Family name

Coat of Arms (Printer's Mark) of Immanuel Benveniste, Amsterdam 17th Century. It includes the Star of David, a lion cub of Judah a castle and 10 moons - the Kabbalist symbols of the 10 Sefirot (attributes/emanations). Probably the symbols in the Coat of Arms of Mendes/Benveniste families from Portugal and Spain[1]
Meaning Latin "Bien veniste" and Spanish Bien venida = welcome (or Bien viniste = your arrival was good).
Region of origin Spain, Greece, Israel, Turkey and the Old Ottoman Empire, Western Europe;
Language(s) of origin Spanish, Ladino
Related names Benvenist (in Catalonia),Benveniste (in Castile), Bemvenist and Bemvenista (in Portugal), Benvenisti (in Italy),Beniste or Benisti (in North Africa), Bienveniste, Benbeneste, Beneviste, Benvenista, Benvenisto, Ben-Veniste (in other places),

Benveniste, is the surname, byname (see below - the origin of the name) in an old, noble, rich, and scholarly Jewish family of Narbonne, France and northern Spain from the 11th century. The family was present in the 11th to the 15th centuries in Provence, France, Barcelona, Aragon and Castile' Spain. Family members received honorary titles from the authorities and were members of the administration of the kingdom of Aragon and Castile. They were the Baillie ("Bayle") - the Tax Officer and Treasurer, Alfaquim - Senior Advisor to the King and Royal Physician in Barcelona and Aragon in the 12th and 13th centuries. They held the title of "Nasi" (prince in Hebrew), a name given to members of the House of David, in the Jewish communities (mainly Barcelona) and were prominent religious and secular leaders in the 11th to the 14th centuries. In the 14th to the 15th century they held the titles of "Benveniste de la Cavalleria"—"of the knights" (a name given by the Templars to their treasurers and tax collectors) and Don—a noble person in Aragon and Castile. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 they were dispersed mainly to Portugal, Greece - Salonica other parts of the Turkish Empire and North African countries. In Portugal they were forced to convert to Christianity in 1497 and became one of the rich traders and bankers (the Mendes family) of Europe. Today the name is borne by families in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Israel. It was also used as a prænomen.[2]

Origin of the name

The origin of the name according to a family legend told to David Benvenisti, a prominent Israeli scholar, by his grandfather Benvenisti Shemuel Yosef, a prominent Jewish leader in Salonica, in the beginning of the 20th century is: "When our forbearers dwelt in Spain, one of the kings had a Jewish finance minister who also served as royal physician. He was also known as an expert in flora, particularly medicinal plants. Once, the king, accompanied by his Jewish minister, went for a stroll in the fields near the palace. The minister told the king about every plant. The king was especially fascinated by the malva and its pink and violet blossoms. When the king asked what the flower was called and what it was used for, the Jewish minister replied that its petals were cooked and eaten, and it was called "bienva." At this time one of the ministers, a sworn enemy of the Jewish minister, burst into laughter, and said to the king: "Your Majesty, that Jew-minister expert in our country's flora was making fun of you. He deliberately gave you a wrong name for that flower in order to embarrass you before your ministers and viziers. That is not a ‘bienva,’ but a ‘malva’." The king angrily asked the Jewish minister to explain, threatening him with dire punishment. The minister said: "Your Majesty, I am ready to accept your judgment. But first, I beg you, hear me out carefully. Your Majesty, when we were out in the field, you asked me to tell you the name of that plant. There you were, standing before me, Royal Highness, and I thought: By no means am I going to offend Your Majesty by telling you the plant's true name, ‘malva’ – ‘ill-going’! So I told you that the plant is called ‘bienva’ ‘well-going’:”. The king was mollified, and he said to the Jewish minister: “You have vanquished those of my ministers who wish you ill. I am pleased with your explanation. And to commemorate this occasion, I hereby; dub you bien veniste (‘Benveniste’) or 'your arrival was for good'”[3]


The beginning - Narbonne, Aragon and Barcelona

Frankish Empire in the 5th to the 9th century and a map showing Charlemagne's additions (in light green) to the Frankish Kingdom, including Septimania

The first appearance of the name Benveniste was in the 11th century in southern France (Septimania, Provence of our time). The region was shaped by charlemagne from the Frankish Kingdom of the Carolingian. The big Narbonne Jewish center was established, according to Jewish and Christian sources, by prominent Jews from Bagdad at the request of the Carolingian kings in the end of the first millennium AD. The Babylonian names of Makhir, Hasdai, Sheshet and Shealtiel are the names of chief rabbis and leaders - Nasi (considered by the Jewish tradition as descendents of king David) of the Jewish center. The Jewish families assisted the Christian administrations of the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona as tax collectors and advisers. In 1150 Aragon and Barcelona were united by the marriage of their rulers. The Jewish families appear together with the name Benveniste in official and Jewish documents of Narbonne, Barcelona and Aragon from the 11th-13th century AD with the title Nasi added their names. They appear in the travel books of Benjamin of Tudela from the 12th century.[4]

Bonastruc de (ça) Porta - Nahmanides

Aragon, Kingdom of Castile and the Expulsion of the Jews in the 15th Century

The Marranos in Portugal

Greece, Italy and Turkey

Other countries


  1. Heller Marvin J. The Printer's Mark of Immanuel Benveniste and Its Later Influence, Studies in Bibliography and Booklore, Vol. 19, (1994)
  2. Moritz Steinschneider, "Cat. Bodl." No. 7348; Loeb, in "Rev. des Etudes Juives", xxi. 153
  3. "The Origin of the name Benveniste".. Benvenisti D. 'From Saloniki to Jerusalem - Chapters in Life', 1984. Testimony of Meron, Refael and Eyal Benvenisti.
  4. 1 2 "narbonne". Retrieved 2012-02-18.
  5. 1 2 "Encyclopaedia Judaica". Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  6. "Baer - A History of the Jews in Christian Spain Vol II, p. 57". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  7. "Baer - A History of the Jews in Christian Spain Vol II". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  8. "Benveniste - Jewish Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  9. "Baer - A History of the Jews in Christian Spain Vol. II, pp. 259-270". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  10. "Baer - A History of the Jews in Christian Spain Vol II, p. 317". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  11. "Jewish History Sourcebook: The Expulsion from Spain, 1492 CE". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  12. "Antwerpen - Jewish Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  13. The Long Journey of Dona Gracia. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  14. "Mendes - Jewish Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  15. Solomon H. P. and Leone Leoni A. Mendes, Benveniste, De Luna, Micas, Nasci: The State of the Art (1522-1558. The Jewish Quarterly Review 88, 3-4, 1998, pp. 135-211
  16. The Hebrew Portuguese Nations In Antwerp And London. Retrieved 2012-04-08.
  17. Rosanes S.A., Histoire des israelites de turquie, Sofia 1934.
  18. Fuks & Fuks-Mansfeld - Hebrew typography in the Northern Netherlands, 1585-1815. Retrieved 2012-02-23.


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