MEYER Surname Origin and Family History

What Does the Last Name Meyer Mean?

The German origin of the Meyer surname was a name for someone in charge of overseeing a large farm, such as this dairy farm in Fussen, Bavaria, Germany.
Markus Lange / Getty Images

From the Middle High German word "meiger," meaning "higher or superior," Meyer was a surname often used for stewards or overseers of landholders or great farmers or leaseholders—today a Meier is a dairy farmer. Meier and Meyer are used more often in Northern Germany, while Maier and Mayer are found more frequently in Southern Germany.

As an English surname, Meyer derived from the Old English maire, or Mayor, an officer in charge of legal matters. Meyer could also have originated as an alternate spelling of the Dutch Meier or Meijer, or as an Anglicized form of the Gaelic surname Ó Meidhir, from meidhir, \meaning "mirth."

  • Alternate Surname Spellings: MEIER, MAYER, MAIER, MIER, MEIR
  • Surname Origin: German, English, Dutch

Where in the World Is the MEYER Surname Found?

According to surname distribution data from Forebears, the Meyer surname is most common in Germany, where it is the 5th most common surname in the country. It is also among the top 100 most common surnames in Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and South Africa. WorldNames PublicProfiler identifies the Meyer surname as being most frequent in northern Germany (Niedersachsen, Bremen and Schleswig-Holstein); Nordwestschweiz and Zentralschweiz, Switzerland; and Alsace, France.

Surname distribution maps at show the Meyer surname is found in 439 cities and counties throughout Germany, most prevalently in Hamburg, followed by Region Hannover, Berlin, Bremen, Diepholz, Harburg, Rotenburg (Wümme), Osnabrück, Verden and Cuxhaven.

Famous People With the MEYER Surname

  • Stephenie Meyer - author of the Twilight series
  • Bernhard Meyer - German physician and naturalist
  • Bertrand Meyer - French computer scientist
  • Conrad Ferdinand Meyer - Swiss poet and writer
  • Fritz Meyer - Swiss founder of the Roamer watch company
  • George von Lengerke Meyer - former U.S. Secretary of the Navy
  • Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer - German protestant pastor and theologian
  • Julius Lothar Meyer - German chemist; pioneer in developing the first periodic table of elements
  • Lodewijk Meyer - Dutch physician, classical scholar and playwright

Genealogy Resources for the Surname MEYER

  • Meanings of Common German Surnames
    Uncover the meaning of your German last name with this free guide to the meanings and origins of common German surnames.
  • Meyer Family Crest - It's Not What You Think
    Contrary to what you may hear, there is no such thing as a Meyer family crest or coat of arms for the Meyer surname. Coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families, and may rightfully be used only by the uninterrupted male line descendants of the person to whom the coat of arms was originally granted.
  • Meyer Family Genealogy Forum
    Search this popular genealogy forum for the Meyer surname to find others who might be researching your ancestors, or post your own Meyer surname query.
  • FamilySearch - MEYER Genealogy
    Explore over 9 million results, including digitized records, database entries, and online family trees for the Meyer surname and its variations on the FREE FamilySearch website, courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • - MEYER Genealogy & Family History
    Explore free databases and genealogy links for the last name Meyer.
  • GeneaNet - Meyer Records
    GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Meyer surname, with a concentration on records and families from France and other European countries.
  • The Meyer Genealogy and Family Tree Page
    Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the Meyer surname from the website of Genealogy Today.

Sources and Further Reading

  • Cottle, Basil. Penguin Dictionary of Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967.
  • Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Collins Celtic (Pocket edition), 1998.
  • Fucilla, Joseph. Our Italian Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Hanks, Patrick. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Reaney, P.H. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Smith, Elsdon C. American Surnames. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997. 
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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "MEYER Surname Origin and Family History." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). MEYER Surname Origin and Family History. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "MEYER Surname Origin and Family History." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 29, 2023).