Are you interested in knowing the meaning of your name and finding out if it has Germanic origins? Then you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll cover traditional and modern German Names and what they mean and give you insight into the history of names in Germany.
Knowing the connotation behind someone's name can make greeting people in German a bit more interesting as you could make it part of the conversation.
It's time to dive into German names and what they mean.
History Of German Names
Historically, German names have been given based on biblical or Christian denominations. Many such names were inspired by famous Saints, with the most popular male and female names being Johann or Hans for John, or James and Anna.
Like the Dutch, Germans didn't always have surnames. Surnames were only introduced during the late Middle Ages and tended to mirror the head of the home's occupation.
Many traditional German names were derived from outstanding bodily features, geographic location, and family names. Let's look at some as these surnames are quite common today.
A family name is acquired from a family ancestor to identify their relations. For example, the surname Ahrends is derived from the name Ahrend and simply adding an 's' to the ending.
The addition of the 's' indicates this is "Ahrend's son" or "son of Ahrend." Sometimes the spelling uses a 'z' as it sounds the same as 's' in the German accent. Other family name examples in Germany are Benz, Fritz, and Friedrichs.
Geographical names are exactly what they sound like they are. They're names taken from features where a family lived, such as a city, village, or land feature.
Some geographical name examples are Kissinger (Kissingen) which is a beautiful town with natural pools, Bayer (meaning Bavaria, where Munich is today), and Rothschild (which translates to red sign).
Occupational names reflect the occupation of a family's ancestor. Here are some occupational surnames that are still very much in use today, Zimmermann (a carpenter), Schmidt (a smith), Schulze (a constable), Müller (a miller), Fischer (a fisherman), and Rosenbauer (a rose-farmer).
Extreme or obvious bodily features could be used to identify people easily, and these nicknames stuck and became proper surnames for many people. Some such names are Schwarzkopf (blackhead, which is now a global hair product brand), Groß (big), or Krause (curly).
You may have heard people refer to Germans as so and so Von so and so. Today, having a Von in one's name is quite common. However, it would have been an important designation to show nobility or land ownership in the past.
The Structure Of A German Name
The structure of a German name looks like this:
Vornamen + Vornamen + Familien-oder Nachname
(First name + First name + Surname)
It's very common for German people to have more than one, sometimes several first names (they don't call it a middle name). Essentially, each parent can choose a name or names for their child. A popular example would be Anna Leisbeth Welle.
On top of that, Germans typically use a Rufname (a nickname) which is what most people go by and are referred to by. It can make it tricky to know a German person's real name, as most people go by a nickname!
German Naming Rules And Laws
Germany has strict naming laws. All names must be approved by the civil registration office (Standesamt), or babies won't be issued German birth certificates. Let's see some of these rules;
It cannot be associated with evil (e.g., Satan, Lucifer) or deemed religiously insensitive (e.g., Christus or Jesus).
A name cannot be a product, brand, surname, or a place name (I guess tradition has gone out the window!)
The name must indicate the child's gender.
They cannot be absurd or degrade the child in any way.
They cannot be named after objects
They cannot be named with symbols or numerals.
Classic And Traditional German Names For Boys Throughout History
Here is a listing of some popular traditional German boy names and their meaning regaining popularity in modern times.
Abbe - Joyful father
Abbot - Father, Priest, Father of Abbey
Abelard - Noble
Ada - Noble
Adalwolf - Noble wolf
Alexander - Defender of humankind
Amo - Power of an eagle
Archar - Strong
Arnol - Strong as an eagle
Barduwulf - An axe-Wwelding wolf
Baltasa - Protected by God
Baldwin - Brave
Baret - Strength of a bear
Barnar - Brave, bear, courageous
Barni - To protect
Baron - Nobleman
Ben - Son of
Bre - Flame
Brenner - One Who Works With Fire
Bronson - Brown's son
Carey - He who lives in the fortress
Cariel - Freeman
Carste - Christian
Christoph - Christ-bearer
Conra - Bold and mighty, admired by all
Corrado - Fearless, bold, valiant
Davi - The Beloved Friend
Delmar- One Who Came from Sea
Derek - The people's ruler
Edga - Spearman
Egelbert - Bright light of God
Egon - One Who's strong with a sword
Elias - One who believes Yahweh is the Lord
Fedde - Peace
Franz - German Version of Frank
Frederic - Peaceful ruler
Garold/Gerald - A ruler who controls the army with a spear
Geoffrey - Man of peace
Godfrey - Peace of God
Gunther - Warrior
Hans - God is Gracious; German Version of John
Hedwig - Fighter
Henry - Estate Ruler
Hulbart - Elegant
Kaiser - German version of Caeser
Karl - Manly, strong
Kurtis - Polite one
Leon - Lion
Leopol - Bold
Louis - Great knight, brave warrior
Marcus/Markus - Of Mars
Martell - Warrior of Mars
Mayne - Powerful One
Nicko - God of Success
Nikolaus - Victorious
Noa - Calm
Odie - Superman
Raymond - Wise protector
Robert - Glory, bright
Roderick - Famous ruler
Ryker - Rich
Truman - Spear of strength
William - Protector
Classic And Traditional German Names For Girls Throughout History
Here is a listing of some popular traditional German girl names and their meaning regaining popularity in modern times.
Adalee/Adali - A noble wood
Adaleigh - Honorable One
Adellene/Adelina/Adelit - The kindness or nobility
Adelredu - A red-haired noble person
Addi - German variation of Adela
Addle - An eagle
Adette - Sweet, noble
Agatha - Good
Ail - Sweet
Amalia - Work
Amara - Eternal
Bernadine - Strength of a bear
Carleigh - A free peasant girl
Carri - A strong woman
Dagna -A special day
Dame - A lady
Edelle - Superior
Elsie - Noble
Elyse/Elise - Noble
Freeda - A peaceful ruler, beloved
Geraldine - Rules by the spear
Gertrude - Spear of strength
Gretchen - Little pearl
Gretel - Pearl
Gretta - Stable, Loving
Harriet- Rules the home
Heidi - Sweet, noble
Helene - German version of Helen
Helga - Blessed, holy
Henriett - Rules the home
Ilsa - German version of Elizabeth
Isa - Strong-willed
Jaselle - One who is pledged
Jeri -Spear ruler
Karin -Pure; German version of Katherine
Karlotta -Tiny, feminine
Kristol - A woman made of ice
Lea - Person who brings good news
Lindsay -From the Lincoln Island
Loralei - Sweet
Louisa - Famous in war
Lynde - Gentle
Malene - Magnificent
Marion - Bitter
Matilda - Battle maiden
Millicent -Noble: Strong
Morgen - Defender of the sea
Olga - Blessed, holy
Petra - Rock
Petri - Like a rock
Rainah - An advice-giver
Rilla - Brook
Romy - A person from Rome
Rosamund - Guardian
Saacha - Defender of people
Sarah - Princess
Selma - God's helmet
Tamina - A twin sister
Thea - Gift of God
Wilhelmina - Peace
Zelda - Blessed, happy
Modern Names In Germany
Let's look at some of the more popular names the German people use today to name their children.
While traditional German language names are still used to name children, western names have gained popularity over the decades.
As of 2021, the most popular German baby name for a girl is Mia, and the most common German baby name for a boy is Ben.
Below are the top German first names for babies today that are also popular baby names the world over.
Popular German Baby Names For Boys Used Around The World Today
Anton - Priceless
Ben - Freedom; power
Elias - The god is my lord
Felix - Fortunate, happy, lucky, successful
Finn/Fynn - Fair-haired, courageous
Henry/Henri - Ruler of the House
Jacob - One who supplants
Jonas - Peaceful being, a gift from god
Leon - Brave as a lion
Liam - Determined protector
Luis/Louis - Renowned Warrior
Luke/Lucas - Light
Max - A great stream
Noah - Comfort, peace
Oskar/Oscar - Friend of the deer
Paul - Small. humble
Popular German Baby Names For Girls Used Around The World Today
Anna - Graceful
Charlotte - Freewoman
Clara/Klara - Queen, bright
Emilia - Rival, eager
Emily/Emilie - Competitor; industrious
Emma - Industrious
Hannah/Hanna - Happiness, merciful
Johanna - Gracious. merciful
Lea/Leah - Delicate
Lilly/Lili Lily - Innocence; purity, beauty
Lina - Shining, brilliant, strong
Marie - Rebellious
Mia - Beauty, queen
Mila - Traditional
Sofia/Sophia - Knowledgable
Popular Rufnames In German For Girls And Boys
Germans, as mentioned, don't necessarily go by their proper first names. Most prefer to go by their Rufname (nickname). Let's see the most popular nicknames in Germany for boys and girls.
Popular German Rufnames For Boys
Matteo - Matteo is of Italian and Hebrew origin and means "God's gift."
Ben - Ben has Hebrew origins and it means "son of my right hand."
Noah - A Hebrew and biblical name that means "comfort" or "wanderer."
Felix - Felix is a name of Latin origin that means "happiness."
Elias - Another biblical name with Hebrew, which means "The Lord is God."
Henry/Henri - It is an old German name that means "house ruler."
Finn - Finn is of Irish origin, which means "fair or white. Also, it means "thunder" in Old Nordic.
Leon - The name Leon is of Greek origin and means "lion."
Jonas - Jonas is a Hebrew name meaning "Dove."
Luis / Louis -The name Luis is of German origin and means "famed warrior."
Popular German Rufnames For Girls
Emilia - Italian/Spanish means to rival or emulate or excel.
Emma - derived from the Germanic word "ermen" meaning whole or universal
Hannah - deriving from the Hebrew name Channah, Hannah means "grace."
Ilina -Greek in origin meaning "light."
Luisa - An Old German name meaning "warrior maiden."
Maria - The name 'Maria' is of Latin origin and means "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved."
Marie - Deriving from French/Hebrew meaning "bitter."
Mia - Origin Italian/Scandanavian. The meaning is "Queen" or "Ocean Goddess"; it also means "guardian of justice."
Sophia - This beautiful name has Greek origins, and it means "wisdom." It is a variant of Sophie.
Sophie - The name Sophie is of Greek and French origin. It means "wisdom."
Interested In Learning More German?
Now you can more easily recognize when names are being spoken and where those names came from. You may also find that your name has a particular meaning in German!
It's also possible that you've planned a trip to Germany and would like to learn some more German. Ling App is here to help! Here at Ling, we build the largest language database and would love to teach you German with our interactive and fun language app with our friendly monkey friend, Ling, by your side.
To start learning is completely free. With our app, you'll learn to read, write, speak, and listen to the German language to pick up on the accent and pronunciations easily.