The first member of the family who was known to use the name "Rothschild" was Izaak Elchanan Rothschild, born in 1577. The name is derived from the German zum rothen Schild (with the old spelling "th"), meaning "at the red shield", in reference to the house where the family lived for many generations (in those days houses were designated not by numbers but by signs displaying different symbols or colours). A red shield can still be seen at the centre of the Rothschild coat of arms.

The family's ascent to international prominence began in 1744, with the birth of Mayer Amschel Rothschild in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He was the son of Amschel Rothschild (born circa 1710, a money changer who had traded with the Prince of Hesse. Born in the "Judengasse", the ghetto of Frankfurt, Mayer developed a finance house and spread his empire by installing each of his five sons in the five main European financial centres to conduct business.

The Rothschild coat of arms contains a clenched fist with five arrows symbolising the five dynasties established by the five sons of Mayer Rothschild, in a reference to Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth." The family motto appears below the shield: Concordia, Integritas, Industria (Unity, Integrity, Industry).
Rothschild and Co has adopted the five arrow symbol, to mean the highest proven accomplishments which have been achieved in the areas of

1.   Unity
2.   Integrity
3.   Industry
4.   Moral Values
5.   Competencies

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