Top 5 Myths About How The “Jewfish” Got Its Name


Why do some people call them “jewfish,” while others call them “goliath grouper”?

Well, jewfish isn’t just a nickname for this massive fish, it used to be its official name.

In the spring of 2001, a group of scientists successfully petitioned to have the official name of the fish changed from “jewfish” to “Goliath grouper.”

But how did it get the name “jewfish” in the first place?

Well, like many things in life (including why they say bananas are bad luck), there are several myths and no “real” answers.

The other day I had a conversation with Sid Dobrin about these gargantuan fish, and he threw a few of the myths at me (one being it was a jewfish that swallowed Jonah (a Jew) from the Bible).

This got me thinking, what other myths are out there about the origin of the name “jewfish” (aka Goliath Grouper)?

After some serious research, interviewing seasoned anglers and diving through the depths of Google, I uncovered these five myths…

Myth #1: It Was A Goliath Grouper That Swallowed Jonah From The Bible (Who Was A Jew)

world record jewfish
Image source:

According to the Bible, Jonah was a Jewish prophet from 8th century Israel who was swallowed by a big fish.

The bible doesn’t specify what kind of fish swallowed Jonah, but since goliath grouper are so big, some people say they’re the culprit.

Now, the world record goliath grouper was a 680-pound behemoth caught off of Fernandina Beach, FL.

This bad boy is pictured above, and if any fish is swallowing a man whole, I’m putting my money on a goliath grouper.

Myth #2: Goliath Grouper Are Kosher

life of a goliath grouper

William Dampier, an English traveler and certified adventurer (this dude circumvented the world 3 times!) wrote about goliath grouper in his book from 1697 titled, A New Voyage Round The World.

He said, “The Jew-fish is a very good Fish, and I judge so called by the English, because it hath Scales and Fins, therefore a clean Fish, according to the Levitical Law.”

He was talking about his time spent with Jewish Jamaicans, and this is one of the earliest known references to these fish as “Jew-fish”.

So the fact that goliath grouper are kosher is another potential source for the name.

However, one argument against this is that nearly all fish are kosher.

Myth #3: It’s Derived From The Italian Word “Giupesce”

jewfish goliath grouper

In Italian, giupesce, means “bottom fish“.

So when you sound it out, it sounds like “jew-pesce”, and “pesce” means fish in Italian.

So, after some mixing and matching of languages, you could see how the name “jewfish” might have come about…

Myth #4: They Were Originally Called “Jawfish”

jawfish aka jewfish

Goliath grouper have massive jaws.

Some may say they’re even big enough to swallow a man alive and let him live inside their stomachs for three days… (see myth #1)

So it’s possible that they were once called jawfish, and one day some yahoo mixed up their a’s and e’s and the name jewfish stuck.

Maybe if the old English alphabet didn’t have their confusing “æ” character this wouldn’t have happened…

Myth #5: Go Forth And Multiply

goliath grouper gathering

When early European settlers first came to the Caribbean there were tons of goliath grouper.

They were clearly thriving and multiplying, which reminded them of where it says in the Bible, “Go forth and multiply!”

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have been able to wet a line back then!


big goliath grouper aka jewfish

While we may never know the true origin of the name jewfish, we do know that they chose the name Goliath grouper because of how big they are.

They’re so big, in fact, that they’re known to snap a heavy-duty rod right in half!

Which myth do you think is most likely the true origin of the name jewfish?

Let us know in the comments below!

P.S. TAG or SHARE this article with someone who needs to know about these myths!

Struggling To Catch As Many Grouper As You Want?

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Kelly Meyer
17 days ago

Ok this is not a myth and it happened years ago in Hilton Head Sc.I swam really far out that some beach goers called the popo because they thought I was trying to Commit S? I was seeing if I could swim to a nearby boat but the further I got it,it started getting dark as I swam back to shore.While lowering my leg 🦵 to see if I could reach the.bottom, something swallowed my leg all the way up to my knee.
I started singing and praying so I didn’t panic.I then reached my hand to see of I could feel the bottom and my whole arm all the way up to my elbow was swallowed.Instead of panicking and freaking out I kept singing and praying.All along the shore were helecopters,cops,firefighters,and all of that.Long story short and not making fun of anyone but afterwards I looked it up and it said my encounter was with a grooper or jewish fish and I happened to be Catholic.It said grooper were named Jewish fish because they are takers.Well it took my arm and leg and swallowed them both but gave them back.No teeth or harm,just.swallowed.True story;)

Last edited 17 days ago by Kelly Meyer
6 months ago

My father and uncles fished for Jewfish in the 1940’s in TampaBay and for most all of MY life that’s the only name I ever heard. I remember one they caught that filled up the whole bed of a pickup truck.

8 months ago

They were called jewfish because they have a small bone in the shape of the star of David.

1 year ago

In Australia a different fish (Argyrosomus japonicus) is called either a Mulloway or Jewfish (or lots of other nicknames). It has gone by both names for as long as I can remember. I think it possibly got it’s name from an initial mis-identification of the Atlantic Grouper because it is a similarly large fish. It certainly grows quite large as well getting up to 6ft 7in.

Tom C
1 year ago


This is so much ado about nothing. A jewfish is a kind of big ass grouper. I moved to Ft Lauderdale from Chicago when I was 8 in 1970. I never heard anything remotely anti-Semitic in my youth. Or in my first 8 years in the South Shore neighborhood of the south side of Chicago that was a predominately Jewish neighborhood in the 1950’s.

Back to the Jewfish. That is just what they were called. I have seen smallish boats in Port Everglades fish for them by having a winch at the back of their boat with rope and the bait was a hunk of fish on a large hook. The fish apparently lived in deep underwater alcoves in the Port (habitat thanks to human dredging a deep port in what were mangrove swamps) and would bolt out to get their meal, sometimes hooks included and would retreat back into their alcoves. Pulling a 400+ lbs fish out of his cave is difficult and saw boats with their nose in the air trying to haul in these beasts. No one I heard ever had any disrespect for these monster, but they certainly contributed to their decline as did the terrible pollution from the Florida Power and Light discharges from their plant into the waterway which I have water skied through many times in my youth (think clear oily gelatinous goo washing up in alcoves). Oh well,

2 years ago

Wow!! How anti Semitic of you.

FL Keys Dude
2 years ago

Hysterical comment and you’re not that far off from the truth. I’m born and raised in Dade county and lived in the Keys for a decade so I know the truth. Scientists weren’t the group lobbying for the name change. It was the Jewish community who claimed the name was anti-semitic and lobbied for the “official name” change; under the guise of “scientific reasoning”; with the support of UM’s marine biology department.

I’ve seen these fish upclose and in person dozens of times. My jewish-faithed friends, who used to dive with me, thought the whole name change effort was a farce. I couldn’t agree more.

2 years ago

I find your remark offensive and racial.

John troll smith
3 years ago

How about renaming them Hymey mermaids. Kids love mermaids!

Sid Dobrin
3 years ago

Like I said, too, I find it interesting that the new name features the name “Goliath,” a Philistine and enemy of the Jews.

2 years ago
Reply to  Sid Dobrin


Ace Hunt
4 months ago
Reply to  Sid Dobrin

Maybe rename it Davidfish


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