A primer on German names

Warning: I have zero tolerance for people who think being proud of German ancestry and loving German language, culture, literature, etc., automatically makes someone a Nazi. Grow the hell up and realise that’s far from the only thing about German history and culture!

I’m half-German, on both sides of my family, and have always been extremely proud of this. I’m equally proud of being a quarter Slovakian and an eighth Italian, but I just so happen to have more German blood than anything else. The German branches of my family have been in the U.S. since the 18th and 19th centuries. I love the German language, even if it’s not as beautiful or mellifluous as Russian, French, or Italian, and my next-favourite writer is Hermann Hesse.

The Brandts and von Hinderburgs of my Atlantic City books, and the related spin-off series set during and after the Shoah, are from Germany. They’re members of the fledgling Conservative Movement, originally called Positive-Historical Judaism. German Jews are known as Yekkies, from the word Jacke, “jacket.” It’s probably an urban myth, but the story goes that this nickname originated when the less-religious Germans started wearing short jackets instead of the long coats donned by Eastern Europeans.

Geographical distribution:

Beyond Germany, German names will also be found in Austria and Switzerland, as well as some areas of the former Austria–Hungary which had a substantial, historic German-speaking population.

German nicknames and middle names:

Many German nicknames are formed by adding -chen as a suffix. Other nicknames are merely short forms derived from dropping part of the name.

Germans typically have at least one middle name. In the 19th century, inspired by nobility, it became fashionable to bestow numerous middle names, sometimes six or more.

German surnames:

Surnames were introduced in the Late Middle Ages. Many of these surviving early surnames are formed from nicknames. Other common surnames are derived from profession (e.g., Müller, Fischer, Schneider, Bauer), patronymic (Friedrich, Ahrens), physical characteristics (Krause [curly], Klein [little]), geographical origin, and local landmarks. The prefix von designates nobility, something I didn’t know when I created the von Hinderburgs. Their name is also a misreading of Hindenburg, as I got all my foreign names from a 1965 encyclopedia at that age. Now it’s just their name, even if they’re not nobility. It fits them.

German pronunciation:

J is pronounced like a Y, SCH is SH, E is sort of like an A sound, I and A are always long, G is always hard, W is V, and Z and C are TS.

Common German names and their nickname forms (excluding Ancient Germanic names which are rarely or never used nowadays):

Male:

Adam
Adrian
Albrecht, Albert
Alexander
Alfons
Alfred
Alois (Aloysius)
Andreas
Anselm
Anton
Arend, Arnold (Arndt, Arne)
Arnfried
Arthur, Artur
August
Aurel
Bartholomäus
Benedikt
Bernhard (Benno, Bernd)
Bertolt (Bright ruler)
Bertram (Bright raven)
Bonifaz
Bruno
Burkhard, Burchard, Burkhart
Christoph
Daniel
David
Dieter (Didi) (Warrior of the people)
Dietfried (Peace of the people)
Dietmar (Famous people)
Dietrich (Ruler of the people)
Dominik
Eberhard (Ebbe)
Eckart, Eckehard, Eckhard, Eckhart, Ekkhardt, Ekkehard
Eduard, Edmund
Egon
Elias
Emanuel
Emil
Emmerich
Engelbert
Erdmann
Erhard (Honour and bravery)
Erich
Ernst
Erwin
Eugen
Felix
Ferdinand (Ferdi)
Filibert (Much brightness)
Florian
Franz
Friedemann (Man of peace)
Friedhelm (Peace and protection)
Friedrich (Fritz, Fiete, Frittie)
Gabriel (Gabi)
Georg
Gerfried (Gero) (Spear and peace)
Gerhardt, Gerhard (Gerd, Gert, Gero)
Gilbert
Gottfried
Gregor
Günther, Günter
Guntram (War raven)
Gustav
Harald
Hartmann (Brave man)
Heino
Heinrich (Heiner, Heinz)
Helmfried (Helmet and peace)
Helmut (Helmet mind)
Hermann
Horst (Woods)
Hubert (Bright heart)
Hugo
Humbert (Bright warrior)
Ignatz
Isaak
Isidor
Jakob
Joachim, Jochem, Jochen, Jochim (Achim)
Johannes, Johann (Hans, Jan)
Jonas
Josef (Jo, Seppel, Sepp)
Julian, Julius
Kai
Karl, Carl
Kasimir
Klemens, Clemens
Knut
Konrad, Conrad
Kurt
Lamprecht (Bright land)
Laurenz, Lorenz (Lenz)
Leberecht (Live rightly)
Leon, Leo
Leonhard (Brave lion)
Leopold (Poldi) (Bold people)
Ludwig (Lutz) (Louis)
Lukas
Manfred, Manfried (Strength and peace)
Markus
Martin
Matthäus (Matthew)
Maximilian (Max)
Meinhard, Meinard (Brave strength)
Michael (Michi)
Moritz (Maurice)
Nikolaus, Niklaus [Swiss] (Claus, Klaus)
Norbert (Bright North)
Oliver
Oskar
Otto
Pascal
Paul
Peter
Philipp
Quirin
Rafael
Rainer, Reiner
Roland (Famous land)
Rolf
Rüdiger (Roger)
Rudolf, Rodolf (Rudi, Ruedi [Swiss])
Sebastian (Bastian)
Siegfried (Sigi) (Victory and peace)
Siegmund, Sigmund, Sigismund (Sigi) (Victory and protector)
Simon
Stefan
Theodor
Thomas
Tobias
Ulrich (Ueli [Swiss], Ulli, Utz)
Viktor
Vinzenz, Vinzent
Waldemar
Walter
Werner (Wetzel, Wessel)
Werther
Wilfried (Desiring peace)
Wilhelm (Willi, Wim)
Wolfgang, Wolfram (Wolf)
Xaver

Female:

Abigail
Adelina (Ada, Alina)
Agathe
Alberta (Albertina)
Albina, Albine
Aloisia
Amalia (Malchen)
Andrea
Anneliese (Anelie, Annelie)
Anselma (Elma)
Alexandra
Anna (Anika, Ännchen, Anina)
Antonia
Auguste, Augusta
Aurora
Beata (Blessed)
Beatrix
Benedikta
Bianka
Brigitta, Brigitte (Gitta)
Cäcilie, Cäcilia, Caecilia, Cecilia (Silke, Zilla)
Claudia
Corinna, Corina
Dagmar
Debora
Dorothea (Thea, Dora, Dorchen)
Edith
Eleonore (Leonore, Lore, Nora)
Elisabeth (Bettina, Bettchen, Elisa, Elise, Elli, Elsa, Else, Ilse, Ilsa, Lies, Liesa, Liese, Liesel, Liesl, Lilli, Lili, Lisa, Lisbeth)
Emilie, Emma
Erna, Ernestine
Eva
Ferdinanda
Flora
Franka
Franziska (Fränze, Franzi, Ziska)
Freja
Friederike (Friede, Fritzi)
Gabriele, Gabriela (Gabi)
Georgina
Gertraud, Gertrude (Trudi, Trudl)
Gisela (Gisa)
Hänne (Hännchen)
Hannelore
Hedwig (Hedy) (Battle and war)
Heinrike, Henrike
Helena, Helene (Alena, Lena, Lene, Leni)
Helga, Hella
Henriette
Hermine
Inga
Ingrid
Irene
Isolde
Johanna (Jo)
Josefine
Julia, Juliane, Juliana (Liane)
Jutta, Jutte (Judith)
Klara, Clara
Karoline, Karola
Katherine, Katarina, Katarine, Katharine, Katharina (Kätchen, Käthe, Kathrin, Katrin, Karen, Cathrin, Catrin)
Kornelia, Cornelia (Nele)
Kristiane, Kristin, Kristina, Kristine, Christine (Christel, Krista)
Laura
Leona, Leonie
Lieselotte (Lilo, Lotte)
Louisa, Luise (Lulu)
Luzia, Lucia (Lulu)
Magdalena, Magdalene (Magda, Magdi, Alena, Lena, Lene, Leni)
Margareta, Margaretha, Margarete, Margarethe, Margrit (Greta, Grete, Gretchen, Meta, Rita)
Maria (Mareike, Maja, Mariele, Meike, Mia, Mitzi, Ria)
Marlene
Marthe
Mathilde, Mechtilde (Hilda)
Monika
Natalie, Nathalie
Nikola, Nicola
Oda
Ottilie
Paula
Petra, Petronella
Philippa
Philomena (Friend of strength)
Priska
Raffaela, Raphaela
Rebekka
Regina, Regine
Renata
Rosa, Rosalie
Sabine
Sabrina
Saskia
Selma
Sophia, Sofia
Stefanie (Steffi)
Susanne (Susann, Suse, Susi)
Theodora (Theda, Thea)
Therese, Theresia
Ulrike (Ulli)
Ursula (Uschi, Ursel, Ulla)
Valeria, Valerie (Valeska)
Vera
Verena (Vreni)
Veronika
Viktoria
Waltraud
Wilhelmina (Helma, Helmine, Minna)

Advertisements

3 comments on “A primer on German names

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    You’re right–Nazis were mostly German, but only a small percentage of Germans were Nazis. And at that time it was essentially a political party that came into power so a lot of the members of the Nazi party weren’t the pure evil that Naziism has come to represent, they were just caught up in the fervor of a movement. It could happen anywhere–even in the U.S.

    Most of my family heritage is from Ireland and England, but to my understanding my paternal grandmother came from German roots. My step-father (Georg Friedrich Lechelt) was a Pole who went to college in post war Germany and he spoke German. No problems with me concerning Germany. I’m also a fan of German food and beer.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    Like

  2. Rhissanna says:

    Have you considered making an e-book of a complete collection of these names and naming rules? Books like this are hard to find and name generators don’t have the same ease of use.

    Like

Share your thoughts respectfully

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s