What’s in a name?

The Mighty HussarsI honestly believe that in order to know yourself you have to know your history and everything that it entails. A recent scan of the internet looking for the name Uzar gave amusing results as some of you may recall (–> here).

On a more serious note, however, I think it’s useful for people to know a little bit about their family history and, for example, where their surname comes from. This has proved quite problematic for me and has resulted in conflicting results but they all – surprisingly – seem to lead to the same source.

I was given a few ideas by my grandmother whose knowledge of history and geopolitics was poor to say the least but she was convinced that the family was given the surname by King Jan Sobieski III in honour of their heroics in battle. Perhaps.

This, however, doesn’t explain why the form of the name is ‘Uzar’ and not ‘Hussar‘ which of course would be more appropriate for Sobieski’s soldiers. As is known, the Hussars, or more appropriately, the Polish Hussars were a mighty and feared set of warriors.

Yup, this I like. I wouldn’t mind being one of those. My own little theory is that the name Hussar changed over time to Uzar. Not at all improbable seeing that the family’s origins are somewhere in western Ukraine – the dropping of the ‘h’ sound and hardening of the ‘ss’ into ‘z’ would not be out of the question.

Another theory that also seems to gravitate towards Ukraine is the myth of the Khazars which I find particulary alluring and romantic. ‘Khazar’, also, is not far off ‘Uzar’ and the shift is quite smooth:
Khazar –> Azar –> Uzar. Hey, presto! What I love about the myth of the Khazars is that the whole civilisation/culture is shrouded in mystery. By some they are seen as one of the lost tribes of Israel, by others a people whose king was petitioned by Muslims, Christians and Jews to convert to their religion and this choice ultimately sealed their doom. There is so much mystery surrounding these people that it’s difficult to pinpoint who they were or where they came from and why they disappeared – a kind of Eurasian equivalent of the Mayas/Incas who allegedly disappeared off the face of the earth.


17 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Has it occurred to you that Hussar is actually a westernization, and ultimately an anglicization? The ‘Hussar’ as a type of cavalry originated in Eastern Europe a very long time ago, and is actually pronounced differently over there now, to say nothing of the fact that it was pronounced and spelled differently back in the mists of time, to say nothing of often being written in a different alphabet. It is not at all far-fetched to think that the name ‘Uzar’ is closer to the real name than ‘Hussar’. It’s actually a very close pronunciation. In many places, the spelling is Husar, or Huzar. . .

    Just a heads up. . .

  2. I do believe the name Uzar originates from the word “Kuzar”, which derives from “Khazar”. There was a book written in the middle ages called “the Kuzari”, speaking on this same converted Jewish empire. My great grandmother’s maiden name was Uzarski, and through a familytree DNA test we were able to show they were Ashkenazi Levites from the Khazarian Empire.

  3. Hi Raf, I have been doing some research on the name Uzarski, and I now believe that Uzar is not only an obvious connection to the Jewish Kuzars, but also that the Uzar spelling is the Polish form of the Belarusian name “Ozer” or “Ozar”. In Polish, “U” and “O'” sound exactly the same. If you go to the Shoah names database on the http://www.yadvashem.org site, you will find that that there were Jewish Uzarski’s from Warsaw that were related to an Ozersky family from Minsk, Belarus, and they all perished in the Holocaust. My Uzarski ancestors lived very close to Warsaw. Taking it a step further, according to Beider’s Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names, you can clearly see it in this list:

    Osar, Oschaiaha, Oschaja, Oscher, Oschir, Osel, Osep, Oser, Osherke, Osherl, Osiej, Osier, Osior, O ka, Osman, Osor, Osor, Ossar, Ossel, Osser, Osswald, Osszva, Osterburch, Ostermann, Ostrosz, Osuwe, Oswald, Oszar, Oszej, Oszer, Oszfa, Oszwa, Oszyja, Othniel, Ouadel, Ouendlein, Ovadye, Ovzer, Owsiej, Owsza, Owszej, Owszyja, Oyzerke, Oyzerl, Ozar, Ozer, Oziel, Ozyasz, Uszer

    Also, according to http://www.ancestry.com, here is the exact meaning of “Ozer”:

    Ozer Name Meaning and History

    1. Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic): from the Yiddish personal name Oyzer, meaning ‘helper’ in Hebrew.
    2. Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic): habitational name from a place called Ozery, now in Belarus.
    3. Muslim: from the Turkish form of the Arabic personal name ’Uzayr, the name of a prophet (the Biblical Ezra).

    Ezra Name Meaning and History
    Jewish: from the Hebrew personal name Ezra, meaning ‘help’. Ezra was a Biblical prophet of the 5th century bc who played an important role in the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.

    I would say EITHER Uzar comes from the Turkish form of Ezra, “Uzayr”, or the “O” was changed to “U” from Hebrew “Ozer”, which derives from the Yiddish personal name “Oyzer”, or the name did in fact derive from the Jewish community of Ozery, Belarus, but regardless, the name derives from the Hebrew name Ezra, which, coincidentally, sounds very similar to the Turkic word “Khazar” and “Kuzar”.


    1. Fantastic stuff! One thing, “u” and “o” do NOT sound the same in Polish.
      Many thanks for you comments, they really have given me a wider perspective of my name (and perhaps my roots).

  4. The name “Ozar”, is also Hebrew, and derives from the Hebrew word, “Otzar”, which means “treasure”, but I think in the case of Uzar as a surname it mostly likely derives from Hebrew “Ozer”, Yiddish “Oyzer”, or Turkic “Uzayr”, ALL coming from the personal name “Ezra”. Also, Yiddish derived from the area of the Khazars, and the Khazars originally spoke a Turkic dialect, so it seems only natural that Turkic names like “Uzayr” would be incorporated into the Yiddish language as so many Turkic words had.

    1. Yes, but that’s not an ‘o’, it’s ‘ó’. Besides, as far as I know, there are VERY few words in Polish that begin with ‘ó’ and the ones given above would CERTAINLY NOT be spelled with an ‘ó’. I’m pretty sure of that.

  5. It is Febuary 2012, I stumbled across this website info. about
    Kazarian Levites-very enlightening! My father told me I am
    a Levite decendent from his side. My grandfather came from
    kiev-Ukraine in Russia before moving to Essex,England then U.S, early 1900″s. I have a lot of interest in global-historical roots
    of all variants and ethnic/religions background surrounding
    the surname Ozer. Do you think there would be interest in developing such a broad website project? Ralph Ozer

    1. Also, on the Yad Vashem Holocaust database there are Jewish Uzarski records from Warsaw that show clearly a connection between the Uzarski’s of Poland and the Ozersky’s around Minsk, Belarus. I will paste one such record:

      Full Record Details for Uzarski Cipora

      Source Pages of Testimony
      Last Name UZARSKI
      Last Name OZERSKI
      First Name CIPORA
      First Name TZIPORA
      Father’s First Name YEHOSHUA
      Mother’s First Name SARA
      Gender Female
      Citizenship POLAND
      Marital Status MARRIED
      Permanent Place of Residence WARSZAWA,WARSZAWA,WARSZAWA,POLAND
      Profession WORKER
      Date of Death 1942
      Type of material Page of Testimony
      Submitter’s Last Name VISHKOVSKI
      Submitter’s First Name LEA
      Relationship to victim RELATIVE

  6. Hi, I stumbled upon your blog while searching for the origin of my last name. I’m Slovenian, but the spelling of my name is exactly the same. It is definitely not Slovenian 🙂 I noticed Poland has a high concentration of the last name, Turkey would be second. It’s been interesting to read all of the research you’ve done. I’ve done some of my genealogy, but only reached 1700s. I always wanted to go further. Thanks for posting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s