Last name origins & meanings:
- German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): distinguishing epithet for the
older of two bearers of the same personal name.
(Ashkenazic): from the Yiddish personal name Alter, an
inflected form of alt ‘old’. This was in part an omen name,
expressing the parents’ hope that the child would live a long life; in
part an apotropaic name, given to a child born after the death of a
sibling, but also said to have sometimes been assumed by someone who
was seriously ill. The purpose is supposed to have been to confuse the
Angel of Death into thinking that the person was old and so not worth
claiming as a victim.
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