Stein Surname Meaning, History & Origin
German word stein means
“stone” and the surname originally described someone who lived on stony
ground or (occupationally) someone who worked in stone, such as a mason
obliged to adopt surnames for themselves in the early part of the 19th
century. The Stein name either exists by
itself or is combined in a longer name, such as in Bernstein or
Goldstein, or in
a prefix form, such as in Steinway, the famous piano-maker.
appears in Scandinavian languages. The Dutch Steijn/Stein is
apparently an abbreviation of Augustin, the Scottish Steen/Stein of
- The Stein Family The Stein
whisky distillers in Scotland.
In Europe, the surname Stein is
mainly to be found in German-speaking lands, the count today being
approximately as follows:
- Germany, 60,000
- France, 2,500
- Scandinavia, 1,200
- and the Netherlands, 1,000.
The Stein name is most known in Germany in Franconia, an area of
northern Bavaria. Wurzburg has been home of the famed vineyard
Stein (and of Steinwein); the town of Nassau was where the von Stein
family originated; and rabbi Leopold Stein, the prominent
leader of reform Jewry in the 19th century, was born in Burgpreppach in
Stein emigration to America, initially just German, took on an
increasingly Jewish flavor, not just from Germany but from Jewish
outposts in the Austrian- Hungarian and Russian empire as well.
England. Most Steins in
England are of German extraction. They begun arriving into the
East End of London in the mid 19th century. Their numbers are
smaller today than might be expected.
Many Steins anglicized
their names due to the anti-German hysteria of the First World
War. Rick Stein, the celebrity chef, has talked in the BBC TV
program Who Do You Think You Are?
of the trauma his father experienced as a young boy at that time which
eventually caused him to take his own life.
Scotland. Stein and
Steen, both abbreviations of Steven, are Scottish Lowland surnames
found originally in Fife and adjacent areas, Ayrshire and the Border
The Stein name may have first appeared in the Clackmannan area near
Fife in 1200. They were substantial landowners by the 16th
century and apparently learned the art of whisky distilling from the
friars at Kennetpans Abbey. Andrew Stein first established a
commercial whisky distillery there around 1720. They remained
important distillers for more than a century. But their last
plant closed in 1856.
Stein was said to have been the heroine of Burns’ poem Tam O’Shanter. The most famous
recent Stein has been Jock Stein, the football manager who led Celtic
to their European Cup triumph in 1967.
South Africa. Steyn, a
variant of Stein, is a well-established South African surname.
The origins are both Dutch and German. The majority of South
African Steyns seem to have been descended from a Dutchman Jacobus
Steijn of the early 1700’s. Another line apparently stems from a
soldier, Johannes Steyn from Darmstad, who settled in Cape colony in
the late 1700’s, married, and raised eight children.
One line from Jacobus Steijn leads to Bloomfontein. The Steyn farm
there – once the home of Martinus Steyn, the last President of the
Orange Free State – has become something of a shrine to Afrikaan
nationalism. Another descendant is the present-day business
tycoon Douw Steyn.
America. The Steins followed the early German immigrant
pattern into America, via Philadelphia into Pennsylvania. Among
those arriving in the first half of the 18th century through this route
- Johannes Leonardt Stein in 1733 on the Hope of London, settling in
- Johannes Stein from Rheinland in 1748 on the Edinburgh, settling also in
- Philipp Stein in 1751, settling in Bedminster, Bucks county
- and another Johannes Stein from
Rheinland in the early 1750’s, settling in Pine Grove, Berks county(where the family remained for the next two hundred years).
settled in Baltimore in 1833 and subsequent Steins of this line
became Baltimore lawyers and judges. Meyer Stein – who had
1841 and started up a
clothing store – was part of the vibrant German Jewish community of
Baltimore. His son Daniel made money in railroads and his
granddaughter was the writer Gertrude
New York The
largest number of Steins were to be found in New York,
following the wave of Jewish immigration in the late 19th century from
Eastern Europe. Their Yiddish culture transplanted readily itself
to New York; and Joseph Stein, the son of Polish immigrants in New
York, depicted this culture in his smash-hit musical Fiddler on the Roof.
New York has provided the platform for Steins to succeed in the
professions, in particular as lawyers, doctors, and
businessmen. Recent New York headlines have told of the death of Linda
Stein, a real estate mogul, and of the conviction of Edward
Stein, a hedge fund manager, for a Ponzi-scheme fraud.
have also spread across America. Four family success
stories have been:
- the Stein
family of Lafayette, Indiana which began in 1851 when John
Stein moved there from Pennsylvania. He later was instrumental in
founding Purdue University.
- Charles Stein and his family who immigrated from Germany to
California in the 1880’s. They started up the Stein family farm (now
preserved as a museum) near the US/Mexican border.
- a Jewish family from Lithuania who had moved to South Bend,
Indiana in the 1890’s where they ran a general store. Their son
Jules Stein started a talent-agency business in the 1930’s which grew
into the mass entertainment company MCA.
- and a Jewish immigrant from Russia, Sam Stein, who came to
Mississippi in 1905 and started up a general store in Greenville.
David Ginzl’s 2004 book Stein Mart
narrates how the family built up the business in the succeeding years.
Australia. The Stein
name began in Australia in 1838 when Johann Stein was brought out from
Germany with the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling. Steins have
been living in Smithfield, NSW almost from that time. Since 1976 the
vineyard in Mudgee, NSW has been in Stein family hands.
The von Steins in Germany and America. The von Steins were an old Franconian family which had
been in Nassau in the Lahn river valley in northern Bavaria since the
12th century. Baron Friedrich von Stein, who was born on the
family estate there, was an important player in the modernization of
Prussia, introducing reforms which were to pave the way for the later
unification of Germany.
A later von Stein, Christian von Stein, emigrated to
America. Family legend has it that when Christian was a young boy,
he walked into the woods and, hearing a cuckoo bird, counted the bird’s
cuckoo call. He counted to 110. If you can count the
time a bird says “cuckoo” (according to the belief at the time), that
is how long you will live.
Christian later renounced his title and inheritance and came to America to begin a new life. He built a flour mill in Missouri which has recently been restored and is still working. He died in America at the age of 104, sound of mind and
wit. He ate his noon meal, drank his glass of Schnapps, smoked
his cigar, and went for his afternoon walk, twirling his cane. He
returned home, retired to his bedroom for an afternoon nap, and died in his sleep.
Leopold Stein and Judenmatrikel. Leopold Stein’s life, just like that of his father Abraham, had been
severely restricted as to where they were allowed to live and
how they could earn a living. In Bavaria, no Jew could stay in a
locality unless he had obtained a special permit to live there, the
The Judenmatrikel, begun in
1813, would list the members of each Jewish family. No name could
be added to the list until someone on the list died. In addition,
only the head of the household and the eldest son were entitled to work.
Because of the Judenmatrikel, Leopold
Stein – when he was made Rabbi in Frankfurt in the 1840’s and preached
to his congregation – would encourage them to emigrate
to the United States.
Leopold Stein of Baltimore. Franz Leopold Stein was the son of the Grand Duke of
Baden’s physician at Schwetzingen and Rastatt. This young man was
the democratic student movement at Freiburg University in 1832 and
cross over into Alsace to escape arrest.
In the following year, in April 1833,
Leopold Stein left Strasbourg for Le Havre where he boarded the ship Lexington for New Orleans. His mother, two sisters
and a brother accompanied him. On
their way up the Mississippi to Ohio, his mother died of cholera.
they arrived in Cincinnati.
But Leopold soon decided to turn east and, as the
last diary entry states, he settled in Maryland:
“Baltimore, July 25th,
1833. Temperature 110 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Three years later Leopold
married Miss Young who came from one of the old southern Maryland
Reader Feedback – Leopold Stein of Baltimore. There were two Leopold Steins – Rabbi Leopold Loeb Stein
of Frankfurt and
Franz Leopold Stein of Baltimore – both of whom encouraged and assisted
to emigrate to Cincinnati in the mid-19th century.
David Lewin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Stein and Company. The Stein name appears either by itself or with a prefix. The table below shows the eight most common Jewish Stein names in America, ranked according to their frequency.
|1.||Stein||stone||Joseph Stein, writer of Fiddler on the Roof|
|2.||Goldstein||gold + stone||Vida Goldstein, Australian
|3.||Bernstein||amber + stone||Leonard Bernstein, American
|4.||Epstein||boar + stone||Jacob Epstein, British sculptor|
|5.||Silverstein||silver + stone||Abe Silverstein, American
pioneer in the space program
|6.||Finkelstein||carbuncle + stone||Norman Finkelstein, American
|7.||Feinstein||fine + stone||Moshe Feinstein, American
|8.||Rubinstein||ruby + stone||Arthur Rubinstein, famous pianist|
Other famous -steins
are Einstein, Eisenstein, and
Hammerstein. Stein also appears as a prefix in surnames, such as
Steiner, Steinitz, Steinbeck, and Steinway.
Steins may have increased in numbers as some sons or
grandsons of -stein
immigrants shortened their names. Thus in New York politics the
son of Jerry Finkelstein has been Andrew Stein.
Joseph Stein and Fiddler on the Roof. Joseph Stein was born in New York in 1912, the son
of Polish immigrants. Growing up in the Bronx, Stein’s father
read him the stories of Sholom Aleichem, a Yiddish author of Jewish
folk tales. Stein would remember these stories when he came later
to develop the musical that became Fiddler on the Roof. Fiddler was in fact originally
titled Tevye as it was based
on Aleichem’s story Tevye and His
In Stein’s version,
the story begins outside Tevye’s house, with a fiddler seated on the
roof. Tevye addresses the audience, explaining that they are all
as precarious as a fiddler on the roof, trying to stay up without
breaking their necks. Why do they stay? It is because this
small village is their home, and they keep their balance through
tradition. They have traditions for every piece of their lives,
such as always covering their heads and wearing a prayer shawl, which
shows their constant devotion to God. Tevye tells the audience
that he has no idea how the traditions began, but because of those
traditions, everyone knows what part they play in life.
Fiddler opened on
1964. Although its backers were originally reluctant to produce
the musical because they feared it might have limited appeal, Fiddler
went on to become a smash hit. Stein won three major awards
for his effort, including the Tony
award for best musical.
The Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics. When Lou Stein ended his business career, his role as a leading
legal philanthropist was just beginning. Lou had been a supporter
of Fordham Law School in New York for many years. He took that
dedication to a new level in the mid-1970s. Lou decided that, in
the wake of Watergate, it was critical that the legal profession
rededicate to service and ethics.
He therefore established the Fordham-Stein Prize, which has annually
honored lawyers whose careers have embodied the highest ideals of the
profession. He then created the Louis Stein Center for Law and
Ethics – which has become known worldwide as a powerful force in
educating the public about the importance of the rule of law and in
educating lawyers about the awesome responsibility that their
profession casts on their shoulders.
The Stein Center is possibly without peer in legal academia. It
has helped establish Fordham as a leader in the field of legal ethics
and it has helped educate a generation of lawyers that are dedicated to
advancing the public interest.
A Portrait of the Steyn Family in South Africa. The Steyn family selection in the 2003 book Group Portrait South Africa
examines the journey of a prominent Afrikaner family that traces its
roots to Martinus Steyn, the last president of the so-called Orange
Free State. The life stories revolve around a farm that has
remained in the family since the 19th century and has become something
of a museum of Afrikaner nationalism.
The Steyns have been the only family in the collection that have
managed to keep their land through the 20th century. In the Steyn
stories recounted in the book, there is family lore about
their beloved farm and the time that they were visited by a member of
the English royal family; but no discussion of their role in
apartheid nor on their position on the current government.
Instead, the family projects images and stories of war, domination and
The dominant picture presented is a two-page spread by border war
veteran Colin Steyn and his son Colin in Boer uniforms dating from the
Boer War. The spread includes President Martinus Steyn in an
official portrait taken at his inauguration in 1897 and Yvonne Steyn
sitting under a gigantic tree that she planted herself. The war veteran
Colin Steyn then relates how participating in wars with South Africa’s
neighbors in the 1980s has traumatized him. He returned from the border
wars of the 1980s with terrible stories and souvenirs from the bodies
of dead Africans.
Some of the Steyn women have seemed uneasy about the exalted status of
their family. Eliza Steyn, for instance, complained that she was
being “swallowed up” by the reputation of the Steyns.
“They were worshipped as heroes and
sometimes it bothered me. I could not accept that the Steyns were
everything and other people were nothing.”
She didn’t want her children growing up “with the notion that being a
Steyn was the alpha and the omega.”
Indiana’s Stein Family. Robert Kriebel’s 1990 biography of the prominent 19th century Stein
family in Lafayette, Poets,
Painters, Paupers, Fools, weaves the story of four fascinating
individuals within the web of state and national history and culture at
The family members included John A. Stein, the state politician who
devoted years to the founding of Purdue University; the indomitable
mother Virginia who pursued a career in the local library when left
widowed and penniless; the talented albeit disreputable Orth Stein who
was prominent as a journalist and illustrator but was also tried for
murder; and the sheltered Evaleen Stein who achieved some local fame as
a poet and author of children’s books.
The Stein Family Farm in California. Charles Stein had been born in Germany and had
immigrated to California in the 1880s. He had met his wife Bertha
in National City, they had married in 1891 and then had moved to
Charles’s farm close to the Mexican border.
Charles, a successful farmer, was angered when his property was flooded
by the construction of the Otay Dam. Offered what he thought was
a paltry amount for the loss of his property, he took the builders of
the dam to court and sued for a better settlement. Charles Stein
won his suit. With $1,000 of this money, the Steins purchased
property in National City in 1900 which was to become the Stein Family
In 1992, Charles’s descendants were approached by a purchaser who
wanted to tear down the structures on the Farm and build apartments
there. Public awareness of this resulted in a campaign to “Save
the Farm.” The purchaser generously sold the property back to the
town of National City.
To the credit of National City’s government, the farmstead was
purchased with the intent to turn it into a living history
museum. Stein’s house, barn, and buildings, along with over two
acres of property – the Stein Family Farm – is now this museum.
The Life and Death of Linda Stein. The punk-rock pioneer turned broker
to the stars had stormed her way up from middle-class Riverdale to
become something of a star herself. In 1975, this New Yorker had
taken one look at the Ramones, decided they were the future of rock,
and helped launch their incendiary ascent. A fixture at CBGB, the
Mudd Club, and Studio 54, she leveraged her friendships in the 1980’s
to become the first and greatest celebrity real-estate broker, selling
to the likes of Madonna, Sting, Donna Karan, Bruce Willis and Demi
Moore, and Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley.
There were moments, many of them, when her personality upstaged her
accomplishments: She was a couture-clad Jewish Auntie Mame to her
children, a vicious competitor to her colleagues, a heavy drinker and
rampant pot-smoker with a volcanic temper she’d unleash even on her
friends. “If she doesn’t say fuck twenty times a day,”
her daughter Mandy, then a teenager, said in 1991, “she’s repressed.”
However, time went by and time was
passing her by. The Linda Stein of everyone’s imagination was much
younger – still physically whole and in every way indomitable.
“She set very high expectations for herself,” said a friend. “She felt
if she didn’t do a huge deal all the time that she wasn’t living up to
her own expectations.” At 62, she appeared to be in competition
with her own iconhood.
In 2007, Linda Stein had engaged a
new assistant Natavia Lowery, a quiet African-American woman of 26 who
had grown up in a Harlem housing project. As a boss, Stein could
be brutal and profane and she may have been particularly hard on Lowery – because, on the day before Halloween, Lowery must have snapped. Later that night Linda’s daughter Mandy discovered her mother’s body in
a pool of blood in the living room of her Fifth Avenue apartment.
She had been bludgeoned with a heavy object repeatedly. Lowery
was convicted of the murder in February 2010.
Select Stein Names
- Gertrude Stein was an American
writer who spent most of her life in France (for much of the time with her partner Alice B. Toklas).
- Jules Stein built up his talent-agency business in the 1930’s to the mass entertainment company MCA Inc.
- Joseph Stein was the author of the smash-hit musical Fiddler on the Roof of the 1960’s.
- Jock Stein was the Scottish
football manager who led Celtic to their European Cup triumph in 1967.
- Herbert Stein was the Chairman
of Economic Advisors under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
Select Stein Numbers Today
- 2,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 25,000 in the UK (most numerous
in New York)
- 2,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).
Click here for return to front page
Leave a Reply