German First Names and Their Translations

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Anyone researching names soon becomes aware that, because of spelling variations and other changes, it is often difficult to determine the true origin of a name, particularly family names. Many names were altered (Americanized, anglicized) for various reasons. Just one example I know of: the German last name Schön (beautiful) became Shane, a change that deceptively hides its German origin.

Not all German first or last names have an English equivalent, but many do. We won't bother with obvious ones like Adolf, Christoph, Dorothea (dor-o-taya), Georg (gay-org), Michael (meech-ah-el), Monika (mow-ni-kah), Thomas (tow-mas), or Wilhelm (vil-helm). They may be pronounced differently but the resemblance is hard to miss.

Also see: Vornamenlexikon (first names) and our Germanic Surname Lexikon

First Names (Vornamen)

  • Adalbert/Albrecht (Albert)
  • Alois (Aloysius)
  • Anja/Antje/Anke (Anna)
  • Bärbel (Barbara)
  • Beke (north German form of Bertha)
  • Bernd/Bernt (Bernard)
  • Birgit (Swedish form of Brigitte, which is actually a Celtic name)
  • Dolf (short form from names ending in - dolf)
  • Dorle (Dora, Dot, Dorothy)
  • Eugen (oy-gen, Eugene)
  • Franz (Frank)
  • Gabi (form of Gabriele)
  • Gerhard (Gerald)
  • Gottfried (Geoffrey, Jeffrey, Godfrey)
  • Greta (Margaret)
  • Hans/Jens/Johann(es) (Jack, John, Jonathan)
  • Heinrich/Heino/Heinz (Henry)
  • Ilse (Elizabeth)
  • Jakob (James)
  • Jörg/Jürgen (George)
  • Jutta (Judy/Judith)
  • Karl/Karla (Charles/Carol)
  • Karsten/Carsten/Kersten (variation of Christian)
  • Katrin (C/Katherine)
  • Kirsten/Kirstin (Christine)
  • Lars (Larry), Leni (Helen/e)
  • Ludwig (Lewis/Louis)
  • Margit (Martha)
  • Matthias (Mathew)
  • Nastasja (Anastasia),
  • Nils (Nick)
  • Ninja (neen-ya, Nina)
  • Peer (Peter)
  • Reinhold (Reginald)
  • Renate (Renee)
  • Rolf (Rudolph)
  • Rüdiger/Rudi (Roger, Rudolph)
  • Sepp (form of Joseph)
  • Silke (Frisian form of Cecily/Cecilia)
  • Steffi (Stephanie)
  • Thea (short form of Dorothea)
  • Theo (Theodore)
  • Wim (form of Wilhelm). 

Female German First Names (without any English equivalent)

  • Ada/Adda
  • Adelheid (Heidi is the familiar form)
  • Astrid, Beate, Brunhild(e)
  • Dagmar (from Danish)
  • Dietrun
  • Effi/Elfriede/Elfi
  • Eike (also male)
  • Elke
  • Frauke
  • Friedel (related to Elfriede)
  • Gerda
  • Gerlinde
  • Gertrud(e)
  • Gisela
  • Gunthild(e)
  • Harmke
  • Hedwig
  • Heidrun
  • Heike
  • Helga
  • Hilde/Hildegard
  • Hildrun
  • Hilke
  • Imke
  • Irma
  • Irmgard
  • Irmtraud
  • Ingeborg
  • Kai
  • Kriemhild
  • Ludmilla
  • Marlene
  • Mathilde
  • Meinhild
  • Ottilie
  • Roswitha
  • Senta
  • Sieglinde
  • Sigrid
  • Sigrun
  • Sonja
  • Tanja (from Russian)
  • Theda
  • Tilla/Tilli
  • Traude
  • Trudi
  • Ulrike
  • Una
  • Ursula/Uschi
  • Ute/Uta
  • Waltraud
  • Wilhelmine
  • Winifred

Male First Names (without any English equivalent)

  • Achim,
  • Bodo/Bot(h)o
  • Dagobert (no, not Dogbert!)
  • Detlef/Detlev
  • Dieter,
  • Dietmar
  • Dirk
  • Eberhard
  • Eckehard/Eckart
  • Egon
  • Emil (masc. form of Emily, Emilio in Span.)
  • Engelbert
  • Erhard/Erhart
  • Falko
  • Gandolf
  • Gerd/Gert,
  • Golo, Gunt(h)er
  • Gustav (from Swedish)
  • Hartmut,
  • Hartwig
  • Helge
  • Helmut
  • Holger (from Danish)
  • Horst
  • Ingomar
  • Joachim (Achim)
  • Kai
  • Knut
  • Manfred
  • Norbert
  • Odo/Udo
  • Otmar
  • Otto
  • Rainer (rye-ner)
  • Reinhold
  • Siegfried
  • Siegmund/Sigmund
  • Sönk
  • Torsten/Thorsten
  • Till
  • Ulf
  • Ulrich/Uli
  • Uwe
  • Veit
  • Vilmar
  • Volker
  • Waldemar
  • Wern(h)er
  • Wieland
  • Wigand
  • Wolfgang
  • Wolfram