German Last Names and Their English Meanings

For example, Marlene Dietrich translates to "Marlene skeleton key"

application form
-nelis- / 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)

Nachname Last Name English Meaning
Aachen/Achen Aachen/Aix-la-Chapelle (German city)
Abend/Abendroth evening/dusk
Abt abbott
Ackerman(n) farmer
Adler eagle
Amsel blackbird
Austerlitz from the town and battle (1805)
Bach brook
Bachmeier farmer by the brook
Bader/Baader bath, spa keeper
Baecker/Becker baker
Baer/Bar bear
Barth beard
Bauer farmer, peasant
Baum tree
Baumgaertner/Baumgartner
Bumgarner
tree nursery man
Bayer/Baier/Beyer Bavarian
Beckenbauer basin/bowl maker
Beich/Beike slope (OHG)
Berg mountain
Bergmann miner
Bieber beaver (industrious)
Biermann beer man (brewer)
Blau blue
Boehm/Bohm of Bohemia
Brandt fire, land cleared by fire
Brauer brewer
Braun brown
Bürger/Burger townsman, citizen
Busch/Bosch bush
Daecher/Decker roofer, tyler
Diederich/Dietrich skeleton key; ruler (OHG)
Drechsler/Dreher turner
Dresdner/Dresner of Dresden
Drescher thresher
Duerr/Durr dry, thin, drought
Ebersbach/Ebersbacher boar brook
Eberhardt/Eberhart strong as a boar
Eichel acorn, oak
Eichelberger of the oak hill
Eichmann oak man
Ehrlichmann honest man
Eiffel German mountain range
Eisenberg iron mountain
Eisenhauer (Eisenhower) iron hewer, miner
Egger / Eggers harrow, plow man
Engel angel
Faber smith (Latin)
Faerber/Farber dyer
Fassbinder cooper
Faust fist
Feierabend time off, non-work hours
Fenstermacher window maker
Fiedler fiddler
Fink/Finkel finch
Fischer/Fisher fisher, fisherman
Fleischer butcher
Foerster forester
Frankfurter of Frankfurt
Frei/Frey free (man)
Freitag/Freytag Friday
Freud joy
Fried peace
Friedmann/Friedman peace man, peacemaker
Frueh/Freeh early (riser)
Fruehauf up early
Fuchs fox
Fuerst/Furst prince
Fuhrmann carter, driver
Gaertner/Gärtner gardener
Gerber tanner
Gerste/Gersten barley
Gloeckner/Glockner bell man
Goldschmidt gold smith
Gottlieb God's love
Gottschalk God's servant
Gruenewald/Grunewald/Grunwald green forest
Hahn rooster
Herrmann/Herman warrior, soldier
Hertz/Herz heart
Hertzog/Herzog duke
Himmel (-reich) heaven
Hirsch buck, deer
Hoch high, tall
Hoffmann/Hofmann landed farmer
Holtzmann/Holzman woodsman
Hueber/Huber/Hoover land owner
Jaeger/Jager hunter, huntsman
Jung young
Junker nobleman, squire
Kaiser emperor
Kalb calf
Kaestner/Kastner cabinet maker
Kappel chapel
Kaufmann merchant
Keller cellar
Kirsch cherry
Klein short, small
Klug/Kluge smart, clever
Koch cook
Kohl/Cole cabbage (seller, grower of cabbage)
Kohler/Koehler charcoal-maker
Koenig/Konig king
Krause curly haired
Krueger/Kruger potter, maker of jugs
Kuefer cooper
Kuester/Kuster sexton
Kuhn/Kunze councilman; brave, smart
Koertig/Kortig from Konrad (brave adviser)

Germanic Last Names (L-Z)

Lang long
Lehmann/Lemann serf, fief man
Lehrer teacher
Loewe/Lowe lion
Luft air
Mahler/Mehler grinder, miller
Maier/Meier/Meyer dairy farmer; landowner
Mauer/Maur wall
Maurer mason
Meister master
Metzger butcher
Meier/Meyer/Maier dairy farmer; landowner
Mueller/Muller miller
Moench/Muench monk
Nacht night
Nadel needle
Nagel nail
Naumann/Neumann new man
Neudorf/Neustadt new town (Newton)
Nussbaum nut tree
Oster east, Easter
Osterhagen east grove, hedge
Ostermann eastern man
Pabst/Papst pope
Pfaff cleric, parson
Pfeffer pepper
Pfeifer/Pfeiffer piper
Probst/Propst provost
Reinhard(t) determined
Reiniger cleaner, cleanser, purifier
Richter judge
Ritter knight
Roth red
Rothschild red shield
Rothstein red stone
Saenger/Sanger singer
Sankt saint
Schäfer/Schaefer shepherd
Scherer shearer, barber
Schiffer boatman
Schmidt/Schmitt smith
Schneider tailor
Scholz/Schulze mayor
Schreiber scribe, scribner, writer
Schreiner joiner, cabinet maker
Schroeder/Schroder drayman, cart pusher (Carter)
Schuhmacher shoemaker
Schultheiss/Schultz debt broker; mayor
Schulz/Schulze/Scholz mayor
Schuster/Shuster cobbler, shoemaker
Schwab Swabian, from Swabia
Schwartz/Schwarz black
Schweitzer/Schweizer Swiss; dairy man
Seiler roper
Sommer summer
Strauss bouquet
Thalberg valley (and) mountain
Theiss/Theissen form of Matthias
Traugott trust in God
Trommler drummer
Unger Hungarian
Urner of Uri (Swiss canton)
Vogel bird
Vogler fowler, bird man
Vogt steward
von of (indicates nobility)
Waechter warden, watchman
Wagner wagoner, wainwright
Wannemaker basket maker
Weber weaver
Wechsler/Wexler money changer
Weiss/Weisz white/wheat
Weissmuller wheat miller
Werfel/Wurfel die (dice), cube
Winkel corner, angle
Wirth/Wirtz innkeeper, landlord
Wolf/Wulf wolf
Wurfel/Werfel die (dice), cube
Ziegler brick or tilemaker
Zimmer room; short for "carpenter" (below)
Zimmermann/Zimmerman carpenter
Zweig twig, branch