKramerSchiff
BernsteinGoodmanLevySegal
BloomHalpernMyersShapiro
CohenHirschRosenthalSolomon
EpsteinKaplanRubinWeinberg

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