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100 Top German Last Names: With Origins and Meanings

Updated
Find out the cool stories behind these German last names and become an expert in all things German.

German last names may seem long and complicated, and they sometimes are. Many German surnames have lots of letters and even more stories to tell. How do you excavate the facts and figures you want to know about German family names without losing focus?

Whether interested in popular or unique surnames, the German family names on our list are some of the most interesting. We’ll keep you on the path, so you learn everything you want about how these names became traditions.


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100 Popular German Last Names

Become an expert in German last names by checking out our cool list ahead.

Afflerbach

Afflerbach began as a geographical name for someone who “lived by a stream running by an apple tree.” It comes from the High German “affal,” meaning “apple,” and “bach,” meaning “brook.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Apple brook
  • Pronunciation: AFF-ler-BAWK
  • Popularity: Afflerbach is very rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany.
Rare, Geographical

Albrecht

Albrecht is a German variation on the Dutch Albrecht, meaning “Lambrecht’s son.” It’s made up of the Germanic “Aedel,” meaning “noble,” and “beorht,” meaning “bright” or “shining.”

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Noble, bright
  • Pronunciation: AEL-Brehkt
  • Variations: Albrech, Allbrecht
  • Namesakes: Daniel Albrecht, a Swiss alpine ski racer and gold medalist at the 2003 World Championships. Harold Albrecht, the Canadian Member of Parliament from 2006 until 2019.
  • Popularity: Albrecht is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 63rd in 2014.
Regal, Traditional

Bach

Bach was originally a name for a person “who lived by a stream.” It derives from the High German “bach,” meaning “stream.” Despite Bach being a German composer, Bach is found in places like Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Croatia.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Dweller near the brook
  • Pronunciation: BAAGH
  • Variations: Bache, Bacher, Bacche
  • Namesakes: Johann Sebastian Bach, a German Baroque composer known for the Goldberg Variations. Paul Bach, an English press journalist, and editor-in-chief of the Celtic Press group.
  • Popularity: Bach is rare worldwide and primarily used in Vietnam, ranking 199th in 2014.
Famous, Geographical

Barfuss

Barfuss was a nickname for someone who was often “barefoot.” It’s composed of the High German “bar,” meaning “bare naked,” and “vuoz,” meaning “foot.” “Barfuesser” is a German word for someone who goes barefoot. It was used for Franciscan monks who were often without shoes to honor their vow of poverty.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Naked foot
  • Pronunciation: BAAR-Fus
  • Variations: Barfus, Barfuesse
  • Popularity: Barfuss is very rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S.
Funny, Nicknames

Bartel

Bartel is based on the personal name Bertwald and may appear as a short form of the name. It’s also a form of Bartholomäus, the German Bartholomew since it’s one of the classic German last names for boys.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Bright rule
  • Pronunciation: BAHR-tehl
  • Variations: Barthels, Bartels
  • Namesakes: Paul Bartel, an American actor, and director known for the film Eating Raoul. Mateusz Bartel, a Polish chess Grandmaster and winner of the Polish Chess Championship from 2010 to 2012.
  • Popularity: Bartel is rare worldwide and mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 695th in 2014.
Unique, Nicknames

Bauer

Bauer began as a nickname meaning “neighbor” or “fellow citizen.” It’s taken from the Low German “būr,” meaning “an occupant of a small dwelling or building.” You may know Jack Bauer best, the main character of the action TV series 24.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Peasant, farmer
  • Pronunciation: BOU-ehr
  • Variations: Baur, Bauerr, Bauerre
  • Namesakes: Christina Bauer, a French-Norwegian volleyball player who competed at the 2007 Women’s European Championship. Jutta Bauer, a German children’s writer/illustrator and winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 2010.
  • Popularity: Bauer ranked 1,314th worldwide, is primarily used in Germany, and ranked 517th in the U.S. in 2010.
Nicknames, Common

Baumer

Baumer was a name given to “the dweller at the barrier placed across roads by the toll collector.” It’s a long description for a “border or customs official.” The Low German root “bōm,” meaning “barrier,” provides inspiration.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Dweller near a tree
  • Pronunciation: BAU-mer
  • Variations: Baume
  • Namesakes: Daniela Baumer, a Swiss sprint canoer and silver medalist at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Bettina Bäumer, an Austrian-Indian awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2015.
  • Popularity: Baumer is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany.
Rare, Occupational

Becker

Becker, like Bakker, was a German occupational name for a “baker.” A Becker might bake bread or clay bricks. It comes from the German “backen,” meaning “to bake.” Becker is so common it ranked 357th in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Baker
  • Pronunciation: BEH-Ker
  • Variations: Beckker, Bekker
  • Namesakes: Charlotte Becker, a German racing cyclist who competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Jurek Becker, a Polish-German writer known for the book Jacob the Liar.
  • Popularity: Becker ranked 1,074th worldwide and is primarily used in Germany, ranking 8th in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Berger

Berger was a name for a person who “lived in the mountains or hills” and was based on the root Berg, meaning “hill.” Berger is one of the more common German surnames on our list and ranked 881st in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German, French
  • Meaning: Shepherd
  • Pronunciation: BUHR-ger
  • Variations: Barger
  • Namesakes: Óscar Berger, the President of Guatemala from 2004 to 2008. Robert “Buzz” Berger, an American film producer for the Emmy Award-winning TV miniseries Holocaust.
  • Popularity: Berger ranked 1,884th worldwide, is mostly used in Germany and ranked 11th in Austria in 2014.
Occupational, Common

Bergmann

Bergmann’s origin is German and Swedish since it means “mountain man” in both languages. Bergmann also means “miner” in German. It’s made up of “berg,” meaning “hill” or “mountain,” and “man,” meaning “mountain dweller.”

  • Origin: German, Swedish
  • Meaning: Mountain man
  • Pronunciation: BERG-man
  • Variations: Bergman
  • Namesakes: Juliette Bergmann, a Dutch female bodybuilder, and the 1984 Dutch National Champion. Arthur Bergmann, a Canadian rock singer-songwriter, made a member of the Order of Canada in 2021.
  • Popularity: Bergmann is rare worldwide and mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 90th in 2014.
Occupational, Traditional
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Bierhals

Bierhals is one of the most zany-sounding German family names and means “beer throat.” Since surnames are about group affiliations or clans, Bierhals might be best reserved for someone who loves to visit breweries and enjoy the beer they craft.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Beer throat
  • Pronunciation: BEER-halz
  • Popularity: Bierhals is very rare worldwide and primarily used in Brazil.
Rare, Funny

Böhm

Böhm was a German name given to people who originally came from Bohemia, also known as the “home of the Boii.” The Bohemia region is found in the western part of the modern-day Czech Republic.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Bohemian
  • Pronunciation: BOWM
  • Variations: Bohme, Boehm, Boehme
  • Namesakes: Siegfried Böhm, the East German finance minister from 1966 to 1980. Annett Böhm, a German Judoka and gold medalist at the 1997 European Junior Championships.
  • Popularity: Böhm is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 1,223rd in Sweden in 2014.
Nicknames, Geographical

Braun

Braun was once a nickname based on the literal German word “braun,” for “brown.” It was given to people to reflect things like their hair color, complexion, or clothing. Braun also influenced the first name, Bruno. Many German immigrants who came to the U.S. changed Braun to the English Brown.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Brown
  • Pronunciation: BRAWN
  • Variations: Braunn, Braune, Braunne
  • Namesakes: Bob Braun, an American TV personality known for hosting The Bob Braun Show from 1967 to 1984. Jürgen Braun, a member of the German Bundestag since 2017.
  • Popularity: Braun ranked 1,906th worldwide and is mainly used in Germany, ranking 20th in 2014.
Nicknames, Common

Cantor

Though German, Cantor is also Middle English for “glover.” If taken from the Latin “cantere,” it refers to a person who sings. A cantor is “a person who leads people in singing or sometimes in prayer,” so there’s a cool tradition behind it.

  • Origin: German, English
  • Meaning: Singer
  • Pronunciation: KAEN-ter
  • Variations: Cant, Canter
  • Namesakes: Leo Cantor, a Jewish-American football player for the New York Giants in 1942. Anthony Cantor, the British Ambassador to Armenia since 2006.
  • Popularity: Cantor is rare worldwide, mainly used in Colombia, and ranked 507th in Honduras in 2014.
Unique, Ancient

Dahm

Dahm is a “D” surname for anyone who “came from Dahme” in several locations in Germany. It also means “the son of Dahm,” a Germanic nickname for Adam.

  • Origin: German, Danish
  • Meaning: From Dahme
  • Pronunciation: DAAM
  • Variations: Dahmer, Daem
  • Namesakes: Britta Dahm, a German swimmer and bronze medalist at the 1987 European Aquatics Championships. Paul Dahm, a Luxembourgian composer known for arranging Mozart’s three sonatas.
  • Popularity: Dahm is extremely rare worldwide, with only 29 occurrences in 2014, primarily in the U.S.
Rare, Geographical

Dietrich

Dietrich is one of the most ancient German last names, also meaning “keeper of the keys.” It can refer to the actual “lockpick” used to open a lock. It’s associated with the German first name Theodoric, made up of “theud,” meaning “people,” and “rīc,” meaning “powerful.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Ruler of the people
  • Pronunciation: DIY-Trayk
  • Namesakes: Marlene Dietrich, a German-American actress best known for The Blue Angel (1930). Klaus Dietrich, an Austrian footballer for Hibernian.
  • Popularity: Dietrich is uncommon worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 86th in 2014.
Regal, Ancient

Durchdenwald

Durchdenwald is nearly extinct among German girl last names (or boy versions). It may refer to a person who lived “through the forest” or whose job was to direct people.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Through-the-forest
  • Pronunciation: DURCH-tehn-VALD
  • Popularity: Durchdenwald is extremely rare worldwide, with only 57 occurrences in 2014, mainly in Germany.
Funny, Rare

Eberhardt

Eberhardt also means “descendant of Eberhard.” It’s composed of the Germanic “eber,” meaning “wild boar,” and “hard,” meaning “brave” and “hardy.” It may have been reserved for powerful leaders or members of royalty at one time.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Strength of a boar
  • Pronunciation: EBB-er-Hart
  • Variations: Eberheart, Eberhart, Ebberhardt, Ebberhart
  • Namesakes: Cliff Eberhardt, an American folk singer-songwriter and founding member of the Fast Folk Music Cooperative in New York City. Isabelle Eberhardt, a Swiss explorer and author who wrote short stories under a male pseudonym.
  • Popularity: Eberhardt is rare worldwide and primarily used in Germany, where it ranked 451st in 2014.
Strong, Patronymic

Eichel

Eichel likely began as a Medieval surname on traditional house signs. They were typical and appeared as an animal, plant, or flower. This one means “acorn” and uses the German suffix “-er” in the original Eichler, meaning “son of.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Acorn
  • Pronunciation: AY-Kehl
  • Variations: Eichler, Eichen
  • Namesakes: Jack Eichel, an American ice hockey player for the Vegas Golden Knights. Hans Eichel, Germany’s Minister of Finance, between 1999 and 2005.
  • Popularity: Eichel is extremely rare worldwide, with only 36 occurrences in 2014, mostly in the Philippines and the U.S.
Geographical, Rare

Eierkuchen

Eierkuchen is a very offbeat “E” surname stemming from the German word “Pfannkuchen,” meaning “pancake.” Eierkuchen is another German word for Berlin-style pancakes, similar to the Dutch Baby (a type of popover or large Yorkshire pudding).

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Pancake
  • Pronunciation: AY-ehr-KOO-ken
  • Popularity: Eierkuchen is extremely rare worldwide, with only seven occurrences recorded in 2014, all in Germany.
Funny, Rare
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Engel

Engel was a name used for those whose house had the sign of an engle. It’s also a shorter form of the personal name Engelbert or Engelhard and a nickname for someone with an angelic personality.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Angel
  • Pronunciation: EHNG-ihl
  • Namesakes: Josef Engel, a Czech wrestler who competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics. Natascha Engel, a British Member of Parliament from 2005 to 2017.
  • Popularity: Engel is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Germany, ranking 87th in 2014.
Geographical, Unique

Faust

Faust is based on the German “fūst,” meaning “fist.” It was once a nickname for a strong person or someone with a hard deformity. The Latin Faustus means “fortunate” or “lucky,” so it’s all about how you look at things.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Fist
  • Pronunciation: FOWST
  • Variations: Fauste, Fausst, Fausste
  • Namesakes: Christa Faust, an American author who won the 2009 Crimespree Award for Money Shot. Chad Faust, a Canadian actor, appearing in the sci-fi TV series The 4400.
  • Popularity: Faust is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S., where it’s uncommon.
Ancient, Famous

Fischer

Fischer used to be a name given to a fisherman. It comes from the Middle German “fisch,” meaning “fish,” plus the “-er” suffix. Fischer appears as Fisher in English and ranked 112th in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Fisher
  • Pronunciation: FIH-shur
  • Variations: Fisher, Ficher
  • Namesakes: Bobby Fischer, an American world chess champion between 1972 and 1975. Hans Fischer, a German organic chemist, and winner of the 1930 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
  • Popularity: Fischer ranked 883rd worldwide and is mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 4th in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Franke

Franke also means “one who came from Franconia,” located in central Germany. It refers to a “descendant of Frank” or any courageous male or female figure in a proud family.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Free man
  • Pronunciation: FRANK-iy
  • Variations: Frank, Frankk, Frankke, Franck, Francke
  • Namesakes: Egon Franke, a Polish fencer and gold medalist at the 1964 Summer Olympics. William B. Franke, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1959 to 1961.
  • Popularity: Franke is rare worldwide and mainly used in Germany, ranking 62nd in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Friedrich

Friedrich refers to a “descendant of Friedrich.” It’s made up of the Germanic “frid,” meaning “peace,” and “rīc,” meaning “power.” The most famous Friedrich was a 9th-century Christian bishop of Utrecht. It appears as Frederick in English.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Peaceful ruler
  • Pronunciation: FRIY-Drihk
  • Variations: Friedrich, Friedrichs, Friderich
  • Namesakes: István Friedrich, Hungary’s prime minister between August and November 1919. Jörg Friedrich, a German rower and gold medalist at the 1980 Summer Olympics.
  • Popularity: Friedrich is uncommon worldwide and primarily used in Germany, where it ranked 54th in 2014.
Regal, Patronymic

Fuchs

Fuchs derives from the Old German “vuhs,” meaning “fox.” It was a nickname for someone as “sly as a fox” or someone with red hair.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Fox
  • Pronunciation: FOOKS
  • Variations: Fuechs
  • Namesakes: Erika Fuchs, a German translator known for translating American Disney comics. Lars Fuchs, a German footballer and current assistant coach for 1. FC Magdeburg.
  • Popularity: Fuchs is extremely rare worldwide and mostly used in the U.S., Germany, and Italy.
Rare, Nicknames

Garven

Garven is the Germanic version of the English Garvin. It means “one who wields the spear” and may also be a version of the first name Gerwin for cool spear warrior boys.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Spear wielder
  • Pronunciation: GAAR-vehn
  • Variations: Garvin
  • Namesakes: Kate Garven, an Australian actress appearing in the soap opera Home and Away. Pierre Prosper Garven, the Mayor of Bayonne, New Jersey, from 1906 to 1910 and 1915 to 1919.
  • Popularity: Garven is extremely rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Strong, Rare

Graf

Graf stems from the German “grāve,” a title historically used for German nobles. It may refer to a “count” or “earl” and is typical among regal-sounding German family names that start with G.

  • Origin: German, Swiss
  • Meaning: Count (title)
  • Pronunciation: GRAEF
  • Variations: Grafe, Graef, Graff, Graaf
  • Namesakes: Steffi Graf, a German tennis player, ranked world No.1 for a record 377 weeks. Alexander Graf, a Uzbekistani chess player and the German Chess Champion in 2004.
  • Popularity: Graf is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in Germany, and ranked 41st in Austria in 2014.
Regal, Ancient

Günther

Günther is based on the same first name made up of “gund,” meaning “battle,” and “hari,” meaning “army.” It also means warrior and “brother of Kriemhild” in Norse.

  • Origin: German, Scandinavian
  • Meaning: Battle army
  • Pronunciation: GUWN-ter
  • Variations: Günter, Guenter, Guenther, Gunter
  • Namesakes: John Gunther, an American writer of the best-selling Inside U.S.A. in 1947. Ursula Günther, a German musicologist specializing in the work of Giuseppe Verdi. Popularity: Günther is rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Ancient, Strong

Haas

Haas is based on the German and Dutch “hase,” meaning “hare.” It was a nickname for a fast runner and a Medieval home with the sign of a hare or rabbit outside.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Hare
  • Pronunciation: HAHS
  • Variations: de Haas
  • Namesakes: Lukas Haas, an American actor known for the 1985 film Witness. Walter A. Haas Jr., the American Chairman of Levi Strauss & Co, between 1970 and 1981.
  • Popularity: Haas is uncommon worldwide, mainly used in Germany, and ranked 1,001st in the U.S. in 2010.
Nicknames, Unique
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Haan

The German and Dutch words “hahn” and “haan” both mean “rooster.” It also points to multiple locations named Haan or a place with the sign of a rooster at its door.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Rooster
  • Pronunciation: HAWN
  • Variations: Hann, Hanne, Hahn
  • Namesakes: Edmond Haan, a French footballer for Strasbourg. Gijsbert Haan, the American founder of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
  • Popularity: Haan is rare worldwide and primarily used in the Netherlands, ranking 326th in 2014.
Unusual, Geographical

Handschuh

Handschuh derives from the German “hantschuoch,” meaning “hand shoe,” aka “glove.” It’s one of many long German surnames with an occupation in mind. Handschuh was given to a person who wore gloves or someone who made or sold them.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Hand-glove
  • Pronunciation: HAND-Shuh
  • Popularity: Handschuh is very rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany.
Funny, Rare

Hartmann

Hartmann also means “descendant of Hartmann” or “strong man.” The German “hart” means “hardy” or “tough,” making it the best among German last names for boys who are strong.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Brave man
  • Pronunciation: HART-man
  • Variations: Hartman
  • Namesakes: Oliver Hartmann, a German musician and a founder of the heavy metal band At Vance. Thom Hartmann, an American radio personality and host of The Thom Hartmann Program since 2003.
  • Popularity: Hartmann is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 24th in 2014.
Strong, Patronymic

Heinrich

Heinrich was first a personal name composed of the German “heim,” meaning “home,” and “rīc,” meaning “power.” As the German version of Henry, Heinrich was the most popular first name during the Middle Ages.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Estate ruler
  • Pronunciation: HHAYN-Rihk
  • Namesakes: Michael Henrich, a Canadian ice hockey player for the Edmonton Oilers. Gabriela Heinrich, a German member of the Bundestag for Bavaria since 2013.
  • Popularity: Heinrich is rare worldwide and primarily used in Germany, ranking 79th in 2014.
Traditional, Regal

Hermann

Hermann was first the personal name Herman. It’s made up of “heri,” meaning “army,” and “man,” meaning “man.” Hermann also means “soldier” or “warrior” for the most powerful of German families.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Army man
  • Pronunciation: HEHR-man
  • Variations: Herrmann
  • Namesakes: Robert Joseph Hermann, an American Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis from 2002 to 2010. Arnulf Herrmann, a German composer and winner of the Hanns Eisler Composition Prize (2001).
  • Popularity: Hermann is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 117th in 2014.
Ancient, Strong

Hoffman

Hoffman is composed of the German “hof,” meaning “farmstead,” and “mann,” meaning “man.” It originally referred to a Medieval “steward” who managed properties or land.

  • Origin: German, Jewish
  • Meaning: Steward
  • Pronunciation: HAWF-man
  • Variations: Hoffmann, Hofmann, Hofman
  • Namesakes: Brock Hoffman, an American football player for the Dallas Cowboys. John T. Hoffman, the 23rd governor of New York from 1869 to 1872.
  • Popularity: Hoffman is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in the U.S., ranking 224th in 2010.
Traditional, Occupational

Horn

Horn also means “son of Horn.” It was once a name for someone who crafted small items using animal horn as material. Horn was used for those living near a “horn-shaped spur of land.” It was also a nickname for a “cuckolded husband” whose wife was unfaithful.

  • Origin: German, Scandinavian
  • Meaning: Spur of land
  • Variations: Van Horn, Horne
  • Namesakes: Gyula Horn, Hungary’s Prime Minister from 1994 to 1998. Kaniehtiio Horn, a Canadian actress appearing in the horror series Hemlock Grove.
  • Popularity: Horn is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 89th in Germany in 2014.
Geographical, Nicknames

Huber

Huber originated from the German “huober,” meaning “owner of a patch of farmland.” A “hube” specifically referred to 40 acres of farmland. It’s a top ten-ranked surname in German-speaking countries.

  • Origin: German,
  • Meaning: Unit of land
  • Pronunciation: HEW-ber
  • Variations: Hueber
  • Namesakes: Sophie Huber, a French swimmer who competed at the 2008 Olympics. Chuck Huber, an American voice actor in Dragon Ball Z.
  • Popularity: Huber is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in Germany, and ranked 2nd in Austria in 2014.
Traditional, Common

Jäger

Jäger comes from the Middle German “jeger(e),” meaning “huntsman.” It’s also an awesome Dutch “J” surname for a man with a bow and arrow who knows his trade.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Hunter
  • Pronunciation: Yey-ger
  • Variations: Jaeger, Jæger
  • Namesakes: Werner Jäger, an Austrian ice speed skater who competed at the 1984 Winter Olympics. Thomas Jäger, a German racing driver and winner of the German Mini Challenge in 2006.
  • Popularity: Jäger is rare worldwide and mainly used in the Netherlands, where it ranked 123rd in 2014.
Occupational, Strong

Jonke

Jonke is based on the Middle German “junk,” meaning “young.” It’s also a diminutive of the first name Johann, for John.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Young
  • Pronunciation: YONN-keh
  • Variations: Jonker
  • Namesakes: Ljudevit Jonke, a Croatian linguist who participated in the 1954 Novi Sad agreement to set a standard Serbo-Croatian language. Frank Jonke, a Canadian soccer player for FC Edmonton.
  • Popularity: Jonke is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Nicknames, Rare
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Jung

Jung was often given to the younger of two family members with the same name, like a father and son. The English variation is Young, while the Chinese is Chong, which may be why it’s popular in several Asian countries.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Young
  • Pronunciation: YOONG
  • Namesakes: Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Sanam Jung, a Pakistani actress appearing in the TV series Dil e Muztar (2013).
  • Popularity: Jung ranked 1,623rd worldwide, primarily used in North Korea, and ranked 39th in Germany in 2014.
Common, Patronymic

Kaiser

Kaiser is based on the German word “keiser,” meaning “emperor” or “ruler.” It’s the powerful German form of the Latin Caesar and Russian Tsar. Kaiser also ranked 1,039th in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: King
  • Pronunciation: KAHY-zer
  • Variations: Kayser, Keiser, Kyser
  • Namesakes: Robert G. Kaiser, an American editor with The Washington Post from 1991 to 2014. Stien Kaiser, a Dutch speed skater and bronze medalist at the World Allround Championships in 1965 and 1966.
  • Popularity: Kaiser is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 41st in 2014.
Strong, Regal

Keller

Keller is the German word for “basement,” but it may also refer to a “winemaker.” The Latin “cellarius” was the person who kept the wine cellar or storage chamber organized in a home.

  • Origin: German, Danish
  • Meaning: Cellar
  • Pronunciation: KEHL-ehr
  • Variations: Keler, Kellere, Kaeller
  • Namesakes: Thomas Keller, an American chef whose restaurant The French Laundry ranked in the Top 50 Restaurants of the World. Kasey Keller, an American soccer player and goalkeeper for the U.S. national team.
  • Popularity: Keller ranked 1,669th worldwide, is primarily used in the U.S. and ranked 4th in Switzerland in 2014.
Traditional, Common

Kitzler

Kitzler may be a German version of the English and French name Christian, meaning “followers of Christ.” It’s one of the most rare German last names with an odd but cute meaning (“tickler”).

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Tickler
  • Pronunciation: KIT-sler
  • Popularity: Kitzler is very rare worldwide and mostly used in Austria, ranking 830th in 2014.
Unusual, Funny

Klein

Other than meaning “small,” Klein has origins in Germany, the Netherlands, and Afrikaans culture. It’s also a common Jewish surname in the U.S., ranking 392nd in 2010.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Small
  • Pronunciation: KLAYNE
  • Variations: Kleinn, Kleine, Kleinne, Kline
  • Namesakes: Anne Klein (born Hannah Golofsky), an American fashion designer and founder of Anne Klein & Company. David Klein, the governor of the Bank of Israel from 2000 to 2005.
  • Popularity: Klein ranked 1,157th worldwide and is mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 15th in 2014.
Common, Traditional

Koch

Koch originated with the Latin “coquus,” meaning the “art of cookery.” It was an occupational surname for a cook or the head of a nobleman’s kitchen.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Cook, chef
  • Pronunciation: KAWKH
  • Namesakes: Ed Koch, the mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989. Robert Koch, a German microbiologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905.
  • Popularity: Koch ranked 1,168th worldwide and is primarily used in Germany, ranked 11th in 2014.
Common, Occupational

Köhler

Köhler was a surname for people who manufactured charcoal for a living. It’s made up of the High German “kol,” meaning “coal,” and the personal suffix “-er.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Charcoal burner
  • Pronunciation: KOW-lehr
  • Variations: Koehler, Koeler, Koeller
  • Namesakes: Franz Köhler, an Austrian football manager for the Icelandic national team from 1953 to 1954. Koos Köhler, a Dutch water polo player who competed at the 1928 Summer Olympics.
  • Popularity: Köhler is rare worldwide, mostly used in the U.S., and ranked 48th in Switzerland in 2014.
Occupational, Ancient

König

König comes from the High German “künic,” meaning “king.” It was a nickname for a king or the head of a professional guild. König also means “a servant of the king.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: King
  • Pronunciation: KUW-nig
  • Variations: de Koenig, Koenig, Konnig
  • Namesakes: Jörn König, a German member of the Bundestag for Lower Saxony since 2017. Alfred König, an Austrian-Turkish sprinter and the Austrian national champion in 1932.
  • Popularity: König is rare worldwide and mainly used in Brazil.
Regal, Strong

Krämer

Krämer was an occupational surname given to a “shopkeeper” or “trader.” It’s a derivative of the Middle German “krām,” meaning “trading post” or “booth.” The Krämer of the Middle Ages was likely a traveling merchant selling pretty things for all to buy.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Shopkeeper
  • Pronunciation: KRAY-mehr
  • Variations: Kraemer, Kraymer
  • Namesakes: Chris Kramer, a Canadian actor appearing in The Collector series. Frank Kramer, an American cyclist inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1988.
  • Popularity: Krämer is rare worldwide and primarily used in Germany, ranking 76th in 2014.
Occupational, Unique

Krause

Krause derives from the German “krūse,” meaning “pitcher.” It was used for people who made or sold jugs. The German “krūs” also means “crinkly” among German girl last names of families known for their ringlets of hair.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Curly
  • Pronunciation: KRAWSE
  • Variations: Krauss, Krausse, Kraus
  • Namesakes: Helga Krause, a German film editor of newsreels from 1953 to 1956. Brian Krause, an American actor known for Charmed (1998 to 2006).
  • Popularity: Krause is uncommon worldwide and mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 26th in 2014.
Occupational, Traditional
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Krüger

Krüger also means “potter” in Central and Upper Germany. Whether a “tavern keeper” or “potter,” Krüger uses the “krug” root, meaning “jug.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Tavern keeper
  • Pronunciation: Krueger
  • Variations: Krueger
  • Namesakes: Franz Krüger, a German-Prussian painter known for his pictures of horses. Louis Krüger, a German politician and the second youngest member of the 19th Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin.
  • Popularity: Krüger is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in South Africa, ranking 70th in 2014.
Occupational, Ancient

Kuhn

Kuhn was taken from the first name Kuno, a short form of Konrad/Conrad. Kühn means “bold” and was a nickname for someone known for their daring ways.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Bold
  • Pronunciation: KOON
  • Variations: Kuehn, Kuehne
  • Namesakes: Maggie Kuhn, an American activist who founded the Gray Panthers movement. Anthony Kuhn, the American National Public Radio correspondent in Seoul, South Korea.
  • Popularity: Kuhn is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in Germany, and ranked 86th in Switzerland in 2014.
Nicknames, Unique

Lange

Lange pre-dates the 7th-century in Germany and means “’the long.” It’s one of the German “L” family names that acted as a nickname for a very tall person.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Tall
  • Pronunciation: LANG
  • Variations: Lang
  • Namesakes: Jessica Lange, an American actress and the 13th recipient of the Triple Crown of Acting. Santiago Lange, an Argentine sailor and gold medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Popularity: Lange is uncommon worldwide and mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 23rd in 2014.
Nicknames, Ancient

Lechtenberg

Lechtenberg may be an Americanized version of the original German Lichtenberg. It referred to several places called Lichtenberg in both Germany and the Netherlands. Lichtenberg was also a village on the Elbe river in Germany.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: From Lichtenberg
  • Pronunciation: LEK-ten-berg
  • Variations: Lichtenberg
  • Popularity: Lechtenberg is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Rare, Geographical

Lindt

Lindt comes from the German “lind,” meaning “gentle-hearted.” It may have sprung from Lindemuth, but it is best known today for the famous Swiss chocolate company.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Tender
  • Pronunciation: LIHNT
  • Variations: Lint, Lyndt
  • Namesakes: Hermann Lindt, a Swiss politician and the ninth mayor of Bern. Rudolf Lindt, a Swiss chocolate maker and founder of the Lindt brand of Swiss chocolate.
  • Popularity: Lindt is very rare worldwide and primarily used in Germany.
Unique, Rare

Ludwig

Ludwig was first a personal name made up of the German “hlūd,” meaning “famous” and “wīg,” meaning “war.” As a first name, it’s known for Ludwig von Beethoven but is also quite common as a German surname today.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Famous warrior
  • Pronunciation: LEWD-Vihg
  • Variations: Lutwig, Ludewig
  • Namesakes: Karen Ludwig, a Canadian politician in the House of Commons of Canada from 2015 until 2019. Olaf Ludwig, a German racing cyclist and winner of the 1992 UCI Road World Cup.
  • Popularity: Ludwig is uncommon worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 64th in 2014.
Famous, Strong

Mandel

In addition to its “almond” meaning, Mandel was used for many locations like Mandel, Germany. It’s also a Jewish surname with the same nutty meaning as its German and Dutch counterparts.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Almond
  • Pronunciation: Man-DELL
  • Variations: Mandl
  • Namesakes: Howard Mandel, a Canadian-American comedian in the 1984 film Gremlins. Stephen Mandel, the Canadian leader of the Alberta Party from 2018 to 2019.
  • Popularity: Mandel is rare worldwide, mainly used in the U.S., and ranked 511th in Estonia in 2014.
Unique, Geographical

Meyer

Meyer comes from the High German “mei(g)er,” meaning “manager of a lord’s country estate.” It also became the term for a “tenant,” “free farmer,” and eventually “mayor.” Meyer was the 183rd most common surname in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Estate manager
  • Pronunciation: MAHY-er
  • Variations: Mayer, Maier, Meier, Meyr
  • Namesakes: Léon Meyer, the French mayor of Le Havre from 1919 to 1941. Nicholas Meyer, an American director known for the 1999 HBO original film Vendetta.
  • Popularity: Meyer ranked 719th worldwide and is primarily used in Germany, ranking 6th in 2014.
Traditional, Popular

Müller

Müller refers to someone who is a “miller” for a living. It’s the most common of German surnames and also ranked 523rd in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Miller
  • Pronunciation: MUH-ler
  • Variations: Mueller
  • Namesakes: Dieter Müller, a German footballer for West Germany from 1976 to 1978. Robert Müller, a German ice hockey goaltender in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga from 1998 to 2009.
  • Popularity: Müller ranked 1,894th worldwide, is mostly used in Brazil and ranked 2nd in Luxembourg in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Nacht

Nacht comes from the Middle German “naht,” meaning “night.” It may have been a nickname for a night watchman and was used by Jewish families as well.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Night
  • Pronunciation: NAAKT
  • Popularity: Nacht is very rare worldwide and mainly used in the U.S.
Rare, Nicknames
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Nachtnebel

Nachtnebel uses the German root “nacht,” meaning “night.” It’s one of the kookier German last names that is a compound of two words, in this case, “night fog.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Night fog
  • Pronunciation: NAAKT-nay-Behl
  • Popularity: Nachtnebel is extremely rare worldwide and primarily used in Austria.
Unusual, Funny

Neumann

Neumann was a nickname for any “newcomer” to a city or town. It derives from the German “neu,” meaning “new” and “mann,” meaning “man.” Neumann was a common name for a settler before they settled into a place.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: New man
  • Pronunciation: NUW-man
  • Variations: Neuman, Neumanns
  • Namesakes: Adam Neumann, an Israeli billionaire businessman who founded WeWork. Christoph Neumann, a German member of the Bundestag since 2017.
  • Popularity: Neumann is uncommon worldwide and mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 18th in 2014.
Nicknames, Traditional

Ostwald

Ostwald is based on the German first name Ostold. It’s composed of “ōst,” meaning “east” and “walt,” meaning “to rule.” Ostwald was a famous 7th-century Northumbrian king who inspired many looking for cool German last names for boys.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Eastern woods
  • Pronunciation: AHST-wahld
  • Variations: Oswald
  • Popularity: Ostwald is very rare worldwide and mainly used in Germany.
Strong, Regal

Pfeiffer

Pfeiffer means “whistler” or “fife-player.” It uses the German root “pfeife,” meaning “pipe,” for someone whose song couldn’t be ignored.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Piper
  • Pronunciation: FAY-fer
  • Variations: Pfeifer, Pfeyffer, Pfeyfer
  • Namesakes: Michelle Pfeiffer, an American actress given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. Darrin Pfeiffer, an American musician, and drummer with Goldfinger.
  • Popularity: Pfeiffer is rare worldwide, primarily used in Germany, and ranked 106th in Austria in 2014.
Occupational, Ancient

Pohl

Pohl also means “the man who lived at/near the pool.” It’s taken from the Middle German “pōl,” meaning “muddy” and “wetland.” Pohl is also the name of multiple locations in Germany.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Muddy pool
  • Pronunciation: POL
  • Variations: Pohle, Poehl
  • Namesakes: Robert Wichard Pohl, a German physicist called the “father of solid state physics.” Richard Pohl, a German music critic prominent in the War of the Romantics who advocated the “Music of the Future.”
  • Popularity: Pohl is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 91st in 2014.
Geographical, Nicknames

Reuter

Reuter comes from the German “(ge)riute,” meaning “clearing.” It could refer to a person living in a clearing or someone who cleared woodlands for a living. It’s also a derogatory nickname for “highwayman,” i.e., “a thief” or “mounted soldier.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Woodland clearing
  • Pronunciation: ROY-ter
  • Variations: Reuters, Reutter
  • Namesakes: Manuel Reuter, a German race car driver and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1989 and 1996. Paul Reuter (born Israel Josaphat), the German-British founder of the Reuters news agency.
  • Popularity: Reuter is rare worldwide, mainly used in Germany, and ranked 14th in Luxembourg in 2014.
Geographical, Occupational

Richter

Richter was a surname for an “arbiter” or “judge.” It uses the German root “rihten,” meaning “to make right,” which is a judge’s prime directive in life.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Judge
  • Pronunciation: RIK-ter
  • Namesakes: Mike Richter, an American ice hockey goaltender with the Stanley Cup-winning New York Rangers in 1994. Stacey Richter, an American writer, and winner of the National Magazine Award.
  • Popularity: Richter ranked 1,728th worldwide and is primarily used in Germany, ranking 12th in 2014.
Traditional, Occupational

Rinner

Rinner uses the German “rinne,” referring to a “water pipe” or “water channel.” It referred to someone who either resided near a water channel or built them for a living.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: German
  • Pronunciation: RINN-ur
  • Variations: Renner
  • Namesakes: Claudine Rinner, a French amateur astronomer and winner of the Edgar Wilson Award.
  • Popularity: Rinner is very rare worldwide and mostly used in Austria, where it ranked 700th in 2014.
Geographical, Occupational

Roth

Roth is the German version of a nickname for a red-haired person. It uses the root “rot,” meaning “red,” but may refer to “rod,” meaning “wood.” If also based on the German “hrod,” it means “fame.” No matter how rare he was, you might know the famous red-haired dweller near the wood.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Red, wood
  • Pronunciation: RAWTH
  • Variations: Rothe
  • Namesakes: Eli Roth, an American filmmaker who directed Hostel (2005). Philip Roth, an American novelist and winner of the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.
  • Popularity: Roth is uncommon worldwide, mainly used in Germany, and ranked 20th in Switzerland in 2014.
Geographical

Salzberg

Salzberg is associated with many locations, like the German city of Salzburg. It’s made up of “salz,” meaning “salt,” and “berc,” meaning “mountain hill.” Salzberg also means “Salz fortress” in Germany, so it is specific about what awaits there.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Salt hill
  • Pronunciation: SAWLS-burg
  • Variations: Salzburg, Saltzberg
  • Namesakes: Barry Salzberg, the American CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited from 2011 to 2015. Sharon Salzberg, an American New York Times author of Real Happiness – The Power of Meditation (2010).
  • Popularity: Salzberg is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Geographical, Rare
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Sauer

Sauer used to be a nickname for a miserable person. It comes from the German “sauer,” meaning “sour.” Sauer also refers to the Sauer River in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Sour
  • Pronunciation: SOW-ehr
  • Variations: Sauers
  • Namesakes: Frank Sauer, a Canadian soccer player for the New York Cosmos. Stefan Sauer, a German member of the Bundestag for Hesse from 2017 to 2019.
  • Popularity: Sauer is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 102nd in 2014.
Nicknames, Unusual

Schafer

Schafer is a German variation of Schaffer. It comes from “shaffen,” meaning “steward” or “bailiff,” but mostly refers to shepherds in the field.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Shepherd
  • Pronunciation: SHAY-fer
  • Variations: Schaeffer, Schaffer, Shaffer, Shafer
  • Namesakes: Avi Schafer, a Japanese basketball player for SeaHorses Mikawa of the B. League. Eric Schafer, an American mixed martial artist with the UFC from 1997 to 2016.
  • Popularity: Schafer is rare worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 955th in Switzerland in 2014.
Occupational, Ancient

Schmidt

Schmidt was an occupational surname based on the German “schmied,” meaning “metalworker.” Its English equivalent is Smith, but Schmidt still ranked 185th in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Blacksmith
  • Pronunciation: Schmidt
  • Variations: SHMIHT
  • Namesakes: Hans-Thilo Schmidt, a German spy who sold information to the French in the 1930s. Olle Schmidt, a Swedish Member of the European Parliament between 2006 and 2014.
  • Popularity: Schmidt ranked 486th worldwide and is mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 2nd in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Schneider

Schneider derives from the German “schneiden,” meaning “one who cuts.” It originated in Palatinate, Germany, as a name for one of the Medieval noble families.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Tailor
  • Pronunciation: SHNAEY-der
  • Variations: Schnieder, Schnyder, Shneider
  • Namesakes: Andrew Schneider, an American journalist and winner of the 1986 and 1987 Pulitzer Prizes while working for the Pittsburgh Press. Bert Schneider, an American film producer known for Easy Rider (1969).
  • Popularity: Schneider ranked 716th worldwide and is primarily used in Germany, ranking 3rd in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Schreiber

Schreiber is based on the High German “schrīben,” meaning “to write.” It’s another word for a writer that also translates to the Hebrew Soffer, meaning “scribe.”

  • Origin: German, Jewish
  • Meaning: Clerk
  • Pronunciation: SHRAEY-Behr
  • Variations: Schreyber, Shriber, Shreyber
  • Namesakes: Pablo Schreiber, a Canadian-American actor appearing on The Wire (2003). Walther Schreiber, the mayor of West Berlin from 1953 to 1955.
  • Popularity: Schreiber is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 84th in 2014.
Occupational, Traditional

Schroeder

Schroeder was originally a name for a tailor who “cut cloth.” It also means “drayman” in Northern Germany, meaning a person who “delivered beer and wine.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Tailor
  • Pronunciation: SHROW-der
  • Variations: Schroder, Schröder
  • Namesakes: Karl Schroeder, a Canadian author and winner of the 2003 Prix Aurora Award for the best Canadian sci-fi novel. Dorsey Schroeder, an American race car driver and the Race Director for the Pirelli World Challenge series since 2015.
  • Popularity: Schroeder is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in the U.S., ranking 489th in 2010.
Occupational, Traditional

Schubert

Schubert was another name for a shoemaker or cobbler. It’s composed of the High German “schuoch,” meaning “shoe” and “würhte,” meaning “maker.” In 2014, almost 75% of Schuberts were located in Germany.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Shoemaker
  • Pronunciation: SHOO-Bert
  • Namesakes: Samantha Schubert, a Malaysian actress, and Miss Malaysia World 1991. Kort Schubert, an American rugby union footballer, and captain of the U.S. national team.
  • Popularity: Schubert is uncommon worldwide and primarily used in Germany, where it ranked 53rd in 2014.
Occupational, Famous

Schulte

Schulte derives from the Middle German “schulthete,” meaning “village headman.” A Schulte in Northwestern Germany is the “steward of a large farm.” It’s an old surname existing in various territories, eventually becoming part of modern-day Germany.

  • Origin: German, Dutch
  • Meaning: Steward, sheriff
  • Pronunciation: SHOOLT
  • Namesakes: Paxton Schulte, a Canadian ice hockey player with the Calgary Flames. Ursula Schulte, a German member of the Bundestag for North Rhine-Westphalia from 2013 to 2021.
  • Popularity: Schulte is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 80th in 2014.
Occupational, Unique

Schulz

Schultz also means “head of a village” and originally appeared as “schultheize.” They collected dues to pay the lord of the manor. Schulz was a Medieval sheriff whose equivalent would be the mayor today.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Bailiff
  • Pronunciation: SHOOLTZ
  • Variations: Schultz, Schulze, Schulze
  • Namesakes: Bruno Schulz, a Polish writer awarded the Polish Academy of Literature’s Golden Laurel award in 1938. Patrick Schulz, a West German wrestler for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).
  • Popularity: Schulz ranked 1,530th worldwide and is mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 9th in 2014.
Occupational, Common

Schumacher

Schumacher is composed of the High German “schuoch,” meaning “shoe,” and “machen,” meaning “to make.” It’s also found as a surname in Sweden and Denmark.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Shoemaker
  • Pronunciation: SHOO-mah-Kur
  • Variations: Schuhmacher
  • Namesakes: Irma Heijting-Schuhmacher, a Dutch freestyle swimmer and gold medalist at the 1950 European Championships. Troy Schumacher, an American choreographer and a soloist in the New York City Ballet.
  • Popularity: Schumacher is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in Germany, and ranked 38th in 2014.
Traditional, Occupational
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Schuster

Schuster was an occupational name for someone who made or repaired shoes. It’s made up of the German “schuoch,” meaning “shoe,” and “sūtære,” meaning “one who sews.” Schuster may also be associated with “schussel,” meaning “small wooden bowl.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Shoemaker
  • Pronunciation: SHOOS-Ter
  • Namesakes: M. Lincoln Schuster, the American co-founder of the publishing company Simon & Schuster. Alon Schuster, the Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense since 2021.
  • Popularity: Schuster is uncommon worldwide, mostly used in Germany, and ranked 10th in Austria in 2014.
Traditional, Unique

Schwarz

Schwarz was once a nickname used for a person with black hair, a dark complexion, or black clothes. It’s also found in nearby countries like Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Black
  • Pronunciation: SHWARZ
  • Variations: Schwartz
  • Namesakes: Jessica Schwarz, a German actress appearing in the film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Berthold Schwarz, a 14th-century German alchemist who invented gunpowder.
  • Popularity: Schwarz is uncommon worldwide, mainly used in Germany, and ranked 19th in Germany and Austria in 2014.
Unique, Nicknames

Seidel

Seidel also means “descendant of Sitto,” a nickname for Sigebert, meaning “bright.” It could refer to a place no longer in existence called Seide in Germany and is also a name for “someone who makes wooden drinking vessels.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Beer mug
  • Pronunciation: SAEY-Dehl
  • Variations: Seidell, Seidl, Seydel
  • Namesakes: Guenter Seidel, a German-American equestrian and bronze medalist at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Christiane Seidel, a German-Danish-American actress known for the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
  • Popularity: Seidel is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 83rd in 2014.
Unique, Nicknames

Sommer

Sommer also means “the son of Summer.” It uses the Middle German root “somere,” meaning “pack animal.” Sommer was often a name given to a baby born in the summertime.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Summer
  • Pronunciation: SUM-ehr
  • Variations: Sommers, Somer, Somers
  • Namesakes: Bert Sommer, an American folk singer/songwriter appearing in the musical Hair. Coleen Sommer, an American high jumper who competed at the 1988 Summer Olympics.
  • Popularity: Sommer is uncommon worldwide and mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 75th in 2014.
Unusual, Patronymic

Stein

Stein also means “rock” and would refer to someone living “on stony ground.” It refers to a “stone boundary marker” or “stone monument” and is the kind of surname that doesn’t budge.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Stone
  • Pronunciation: STAEYN
  • Variations: Steine
  • Namesakes: Rick Stein, an English chef and TV presenter who ran the Stein restaurant business in the UK. Ben Stein, an American actor and host of Win Ben Stein’s Money.
  • Popularity: Stein is uncommon worldwide and primarily used in Germany, ranking 73rd in 2014.
Strong, Traditional

Trapp

Trapp also distinguishes a person from “de Trap.” It’s better known as a German nickname for a simpleton. Trapp comes from the High German “trappe,” meaning “naïve person,” which may also mean “flight of stairs,” if based on “treppe.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Rogue
  • Pronunciation: TRAEP
  • Variations: Trap, Trappe
  • Namesakes: John Q. Trapp, an American basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. Maria von Trapp, an Austria-Hungarian member of the Trapp Family Singers who inspired The Sound of Music.
  • Popularity: Trapp is rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 731st in 2014.
Nicknames, Geographical

Trinkenschuh

Trinkenschuh is one of the most jovial German girl last names (that’s just as jovial for boys), meaning “drink-shoe.” It’s likely associated with the famously giant beer boot mugs popular during Oktoberfest.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Beer-shoe
  • Pronunciation: TRINK-ehn-Shoo
  • Popularity: Trinkenschuh is extremely rare worldwide, with only 58 occurrences in 2014, all in Germany.
Rare, Funny

Vasel

Vasel is the German form of Fasel. It’s also Norman French when based on “vassal.” Vasel also means “young nobleman” for the bravest of families.

  • Origin: German, French
  • Meaning: Valiant
  • Pronunciation: VAH-sel
  • Variations: Vassel
  • Popularity: Vasel is very rare worldwide and mainly used in Nepal, ranking 166th in 2014.
Regal, Rare

Von Bülow

The noble Von Bülow family comes from the Mecklenburg area. Names with “von” mean “of” or “from” a family or place. Von Bülow also means “one who lived on or near a hill” and is most famous for the story of Claud von Bülow in the Reversal of Fortune film.

  • Origin: German, Danish
  • Meaning: Near a hill
  • Pronunciation: Van-BUW-loh
  • Variations: Von Bulow, Bülow
  • Namesakes: Claus von Bülow (born Claus Borberg), a Danish-British lawyer convicted of the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny von Bülow. Hans von Bülow, a German conductor, known for playing the works of Ludwig van Beethoven.
  • Popularity: Von Bülow is extremely rare worldwide, with only 99 occurrences in 2014, primarily in the U.S. and Brazil.
Regal, Rare

Vormelker

Vormerlker is an odd German surname meaning “pre-milker.” It uses the German “melker,” meaning “milker.” Vormelker is probably an occupational name for someone who preps the cow for milking!

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Pre-milker
  • Pronunciation: VOHR-melk-ehr
  • Popularity: Vormelker is very rare worldwide and mostly used in Germany.
Unusual, Funny
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Wagner

Wagner comes from the German surname Waganari, meaning “wagonmaker.” It also means “cartwright” or “wainman.” Wagner ranked 173rd in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Wagon driver
  • Pronunciation: VAAG-nehr
  • Variations: Wagoner, Waggner
  • Namesakes: Richard Wagner, a German composer best known for the Ride of the Valkyries. Ben Wagner, an American sportscaster and radio announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Popularity: Wagner ranked 835th worldwide, is mainly used in Germany, and ranked 4th in Austria in 2014.
Famous, Popular

Walberg

Walberg is made up of the German “wald,” meaning “rule” and “burg,” meaning “fortress.” It also referred to a place called Wallberg. Walberg means “falcon hill” or “falcon mountain” in Old Norse.

  • Origin: German, Scandinavian
  • Meaning: Ruling fortress
  • Pronunciation: VAHL-berg
  • Variations: Wahlberg, Wahlburg, Walburg
  • Namesakes: Timothy Walberg, a U.S. representative from Michigan’s 5th congressional district since 2023. Vicki-Lee Walberg, a British actress crowned Miss United Kingdom 1997.
  • Popularity: Walberg is very rare worldwide and primarily used in the U.S.
Strong, Ancient

Walter

Walter is based on the High German Walthari. It’s composed of “wald,” meaning “power,” and “hari,” meaning “army.” Walter also meant “son of Walter” when based on the given name.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Commander of the army
  • Pronunciation: VAAL-ter
  • Variations: Walters, Waltere
  • Namesakes: Ryan Walter, a Canadian ice hockey head coach of the Canadian National Women’s hockey team. Harriet Walter, a British actress who won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival in 1988.
  • Popularity: Walter ranked 1,998th worldwide and is mostly used in Germany, where it ranked 38th in 2014.
Strong, Common

Weber

Weber is a German occupation surname for a “webster” or “weaver.” It uses “weben,” a verb meaning “to weave.” Weber often appears as Webber in the English version.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Weaver
  • Pronunciation: VEH-Ber
  • Variations: Webber, Webere
  • Namesakes: Billy Weber, an American film editor who worked on Days of Heaven (1978). Ken Weber, a Rhode Island journalist for the Providence Journal from 1971 until 1996.
  • Popularity: Weber ranked 838th worldwide, is mainly used in Germany, and ranked 3rd in Luxembourg in 2014.
Occupational, Popular

Weiss

Weiss derives from the High German “wīz,” meaning “white” and “bright.” It was once a nickname for a person with white hair or a very pale complexion. It ranked 587th in the U.S. in 2010.

  • Origin: German, Jewish
  • Meaning: White,
  • Pronunciation: VICE
  • Variations: Weis, Weisz
  • Namesakes: George David Weiss, an American songwriter, and president of the Songwriters Guild of America. Jim Weiss, an American children’s author known for his audiobooks of Shakespeare.
  • Popularity: Weiss is uncommon worldwide, primarily used in the U.S., and ranked 20th in Israel in 2014.
Traditional, Nicknames

Werner

Werner also means “the defending warrior.” It was first a Medieval given name for boys. Wener is made up of the German “warin,” meaning “watchful,” and “heri,” meaning “army.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Defender
  • Pronunciation: VEHR-ner
  • Variations: Warner, Verner
  • Namesakes: Alfred Werner, a Swiss chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1913. Pierre Werner, the 18th Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1979 to 1984.
  • Popularity: Werner is uncommon worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 31st in 2014.
Strong, Patronymic

Wolf

Wofl is one of many German compound names using “wolf.” It may have pointed to a home with the sign of a wolf. Wolf can also be “the son of Wolf” based on the first name Wolfgang.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Wolf (animal)
  • Pronunciation: VOLF
  • Variations: Wolfe, Wolff, Woolf, Woolfe
  • Namesakes: Dick Wolf, an American producer best known for the Law & Order TV franchise.
  • Popularity: Wolf ranked 1,487th worldwide and is mainly used in Germany, where it ranked 16th in 2014.
Strong, Common

Zeller

Zeller was the name for a person living near Zell. It’s also an occupational name using “zelle,” meaning “small workshop” for someone who worked in one. Zeller may also be associated with “zelll,” meaning “cell,” as in “prison cell.”

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: From Zell
  • Pronunciation: ZEH-ler
  • Variations: Zellers, Zell, Zelle, Zellner
  • Namesakes: Walter Zeller, a German Grand Prix motorcycle road racer for the BMW factory racing team. Adrien Zeller, State Secretary of Social Security in France from 1986 to 1988.
  • Popularity: Zeller is rare worldwide, primarily used in Germany, and ranked 238th in Switzerland in 2014.
Geographical, Occupational

Ziegler

Ziegler was a name for someone who worked as a “tiler.” The High German “ziegel” means “roof tile,” while “ziegelbrenner” means “brick maker.” Ziegler is popular in southwest Germany, with a sizable Roman building tradition.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Brick-layer
  • Pronunciation: ZEE-gler
  • Variations: Zigler, Zeigler
  • Namesakes: Mackenzie Ziegler, an American singer on the Lifetime reality dance series Dance Moms. Reto Ziegler, a Swiss footballer for FC Lugano.
  • Popularity: Ziegler is uncommon worldwide and mostly used in Germany, ranking 88th in 2014.
Occupational, Ancient

Zimmermann

Zimmermann was an occupational name for a “carpenter,” referring to a “worker of wood.” It’s composed of the German “zimber,” meaning “timber wood,” and “man” for the man who worked with it. Zimmermann is the 20th most popular surname in Germany.

  • Origin: German
  • Meaning: Carpenter
  • Pronunciation: ZIH-mehr-Man
  • Variations: Zimmerman, Zimmer, Zimerman
  • Namesakes: Joseph Zimmermann, an American inventor of the first answering machine. Ethel Merman (born Ethel Zimmermann), an American actress and singer, appearing in Hello, Dolly!
  • Popularity: Zimmermann is uncommon worldwide, mainly used in Germany, and ranked 16th in Switzerland in 2014.
Occupational, Traditional
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German Surnames FAQs

How do Last Names Work in Germany?

German last names are traditionally passed down from the father’s side of the family. Double last names which use the family name of the mother and the father are usually not allowed under German law ( source). An exception is made when one parent has additional citizenship. Germans often have two personal names, including a first and a middle name, so they have three.

What’s a Common German Last Name?

Müller is the most common surname in Germany and Germanic countries in general. It’s an occupational surname originally given to those who worked at a mill. Müller ranked 1,894th worldwide, is mostly used in Brazil and ranked 2nd in Luxembourg in 2014. Schmidt and Schmitz are nearly as popular in some areas of the country.

What are Some of the Rarest German Last Names?

The rarest German last names are frequently the strangest too. Vormelker is one from the Middle Ages, meaning “pre-milker,” possibly referring to someone who wasn’t the main “milker.” Bierhals is another odd one meaning “beer-throat,” maybe given to someone who loved their beer!

Eierkuchen (“egg cake”) and Durchdenwald (“through-the-forest”) are two other rare German surnames, of which there are plenty.

Do German Women Take Their Husband’s Last Name?

When German women marry, they usually take their husband’s surname, although some decide to keep their maiden name. Since 1977, a man can choose to adopt his wife’s surname. If they instead combine the two names, it becomes a single surname that their children can then use.

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About the Author

Maryana Vestic

Maryana Vestic is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and food photographer with a background in entertainment Business Affairs. She studied film at NYU, Irish Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and has an MFA in Creative Writing Nonfiction from The New School. She loves cooking, baking, hiking, and horror films, as well as running a local baking business in Brooklyn with her boyfriend.
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