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.
What Is The 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. Their names are 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 ancestors. 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!
What Are The 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
- Amery -Divine
- 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
- Ida -Hardworking
- Ilsa – German version of Elizabeth
- Irma -Strength
- 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
- Maddalen/Maddalyn -Magnificent
- 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
- Robbey -Acclaimed
- 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 in 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/Scandinavian. 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. The 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.