German Last Names and Their English Meanings

Marlene Dietrich translates to Marlene skeleton key (and other fun equivalents)

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Flippo, Hyde. "German Last Names and Their English Meanings." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/german-last-names-and-english-meanings-4066939. Flippo, Hyde. (2017, September 7). German Last Names and Their English Meanings. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/german-last-names-and-english-meanings-4066939 Flippo, Hyde. "German Last Names and Their English Meanings." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/german-last-names-and-english-meanings-4066939 (accessed October 18, 2017).
Franz Beckenbauer
Bavarian soccer (Fußball) champ Franz Beckenbauer (meaning "basin/bowl maker") was known as "Kaiser Franz.". Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

If you wonder what your German last name means in English, here's a comprehensive guide. 

For each Germanic surname in this glossary, we have provided the English meaning, which may or may not be a surname in English. This is not a list of equivalent names, but rather a sampling of English translations or meanings of German names. In many cases, there may be several possible origins or translations for a surname.

The translation shown for a surname may not be the only possibility. Some names are derived from Old German and may have a different meaning from that in modern German. 

Abbreviations: OHG (Old High German, Althochdeutsch)

Germanic Last Names (A-K)
With English Meanings
Nachname Last NameEnglish Meaning

A A A

Aachen/AchenAachen/Aix-la-Chapelle (German city)
Abend/Abendrothevening/dusk
Abtabbott
Ackerman(n)farmer
Adlereagle
Amselblackbird
Austerlitzfrom the town and battle (1805)
Famous Name: Dancer and actor Fred Astaire was born Frederick Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska. His father was Austrian-born Fritz Austerlitz.

B B B

Bachbrook
Bachmeierfarmer by the brook
Bader/Baaderbath, spa keeper
Baecker/Beckerbaker
Baer/Barbear
Barthbeard
Bauerfarmer, peasant
Baumtree
Baumgaertner/Baumgartner
Bumgarner
tree nursery man
Famous Name: The real name of actor James Garner is James Scott Bumgarner.
Bayer/Baier/BeyerBavarian
Beckenbauerbasin/bowl maker
Famous Name: Bavarian soccer (Fußball) champ Franz Beckenbauer was known as "Kaiser Franz."
Beich/Beikeslope (OHG)
Bergmountain
Bergmannminer
Bieberbeaver (industrious)
Biermannbeer man (brewer)
Blaublue
Boehm/Bohmof Bohemia
Brandtfire, land cleared by fire
Brauerbrewer
Braunbrown
Bürger/Burgertownsman, citizen
Busch/Boschbush

D D D

Daecher/Deckerroofer, tyler
Diederich/Dietrichskeleton key; ruler (OHG)
Famous Name: Actress and singer Marlene Dietrich was a legend in her time.
Drechsler/Dreherturner
Dresdner/Dresnerof Dresden
Drescherthresher
Duerr/Durrdry, thin, drought
 

E E E

Ebersbach/Ebersbacherboar brook
Eberhardt/Eberhartstrong as a boar
Eichelacorn, oak
Eichelbergerof the oak hill
Eichmannoak man
Ehrlichmannhonest man
EiffelGerman mountain range
Eisenbergiron mountain
Eisenhauer (Eisenhower)iron hewer, miner
Egger / Eggersharrow, plow man
Engelangel

F F F

Fabersmith (Latin)
Faerber/Farberdyer
Fassbindercooper
Faustfist
Feierabendtime off, non-work hours
Fenstermacherwindow maker
Fiedlerfiddler
Fink/Finkelfinch
Fischer/Fisherfisher, fisherman
Fleischerbutcher
Foersterforester
Frankfurterof Frankfurt
Frei/Freyfree (man)
Freitag/FreytagFriday
Freudjoy
Friedpeace
Friedmann/Friedmanpeace man, peacemaker
Frueh/Freehearly (riser)
Fruehaufup early
Fuchsfox
Fuerst/Furstprince
Fuhrmanncarter, driver

G G G

Gaertner/Gärtnergardener
Gerbertanner
Famous Name: Actress and singer Mitzi Gaynor ("South Pacific") was born Francesca Marlene von Gerber in Chicago in 1931.
Gerste/Gerstenbarley
Gloeckner/Glocknerbell man
Goldschmidtgold smith
GottliebGod's love
GottschalkGod's servant
Gruenewald/Grunewald/Grunwaldgreen forest

H H H

Hahnrooster
Herrmann/Hermanwarrior, soldier
Hertz/Herzheart
Hertzog/Herzogduke
Himmel (-reich)heaven
Hirschbuck, deer
Hochhigh, tall
Hoffmann/Hofmannlanded farmer
Holtzmann/Holzmanwoodsman
Hueber/Huber/Hooverland owner

J J J

Jaeger/Jagerhunter, huntsman
Jungyoung
Junkernobleman, squire

K K K

Kaiseremperor
Kalbcalf
Kaestner/Kastnercabinet maker
Kappelchapel
Kaufmannmerchant
Kellercellar
Famous Name: Deafblind Helen Keller (1880-1968), who became a role model for millions of people.
Kirschcherry
Kleinshort, small
Klug/Klugesmart, clever
Kochcook
Kohl/Colecabbage (seller, grower of cabbage)
Famous Name: Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl held that office for a record length of time (1982-1998).
Kohler/Koehlercharcoal-maker
Koenig/Konigking
Krausecurly haired
Krueger/Krugerpotter, maker of jugs
Kuefercooper
Kuester/Kustersexton
Kuhn/Kunzecouncilman; brave, smart
Koertig/Kortigfrom Konrad (brave adviser)
 

L L L

Langlong
Famous Name: Austrian film director Fritz Lang (1890-1976) produced the silent film classic "Metropolis" (1927) in Germany and later went to Hollywood.
Lehmann/Lemannserf, fief man
Lehrerteacher
Loewe/Lowelion
Famous Name: Vienna-born composer Frederick "Fritz" Loewe (1901-1988) was part of the musical team of Lerner and Loewe, famous for a series of popular Broadway musicals and films ("Brigadoon," "Camelot," "My Fair Lady," "Gigi"). 
Luftair

M M M

Mahler/Mehlergrinder, miller
Maier/Meier/Meyerdairy farmer; landowner
Mauer/Maurwall
Famous Name: The family of Canadian-born rock singer Melissa Auf der Maur comes from Switzerland. 
Maurermason
Meistermaster
Metzgerbutcher
Meier/Meyer/Maierdairy farmer; landowner
Mueller/Mullermiller
Moench/Muenchmonk

N N N

Nachtnight
Nadelneedle
Nagelnail
Naumann/Neumannnew man
Neudorf/Neustadtnew town (Newton)
Nussbaumnut tree

O O O

Ostereast, Easter
Osterhageneast grove, hedge
Ostermanneastern man
 

P P P

Pabst/Papstpope
Pfaffcleric, parson
Pfefferpepper
Pfeifer/Pfeifferpiper
Probst/Propstprovost

R R R

Reinhard(t)determined
Reinigercleaner, cleanser, purifier
Richterjudge
Ritterknight
Rothred
Rothschildred shield
Rothsteinred stone

S S S

Saenger/Sangersinger
Sanktsaint
Schäfer/Schaefershepherd
Scherershearer, barber
Schifferboatman
Schmidt/Schmittsmith
Schneidertailor
Scholz/Schulzemayor
Schreiberscribe, scribner, writer
Schreinerjoiner, cabinet maker
Schroeder/Schroderdrayman, cart pusher (Carter)
Schuhmachershoemaker
Schultheiss/Schultzdebt broker; mayor
Schulz/Schulze/Scholzmayor
Schuster/Shustercobbler, shoemaker
SchwabSwabian, from Swabia
Schwartz/Schwarzblack
Schweitzer/SchweizerSwiss; dairy man
Seilerroper
Famous Name: Here are two Seilers: Austrian ski champ and gold medal
winner Tony Seiler (in the 1950s and '60s) and Swiss auto racing driver Toni Seiler.
Sommersummer
Straussbouquet

T T T

Thalbergvalley (and) mountain
Theiss/Theissenform of Matthias
Traugotttrust in God
Trommlerdrummer

U U U

UngerHungarian
Urnerof Uri (Swiss canton)

V V V

Vogelbird
Voglerfowler, bird man
Vogtsteward
vonof (indicates nobility)

W W W

Waechterwarden, watchman
Wagnerwagoner, wainwright
Wannemakerbasket maker
Weberweaver
Wechsler/Wexlermoney changer
Weiss/Weiszwhite/wheat
Famous Name: Escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was born Ehrich Weiss (Weiß) in Budapest.
 
Weissmullerwheat miller
Famous Name: Actor and Olympic swimming champ Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) is considered the best movie "Tarzan" of all time.
Werfel/Wurfeldie (dice), cube
Winkelcorner, angle
Wirth/Wirtzinnkeeper, landlord
Wolf/Wulfwolf
Wurfel/Werfeldie (dice), cube
Famous Name: The Austrian  (1890-1945) was a novelist ("The Song of Bernadette") and poet who had a brief Hollywood career during his California exile years.

Z Z Z

Zieglerbrick or tilemaker
Zimmerroom; short for "carpenter" (below)
Famous Name: Hollywood film music composer Hans Zimmer received an Oscar for his "Lion King" score.
Zimmermann/Zimmermancarpenter
Famous Name: Did you know that Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman, or that Ethel Merman's real name was Ethel Zimmerman?
Zweigtwig, branch