The Top 100 German Surnames

Meanings and Origins of Common Last Names

List of common German surnames: Schmidt, Fischer, Weber, Meier, Klein, Bauer, Müller, Köhler, Herrmann, Friedrich

ThoughtCo / Marina Li

German last names originate from places and professions in Germany and far beyond, as a list of 100 of the most common German surnames shows. The list was initially created by searching for the most common last names in German telephone books. Where variations of a spelling of a surname occurred, those monikers are listed as separate names. For instance, Schmidt, which is ranked No. 2, also appears as Schmitt (No. 24), and Schmid (No. 26). This list is different than one showing popular German surnames with their English translations.

The Origin of German Last Names

The meanings of German last names are those as defined initially when these names became surnames. For example, the surname Meyer means dairy farmer today, whereas, during the Middle Ages, Meyer designated people who were stewards of landholders. Most German surnames derive either from archaic professions (such as Schmidt, Müller, Weber, or Schäfer) or places. Few of the latter are on the following list, but examples include Brinkmann, Berger, and Frank.

German Last Names and Their Meanings

In the table, the German name is listed on the left, with its origin (and explanation if needed) on the right. The acronyms OHG and MHG stand for Old High German and Middle High German, respectively. The acronyms are noted because you won't find the translations for these names in standard online translators or even most German dictionaries.

German Surname Meaning/Origin
Müller miller
Schmidt smith
Schneider taylor
Fischer fisher
Weber weaver
Schäfer shepherd
Meyer (MHG) steward of landholder; leaseholder
Wagner wagoner
Becker from Bäcker >baker
Bauer farmer
Hoffmann landed farmer
Schulz mayor
Koch cook
Richter judge
Klein small
Wolf wolf
Schröder carter
Neumann new man
Braun brown
Werner (OHG) defense army
Schwarz black
Hofmann landed farmer
Zimmermann carpenter
Schmitt Smith
Hartmann strong man
Schmid Smith
Weiß white
Schmitz Smith
Krüger potter
Lange long
Meier (MHG) steward of land; leaseholder
Walter leader, ruler
Köhler charcoal-maker
Maier (MHG) steward of landholder; leaseholder
Beck from Bach–stream; Bäcker–baker
König king
Krause curly-haired
Schulze mayor
Huber landowner
Mayer steward of landholder; leaseholder
Frank from Franconia
Lehmann serf
Kaiser emperor
Fuchs fox
Herrmann warrior
Lang long
Thomas (Aramaic) twin
Peters (Greek) rock
Stein rock, stone
Jung young
Möller miller
Berger from French–shepherd
Martin (Latin) war-like
Friedrich (OHG) fridu–peace, rihhi–powerful
Scholz mayor
Keller cellar
Groß big
Hahn rooster
Roth from rot–red
Günther (Scandinavian) warrior
Vogel bird
Schubert (MHG) Schuochwürchte–shoemaker
Winkler from Winkel–angle
Schuster shoemaker; Jäger–hunter
Lorenz (Latin) Laurentius
Ludwig (OHG) luth–famous, wig–war
Baumann - farmer
Heinrich (OHG) heim–home and rihhi–powerful
Otto OHG ot–property, inheritance
Simon (Hebrew) God has listened
Graf count, earl
Kraus curly-haired
Krämer small trader, dealer
Böhm of Bohemia
Schulte from Schultheiß–debt-broker
Albrecht (OHG) adal–noble, bereht–famous
Franke (Old French) Franconia
Winter winter
Schumacher cobbler, shoemaker
Vogt steward
Haas (MHG) nickname for rabbit hunter; coward
Sommer summer
Schreiber writer, scribe
Engel angel
Ziegler brickmaker
Dietrich (OHG) people’s ruler
Brandt fire, burn
Seidel mug
Kuhn councilman
Busch bush
Horn horn
Arnold (OHG) strength of an eagle
Kühn councilman
Bergmann miner
Pohl Polish
Pfeiffer piper
Wolff wolf
Voigt steward
Sauer sour
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Your Citation
Bauer, Ingrid. "The Top 100 German Surnames." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Bauer, Ingrid. (2020, August 28). The Top 100 German Surnames. Retrieved from Bauer, Ingrid. "The Top 100 German Surnames." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 29, 2023).