I wonder if this family name, "сипа" or "sipa", does exist in any slavic language (or maybe jewish). The ortography might be different and not exactly the same as I wrote it.
The only thing I know for certain is that the person who carried that family name came from Odessa, Ukraine. Around 1900. His children had all different family names (C instead of S, one or two P), but all of them sounds the same.
Therefore I'm wondering how was the original family name.

Even though my question is about the original family name, I'll give the scarce additional information that I have about the person who carried that name. As far as I know his name was Joseph, or the slavic version of that name, because in America (Panama first, Chile later) he used the name José. The only reference that I have is a myth that says that his passport marked Odessa as exit port.

  • 1
    HI, Santiago -- welcome to G&FH.SE! Could you let us know how you know your relative came from Odessa? I assume you weren't around in 1900 when he came over, so someone else or some historical record must have said so. ;-)
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 22:10
  • Thanks @bytebuster. Any info would be welcome. I'll also edit the question to answer Jan Murphy.
    – Santiago
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 12:03
  • In Odessa in 1900 lived together in more or less equal proportions: Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Greeks, Germans, Turks, Jews and possibly a few other ethnicities I forgot about. It was a super-multicultural city. The family name could originate from any of those ethnies, and is not necessary slavic.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


Version 1, derived from сипати

I found a linguistics professor in an Ukrainian university whose name is Liliya Sypa (Ukr: Сипа), and she helped to reveal the etymology of her name.

The main version is based on Ukrainian/Russian root сипати (/'sɪpatɪ/) which means "to pour" (referring a granular solid only; we have a different verb in meaning "to pour a liquid").

So, the person in question (or their ancestor) could be a producer/trader of grain, sugar, etc.

She also said that this family name appears in Western Ukraine, namely, Zolochiv district of Lviv region (note, it is considerably far away from Odessa).

Version 2, Ципа

When you mentioned C instead of S and double P, this made me thinking of another idea.

Odessa region historically has a considerable Jewish population, and the beginning of 20th century is associated with anti-Jewish pogroms, so many people were forced to flee specifically at that times.

Also, note that the first name Joseph has Jewish origin; in former Russian empire, unlike Europe, this name was used primarily by the Jews¹.

Having the above in mind, we could suppose that the original family name could be Ципа /t͡sɪpa/. It originated from biblical female name Zipporah² (Tsipora), meaning bird³.

Going even further, Cipa could be a phonetic contraction of Zipper, Zipperman, or a related family name.

So, the person in question can be someone whose business was related with growing/trading the domestic birds like chicken.

Or simply, Joseph, son of Zipporah.

¹. I mean, in Europe, many Biblical names are widely used, by non-Jewish people as well. In Russian empire, this was the case, too: Michael/Mikhail, Mary/Mariah, John/Ivan are quite popular. Unlike the above, Joseph was almost solely used by people of Jewish nation;

². Noticed the double p?

³. Till today, in modern Ukrainian and Russian languages there is an informal way to call domestic birds by words with the root of цип-/цып-.

  • Wow, great answer @bytebuster. I suppose that the second version is closer to reality. Thanks for that research.
    – Santiago
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 13:08

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