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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

Jewish surname indicating priestly descent, from Hebrew kohen "priest," from base of kihen "he acted as priest," related to Arabic kahana "he divined, prophesied."


n. (surname: from=Hebrew) (non-gloss definition: The most popular Jewish surname.)


Cohen may refer to:

  • Kohen, a Jewish priest
  • Cohen (surname), a common Jewish surname
Cohen (surname)

Cohen (, kōhēn, " priest") is a Jewish surname of biblical origins (see: Kohen). It is a very common Jewish surname, and the following information discusses only that origin. Bearing the surname indicates that one's patrilineal ancestors were priests in the Temple of Jerusalem. A single such priest was known as a Kohen, and the hereditary caste descending from these priests is collectively known as the Kohanim. As multiple languages were acquired through the Jewish diaspora, the surname acquired dozens of variants.

Some Kohanim have added a secondary appellation to their surname, so as to distinguish themselves from other Kohanim --- such as Cohen-Scali of Morocco, who trace their lineage to Zadok, and Cohen-Maghari (Meguri) of Yemen, who trace their lineage to the first ward, Jehoiariv, in the division of twenty-four priestly wards.

Being a Kohen imposes some limitations: by Jewish law a Kohen may not marry a divorced woman, and may not marry a proselyte (someone who converted to Judaism). Nor should an observant Kohen come into contact with the dead.

An effort to trace whether or not people named 'Cohen' actually have a common genetic origin has been undertaken, using a genealogical DNA test associated with the Cohen Modal Haplotype.

Usage examples of "cohen".

Wherever the Mafia had grown and prospered since Prohibition, these other savages were there as well, ever clinging to the shadows as the more flamboyant amici filled headlines and mortuaries, lending their advice and financial acumen where it was lacking in their Mafia comrades, Siegel, Buchalter, Cohen, Lansky.

Lon Cohen of the Gazette, who said talk was going around and would I kindly remember that on Saturday he had moved heaven and earth for me to find out where Madeline Fraser was, and how did it stand right now?

Cohen had received little support from his embassy or his superiors in Tel Aviv, but early on Sunday, January 4, the station wagon with Saul, Natalie, and two American-born Israeli agents passed over the Peace Bridge from Niagara Falls, New York, to Niagara Falls, Canada.

Goldman and Cohen got paroled last fall, but they got bushwacked in July and Davey got his brains scrambled.

Decker could see that it might take intensive and extended deprogramming to break the hold that Cohen had on his friend.

As they had planned, after the Havdalah, Tom and Rhoda waited for everyone to leave so they could talk with Rabbi Cohen alone.

At one time Cohen had been thought by many to be the heir apparent to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, considered the most politically powerful rabbi in the world.

Pongo, which had jumped with us into the boat as we put off, uttered a faint miaou, and Cohen swore.

The Norths and their guests had gone to a motion picture theater around the corner and seen a mystery film, which Detective Cohen, rousted from his comfort at the bar across the street, had also seen and enjoyed.

Afghanistan, had noticed a recent stream of reports about Bin Ladin and something called al Qaeda, and suggested to Cohen that the station focus on this one individual.

Samuel Cohen takes the oath on this Monday, in the first quarter moon of the month of Shevat in the year 5442, and everything is hereby forever and faithfully guaranteed.

Lucharitse Street, would pick up her porcelain pipe, fill it with the yellowest tobacco, which had been kept in raisins over the winter, light it with a lump of myrrh or a pine splinter from the island of Lastovo, give a silver coin to a boy from the Stradun, and send the lighted pipe to Samuel Cohen in prison.

Leman Street could be mistranscribed as 86, but how do you confuse Kosminski and Cohen?

Now he did an extra day and an extra morning a week for Balfour Cohen, and also took work home.

Marshall had a brother-in-law, a certain Baruch Cohen, a mathematical instrument maker in Clerkenwell, and to him Marshall accidentally one day talked about Clara, and said that she desired an occupation.