German Genealogy Surname Dictionaries Bibliography

Contents:

Introduction

Names are words and like words they belong to a language and have meanings. What does your surname mean? Even if you have found the explanation of your surname, you probably won't have come any closer to your genealogy since surnames were adopted so long ago. In some rare cases, a surname may point you to a family's region of origin.

Note also that while names belong to languages, that doesn't necessarily say that much about the people who hold them, or their DNA.


General Dictionaries


Regional Dictionaries

You can usually find at least one of these books at the nearest large library in your area (including perhaps one at a university). If the library does not have it, then in the United States at least, the library can get it for you from another library via Interlibrary Loan.


Example Surnames

Origin or Place Names
NameMeaning
Bambergerfrom city of Bamberg in Bavaria
Böhmfrom Böhmen (Bohemia)
Kappelhofffrom the estate with the Kapelle (chapel)
Kirchthalerfrom the Tal (valley) with the Kirche (church)
Kissingerfrom Bad Kissingen
Ungerfrom Ungarn (Hungary)
Wienerfrom Wien (Vienna)
Zuger, Zugfrom the Swiss city of Zug

Nicknames
NameMeaning
Frühaufup early (connotes early riser)
Fuchsfox (connotes cunning)
Hasenfus(s)hare's foot (connotes coward)
Klug(e)wise
Lahmlame
Langlong, tall
Mückenhirnmidget-sized brain
Schwar(t)zblack [hair]
Schwar(t)zkopfblack head
Weisswhite
Zornanger

Patronymics
NameMeaning
Lorenz(en)son of Lorenz
Peters(en)son of Peter

Occupation
NameMeaning
Bäckerbaker
Bauerfarmer
Beckerbaker
Eisenhauerore miner
Fischerfisherman
Müllermiller
Meierestate supervisor
Pfannebeckermaker of clay roof tiles
Richterjudge
Schäfershepherd
Schmidtblacksmith
Schneidertailor
Schrödertailor
Schreinercarpenter
Weberweaver
Zimmermanncarpenter

Variations by Region

Because names are language-specific, they often reflect regional dialect differences:

NorthSouthCentral and EastMeaning
KnochenhauerMetzger, FleischhackerFleischer, Fleischhauerbutcher
KockKoch cook
KoopmannKaufmann merchant
KrögerKrüger innkeeper
MöllerMüller miller
MuhrmannMauermann bricklayer
NiebuhrNeubauerNaubernew farmer
NiemannNeumannNaumannnew man
PöttnerHaf(f)nerTöpferpotter
PetersenPetersPeterson of Peter
SchütteSchütz shooter/hunter
TischerSchreinerTischlercabinetmaker
UngermannUngererUngerfrom Hungary
van Ungernvon Ungern from Hungary

To read more about this topic, see "What's in a (German) Surname?" by Jürgen Eichhoff, professor of German linguistics at Pennsylvania State University, in German Life magazine (August/September 1999 issue).


Last modified: Sun 05/31/2009