Sepp: Origin and meaning of surname

The surname Sepp (pronounced Zep) is a German diminutive form of Josef or Joseph.1 Joseph is a masculine name originating from ancient Hebrew, recorded in the Hebrew Bible as Yossef ( יוֹסֵף‎ ) or in  Aramaic as Yôsēp̄. The name can be translated from the Hebrew יוסף יהוה‎ as yosef YHWH, meaning “Yahweh/Jehovah (God) shall increase or add”.2

The first known bearer of the name is mentioned in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Joseph was the eleventh and favourite son of Jacob, a Jewish patriarch who lived in Canaan (now Israel) at around 2000 BC. After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph found himself serving in Egypt in the household of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials and captain of the guard. Even when serving his master well, Joseph ended up being imprisoned unfairly for 14 years, but eventually came under the attention of the then reigning pharaoh as a result of his God-given ability to interpret dreams. Joseph was appointed advisor to the pharaoh and became overseer of all the land of Egypt.2-4

In the New Testament of the Bible, written about 2000 years ago, there are two others named Joseph: 1) Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ5 and, 2) Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus who supplied the tomb in which Jesus was buried, after his crucifixion on Golgotha in Jerusalem, Israel.6

The Saxon name, Joseph was introduced into Britain by returning pilgrims and crusaders of the 11th century onward and became even more common after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th and 17th century. The development of surnames in Europe as a hereditary system, however, was in place only around the year 1500 and continued to develop thereafter. Various variations of a surname developed over time.7,8 Surnames such as Joseff, Josep, Joseph, Josephs, Josephson, Seph, Sepp, Seppl and Seipp appeared.


  1. Sepp.
  2. Joseph.
  3. Genesis 37 – 50, The Bible
  4. Bouma, J. The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible: Joseph.
  5. Matthew 1, The Bible.
  6. John 19:38 – 42, The Bible.
  7. Last name: Joseph.
  8. Joseph surname.