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During the 19th century, Botbol was one of the twenty most common surnames within Morocco's Jewish community (see History of the Jews in Morocco). The origin of this surname (and its variants: Abitbol and Boutboul) is likely derived from the Hebrew shoresh ט.ב.ל (ṭ.b.l) meaning "purification in a ritual bath". The name means "father of the bath", i.e., the one in charge of this ritual bath. In Arabic, it means "father of the tambourine" which indicates a profession, i.e., the maker or salesman of this popular Moroccan musical instrument. The Botbol name is now found in Morocco, France, Belgium, Israel and South America.
The Botbol families in Morocco, like most of the established Jewish community in Morocco, arrived between 1478, persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition, and 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs signed the Alhambra Decree, the edict ordering the expulsion of all Jews from Spain and its possessions. Some of the Botbols may have gone to Antwerp at this time, and become the Botbijl families found there today. Botbols were known in early 16th century Flanders of that era, and were referred to as North African Jews.