A List of Common German Names for Boys and Girls

A look at Germany's strict baby-naming laws

baby girl and baby boy
Emma Kim / Getty Images

You can't name your baby anything you want if you live in Germany. You can't pick just any name or make one up that you think sounds nice.

Rules for First Names in Germany

In Germany, there are certain restrictions when it comes to choosing a name for a child. The justification: Names should protect the well-being of the child, and some names could possibly defame him or her or evoke potential future violence against the person.

The first name: 

  • needs to be recognizable as a name.
  • should not be associated with evil, like "Satan" or "Judas."
  • should not be insensitive to religious feelings, like "Christus" (earlier "Jesus" was forbidden).
  • can't be a brand name or name of a place.
  • has to be approved to clearly identify the sex of the child. 

A child can have several first names. These are often inspired by godparents or other relatives.

As is the case almost anywhere, German children's names can be subject to tradition, trends, and the names of popular sports heroes and other cultural icons. Still, German names must be officially approved by the local office of vital statistics (Standesamt).

Common German Boy Names

Some German boys' names are identical or similar to English names for boys (Benjamin, David, Dennis, Daniel). An approximate pronunciation guide for some names is shown in brackets.

German Boys' First Names - Vornamen
Symbols used: Gr. (Greek), Lat. (Latin), OHG (Old High German), Sp. (Spanish).

Abbo, Abo
Short form of names with "Adal-" (Adelbert)

The "Amal-" prefix may refer to the Amaler/Amelungen, the name of the eastern Gothic (Ostgotisch) royal house. OHG "beraht" means "shining."

Short form of "Joachim" (of Hebrew origin, "whom God exalts"); Joachim and Anne were said to be the parents of the Virgin Mary. Name day: Aug. 16
Alberich, Elberich
From OHG for "ruler of natural spirits"
See "Amal-" above. OHG "fried" means "peace."
Ambros, Ambrosius
From Gr. ambr—sios (divine, immortal)
From OHG for "advised by natural spirits"
From Gr. andreios (brave, masculine)
Adolf, Adolph
from Adalwolf/Adalwulf
Alex, Alexander

From Gr. for "protector"
from English
Adrian (Hadrian)
from Lat. (H)adrianus
Agilbert, Agilo
From OHG for "shining blade/sword"

Alois, Aloisus, Aloys, Aloysus From Italian; popular in Catholic regions. Possibly originally Germanic; "very wise."

Anselm, Anshelm
From OHG for "helmet of God." Name day: April 21
Adal-/Adel-: Names beginning with this prefix derive from the OHG adal, meaning noble, aristocratic (modern Ger. edel). Representative are: Adalbald (Adalbold), Adalbert (Adelbert, Albert), Adalbrand (Adelbrand), Adalbrecht (Albrecht), Adalfried, Adalger, Adelgund(e), Adalhard, Adelheid (Engl., Adelaide), Adalhelm, Adelhild(e), Adelar, Adelinde, Adalmann, Adalmar (Adelmar, Aldemar), Adalrich, Adalwin, Adalwolf.
Amadeus, Amadeo
Lat. form of Ger. Gottlieb (God and love)
from Swedish
from OHG Erkenbald
Armin m.
from Lat. Arminius (Hermann), who defeated the Romans in Germania in 9 A.D.
Artur, Arthur
from Engl. Arthur
August(in), Augusta
from Lat. Augustus
Arnold: An old German name from OHG arn (eagle) and waltan (to rule) means "he who rules like an eagle." Popular during the Middle Ages, the name later fell out of favor but returned in the 1800s. Famous Arnolds include German author Arnold Zweig, Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg and Austrian-American film actor/director and California ​governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnd, Arndt, Arno are derived from Arnold.
Berthold, Bertold, Bertolt
from OHG Berhtwald: beraht(splendid) and waltan (rule)
Balder, Baldur m.
From Baldr, Germanic god of light and fertility
Berti m.
fam. form of Berthold
Balduin m.
from OHG bald (bold) and wini(friend). Related to Engl. Baldwin, Fren. Badouin
Along with Kaspar and Melchior, one the Three Wise Men (Heilige Drei Könige)
Björn m.
from Norwegian, Swedish (bear)
Bodo, Boto, Botho
from OHG boto (messenger)
from Slavic, Russian
old German name meaning "brown (bear)"
Benno, Bernd
short form of Bernhard
Burk, Burkhard
from OHG burg (castle) and harti (hard)
Carl, Karl
The c spelling of this form of Charles has been popular in German.
older form of Ludwig

Dieter, Diether diot (people) and (army); also a short form of Dietrich

Christoph, Cristof
Related to Christian from Gr./Lat. The martyr Christophorus ("Christ-bearer") died in the third century.
Clemens, Klemens
from the Lat. clemens (mild, merciful); related to Engl. clemency
Conrad, Konrad
Connie, Conny
(fam.) - Konrad is an old Germanic name meaning "bold counselor/advisor" (OHG kuoni and rat)
from Denmark around 1900
Dagobert Celtic dago(good) + OHG beraht (gleaming)
Disney's Uncle Scrooge is named "Dagobert" in German.
from OHG diot (people) and rik (ruler)
Detlef, Detlev
Low German form of Dietlieb (son of the people)
from names ending in -dolf/dolph (Adolph, Rudolph)
Eckart, Eckehard, Eckehart, Eckhart
from OHG ecka (tip, sword blade) and harti (hard)
from French and English
Emil m.
from French and Latin, Aemilius (eager, competitive)
Emmerich, Emerich
old German name related to Heinrich (Henry)
Engelbert, Engelbrecht
related to Angel/Engel (as in Anglo-Saxon) and OHG for "splendid"
Erhard, Ehrhard, Erhart
from OHG era (honor) and harti (hard)
Erkenbald, Erkenbert, Erkenfried
Variations of an old Germanic name that is rare today. OHG "erken" means "noble, genuine, true."
Ernest, Ernst (m.)
From German "ernst" (serious, decisive)
An old Germanic name that evolved from Herwin ("friend of the army"). The female Erwine is rare today.
Erich, Erik
from Nordic for "all powerful"
Old German name meaning "he who rules by law."
Fabian, Fabien,
From Lat. for "of the house of Fabier"
Falco, Falko, Falk
Old German name meaning "falcon." The Austrian pop star Falco used the name.
From Lat. for "happy"
Ferdinand (m.)
From Spanish Fernando/Hernando, but the origin is actually Germanic ("bold marksman"). The Habsburgs adopted the name in the 16th century.
Florian, Florianus (m.)
From Lat. Florus, "blooming"
Although the name means "of the Franks" (Germanic tribe), the name only became popular in Germany in the 19th century because of the English name.
Fred, Freddy
Short form of names like Alfred or Manfred, as well as a variation of Frederic, Frederick or Friedrich
Old Germanic name meaning "ruling in peace"
Fritz (m.), Fritzi (f.)
An old nickname for Friedrich/Friederike; this was such a common name that in WWI the British and French used it as a term for any German soldier.
Biblical name meaning "man of God"
Gandolf, Gandulf
Old German name meaning "magic wolf"
Old German name: "gift" and "hard"
Georg (m.)
From Greek for "farmer" - English: George
Gerald, Gerold, Gerwald
Old Germanic masc. name that is rare today. OHG "ger" = "spear" and "walt" means rule, or "rules by spear." Ital. "Giraldo"
Gerbert m.
Old Germanic name meaning "glittering spear"
An old Germanic name dating back to the Middle Ages meaning "hard spear."

Gerke /Gerko,Gerrit/ Gerit

Low German and Frisian name used as a nickname for "Gerhard" and other names with "Ger-."

Old German name: "spear" and "wolf"
Old Germanic name meaning "spear fighter"
Gisbert, Giselbert
Old Germanic name; the "gisel" meaning is uncertain, the "bert" part means "shining"
An old Low German variation of "Gotthard"
Old German name: "spear" and "friend"

Old Germanic name, a short form of names with "Gode-" or "Gott-"

Low German form of "Georg" Example: Gorch Fock (German writer), real name: Hans Kinau (1880-1916)
Godehard m.
An old Low German variation of "Gotthard"
Low German form of "Georg" Example: Gorch Fock (German writer); real name was Hans Kinau (1880-1916)
Old German name: "God" and "shining"
Old German name: "God" and "peace"; related to Engl. "Godfrey" and "Geoffrey"

Gotthard, Gotthold, Gottlieb, Gottschalk, Gottwald, Gottwin. Old German male names with "God" and adjective.

Old German name, short for "Gott" names, especially "Gottfried." Examples: Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen and the German actor Götz George.

Gott-names - In the era of Pietism (17th/18th century) it was popular to create German male names with Gott (God) plus a pious adjective. Gotthard ("God" and "hard"), Gotthold (God and "fair/sweet"), Gottlieb (God and "love"), Gottschalk ("God's servant"), Gottwald (God and "rule"), Gottwin (God and "friend").

Combination of Hans and Dieter
Low German name derived from OHG Herwald: "army" (heri) and "rule" (waltan). Variations of Harold are found in many other languages: Araldo, Geraldo, Harald, Hérault, etc.
Old German name ("hard" and "man") popular in the Middle Ages. Rarely used today; more common as a surname.
Hartmut m.
Old German name ("hard" and "sense, mind")
Friesian nickname for Heinrich ("strong ruler" - "Henry" in English). More under Heinrich below.
Old German name derived from "Hesse" (Hessian). Once used only by nobility, the name is today a popular German name for dogs.
North/Low German nickname for Heinrich. The old German phrase "Freund Hein" means death.
Borrowed (since early 1900s) Nordic form of Harold
Friesian nickname for Hugo and names with the Hug- prefix.
Variation of Waldebert(below)
Old German masc. name: "battleground" + "raven"
Variation of Wichard

Walburg, Walburga, Walpurga,

An old German name meaning "ruling castle/fortress." It is a rare name today but goes back to St. Walpurga in the eighth century, an Anglo-Saxon missionary and abbess in Germany.

Walter, Walther
Old Germanic name meaning "army commander." In use from the Middle Ages on, the name became popular through the "Walter saga" (Waltharilied) and the famous German poet Walther von der Vogelweide. Famous Germans with the name: Walter Gropius (architect), Walter Neusel (boxer), and Walter Hettich (movie actor).
Old German name meaning "young dog;" a nickname used by the royal house of the Welfs (Welfen). Related to Welfhard,

Old German name meaning "strong pup;" not used today

Old German name meaning roughly "shining ruler." Female form: Waldeberta.
Old German name: "Vandal" and "shining"
Old German name: "Vandal" and "castle." Short form: Wendel
Waldemar, Woldemar
An old Germanic name: "rule" and "great." Several Danish kings bore the name: Waldemar I and IV. Waldemar Bonsels (1880-1952) was a German writer (Biene Maja).
Short or familiar form of names with Wendel-; once a popular German name because of St. Wendelin (seventh cent.), patron of herders.
Short form of Waldemar and other Wald- names
Old German name: "Vandal" and "famous"
Nickname for Sebastian (in Bavaria, Austria)
German nickname derived from the Slavic Wenzeslaus (Václav/Venceslav)
Old German name: "rule" and "peace"
Werner, Wernher
Old German name that evolved from the OHG names Warinheri or Werinher. The first element of the name (weri) may refer to a Germanic tribe; the second part (heri) means "army." Wern(h)er has been a popular name since the Middle Ages.
Variation of Widukind
Old German name: "Vandal" and "peace"

Common German Girl Names

Naming things (Namensgebung), as well as people, is a popular German pastime. While the rest of the world may name hurricanes or typhoons, the German Weather Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst) has gone so far as to name ordinary high (hoch) and low (tief) pressure zones. (This prompted a debate about whether masculine or feminine names should be applied to a high or a low. Since 2000, they have alternated in even and odd years.) 

Boys and girls in the German-speaking world born at the end of the 1990s bear first names that are very different from earlier generations or children born even a decade earlier. Popular German names of the past (Hans, Jürgen, Edeltraut, Ursula) have given way to more "international" names today (Tim, Lukas, Sara, Emily).

Here are some common traditional and contemporary German girl names and their meanings.

German Girls' First Names - Vornamen

OHG "fried" means "peace."
Ada, Adda
Short for names with "Adel-" (Adelheid, Adelgunde)
from Adalbert
Amalie, Amalia
Short for names with "Amal-"
Names beginning with Adal (adel) derive from the OHG adal, meaning noble, aristocratic (modern Ger. edel)
Albrun, Albruna
From OHG for "advised by natural spirits"
From Gr. andreios (brave, masculine)
Alexandra, Alessandra
From Gr. for "protector"
Angela, Angelika
from Gr./Lat. for angel
Adolfa, Adolfine
from masculine Adolf
from Sp. for Anna/Johanna
from Lat. (H)adrianus
Anna/Anne/Antje: This popular name has two sources: Germanic and Hebraic. The latter (meaning "grace") predominated and is also found in many Germanic and borrowed variations: Anja (Russian), Anka (Polish), Anke/Antje (Niederdeutsch), Ännchen/Annerl (diminutive), Annette. It has also been popular in compound names: Annaheide, Annekathrin, Annelene, Annelies(e), Annelore, Annemarie and Annerose.
Agathe, Agatha
from Gr. agathos (good)
Antonia, Antoinette
Antonius was a Roman family name. Today Anthony is a popular name in many languages. Antoinette, made famous by the Austrian Marie Antoinette, is the French diminutive form of Antoine/Antonia.

from Anastasia/Astrid
Made famous by Asta Nielsen.

Beate, Beate, Beatrix, Beatrice
from Lat. beatus, happy. Popular German name in the 1960s and '70s.
Brigitte, Brigitta, Birgitta
Celtic name: "sublime one"
Related to Charles/Karl. Made popular by Queen Sophie Charlotte, for whom Berlin's Charlottenburg Palace is named.
Barbara: From the Greek (barbaros) and Latin (barbarus, -a, -um) words for foreign (later: rough, barbaric). The name was first made popular in Europe through the veneration of Barbara of Nicomedia, a legendary holy figure (see below) said to have been martyred in 306. Her legend, however, did not emerge until at least the seventh century. Her name became popular in German (Barbara, Bärbel).
Christiane f.
from Gr./Lat.
Dora, Dorothea, Dore, Dorel, Dorle
from Dorothea or Theodora, Gr. for God's gift"
from Frisian nickname for Adelheid
Elisabeth, Elsbeth, Else
Biblical name meaning "God is perfection" in Hebrew
old German name; short for names with Erm- or Irm-
Edda f.
short form of names with Ed-
Erna, Erne
Female form of Ernst, from German "ernst" (serious, decisive)
Biblical Hebrew name meaning "life." (Adam und Eva)
Frieda, Frida, Friedel
Short form of names with Fried- or -frieda in them (Elfriede, Friedericke, Friedrich)
From Lat. for "favorable, joyful" - a rare name today.
Fabia, Fabiola,
From Lat. for "of the house of Fabier"
Felicitas, Felizitas From Lat. for "happiness" - English: Felicity
Low German/Frisian diminutive form of Frau ("little woman")
Gabi, Gaby
Short form of Gabriele (a fem. form of Gabriel)
Biblical masc. name meaning "man of God"
Low German short form of Sophie
Short form of Angelika
Geralde, Geraldine
Fem. form of "Gerald"
A borrowing of an old Nordic/Icelandic feminine name (meaning "protector") made popular in Germany in part by Hans Christian Andersen's name for the "Snow Queen." Also used as a short form of "Gertrude."
Gerlinde, Gerlind, Gerlindis f.
Old Germanic name meaning "spear shield" (of wood).
Short form for masc. or fem. "Ger-" names
Gertraud, Gertraude, Gertraut, Gertrud/Gertrude
Old Germanic name meaning "strong spear."
Old German name: "spear" and "friend"
Low German/Frisian form of "Gertrud"
A short form of "Gisela" and other "Gis-" names
Gisbert m., Gisberta f.
Old Germanic name related to "Giselbert"
Old German name whose meaning is uncertain. Charlemagne's (Karl der Große) sister was named "Gisela."
Giselbert m., Giselberta
Old Germanic name; the "gisel" meaning is uncertain, the "bert" part means "shining"
Short form of "Brigitte/Brigitta"
Old German name derived from OHG Hadwig ("war" and "battle"). The name gained popularity in the Middle Ages in honor of St. Hedwig, the patron saint of Silesia (Schlesien).
Short form of Heinrike (fem. form of Heinrich). Heike was a popular German girl's name in the 1950s and '60s. This Friesian name is similar to Elke, Frauke and Silke - also fashionable names at the time.
Hedda, Hede
Borrowed (1800s) Nordic name, a nickname for Hedwig. Famous German: Author, poet Hedda Zinner (1905-1994).
Walthild(e), Waldhild(e)
Old German name: "rule" and "fight"
Old German name: "rule" and "battle"
Waltrada, Waltrade
Old German name: "rule" and "advice;" not used today.
Waltraud, Waltraut, Waltrud
Old German name meaning roughly "strong ruler." Very popular girl's name in German-speaking countries until the 1970s or so; now rarely used.
Old German name: "Vandal" and "Gerda" (possibly)
Old German name meaning "secret advice"
Name borrowed from Polish. Also a figure in Gerhart Hauptmann's novel Wanda.

Waldtraut, Waltraud, Waltraut, Waltrud

Old German name meaning roughly "strong ruler." Popular girl's name in German-speaking countries until the 1970s or so; now rarely used.

Old German masc. name: "rule" and "peace"
Weda, Wedis
Frisian (N. Ger.) name; meaning unknown
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Flippo, Hyde. "A List of Common German Names for Boys and Girls." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, thoughtco.com/traditional-and-contemporary-german-names-4066183. Flippo, Hyde. (2021, July 31). A List of Common German Names for Boys and Girls. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/traditional-and-contemporary-german-names-4066183 Flippo, Hyde. "A List of Common German Names for Boys and Girls." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/traditional-and-contemporary-german-names-4066183 (accessed May 30, 2023).