Traditional and Contemporary 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.

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, trend 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).

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)

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

 

Achim
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"
Amalfried
See "Amal-" above. OHG "fried" means "peace."
Ambros, Ambrosius
From Gr. ambr—sios (divine, immortal)
Albrun 
From OHG for "advised by natural spirits"
Andreas 
From Gr. andreios (brave, masculine)
Adolf, Adolph
from Adalwolf/Adalwulf
Alex, Alexander

From Gr. for "protector"
Alfred
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)
Axel
from Swedish
Archibald
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)
BalderBaldur 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
Balthasar
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)
Boris
from Slavic, Russian
Bruno
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. 
Chlodwig 
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)
Dagmar 
from Denmark around 1900
 
Dagobert  Celtic dago(good) + OHG beraht (gleaming)
Disney's Uncle Scrooge is named "Dagobert" in German.
Dietrich 
from OHG diot (people) and rik (ruler)
Detlef, Detlev
Low German form of Dietlieb (son of the people)
Dolf
from names ending in -dolf/dolph (Adolph, Rudolph)
Eckart, Eckehard, Eckehart, Eckhart
from OHG ecka (tip, sword blade) and harti (hard)
Eduard
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)
ErkenbaldErkenbertErkenfried
Variations of an old Germanic name that is rare today. OHG "erken" means "noble, genuine, true."
ErnestErnst (m.)
From German "ernst" (serious, decisive)
Erwin
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"
Ewald
Old German name meaning "he who rules by law."
FabianFabien,
Fabius 
From Lat. for "of the house of Fabier" 
FalcoFalkoFalk
Old German name meaning "falcon." The Austrian pop star Falco used the name.
Felix
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.
FlorianFlorianus (m.)
From Lat. Florus, "blooming"
Frank
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
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.
Gabriel 
Biblical name meaning "man of God"
GandolfGandulf 
Old German name meaning "magic wolf"
Gebhard
Old German name: "gift" and "hard"
Georg (m.)
From Greek for "farmer" - English: George
GeraldGerold, 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"
Gerhard/Gerhart 
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-."

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

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

Gorch 
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"
Gorch 
Low German form of "Georg" Example: Gorch Fock (German writer); real name was Hans Kinau (1880-1916)
Gottbert 
Old German name: "God" and "shining"
Gottfried
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.

Götz
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").
Hansdieter
Combination of Hans and Dieter
Harold
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.
Hartmann
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")
Heiko
Friesian nickname for Heinrich ("strong ruler" - "Henry" in English). More under Heinrich below.
Hasso
Old German name derived from "Hesse" (Hessian). Once used only by nobility, the name is today a popular German name for dogs.
Hein 
North/Low German nickname for Heinrich. The old German phrase "Freund Hein" means death.
Harald 
Borrowed (since early 1900s) Nordic form of Harold
Hauke 
Friesian nickname for Hugo and names with the Hug- prefix.
Walbert
Variation of Waldebert(below)
Walram
Old German masc. name: "battleground" + "raven"
Weikhard 
Variation of Wichard

WalburgWalburgaWalpurga

Walpurgis
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.

WalterWalther
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).
Welf 
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

Waldebert
Old German name meaning roughly "shining ruler." Female form: Waldeberta.
Wendelbert
Old German name: "Vandal" and "shining"
Wendelburg
Old German name: "Vandal" and "castle." Short form: Wendel
WaldemarWoldemar
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).
Wendelin
Short or familiar form of names with Wendel-; once a popular German name because of St. Wendelin (seventh cent.), patron of herders.
Waldo
Short form of Waldemar and other Wald- names

Wendelmar
Old German name: "Vandal" and "famous"

Wastl
Nickname for Sebastian (in Bavaria, Austria)
Wenzel
German nickname derived from the Slavic  Wenzeslaus (Václav/Venceslav)
Walfried
Old German name: "rule" and "peace"
WernerWernher
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. 
Wedekind 
Variation of Widukind
Wernfried
Old German  name: "Vandal" and "peace"

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
Amalfrieda
OHG "fried" means "peace."
Ada, Adda
Short for names with "Adel-" (Adelheid, Adelgunde)
Alberta
from Adalbert
Amalie, Amalia
Short for names with "Amal-"
Adalberta
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"
Andrea
From Gr. andreios (brave, masculine)
Alexandra, Alessandra
From Gr. for "protector"
Angela, Angelika
from Gr./Lat. for angel
Adolfa, Adolfine
from masculine Adolf
 
Anita
from Sp. for Anna/Johanna
Adriane
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. 
 

Asta
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"
Charlotte
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"
Elke
from Frisian nickname for Adelheid
Elisabeth, Elsbeth, Else
Biblical name meaning "God is perfection" in Hebrew
Emma
old German name; short for names with Erm- or Irm-
Edda f.
short form of names with Ed-
 
ErnaErne 
Female form of Ernst, from German "ernst" (serious, decisive)
Eva 
Biblical Hebrew name meaning "life." (Adam und Eva)
FriedaFrida, Friedel
Short form of names with Fried- or -frieda in them (Elfriede, Friedericke, Friedrich)
Fausta
From Lat. for "favorable, joyful" - a rare name today.
FabiaFabiola,
Fabius 
From Lat. for "of the house of Fabier"
Felicitas, Felizitas From Lat. for "happiness" - English: Felicity
Frauke 
Low German/Frisian diminutive form of Frau ("little woman")
GabiGaby 
Short form of Gabriele (a fem. form of Gabriel)
Gabriele
Biblical masc. name meaning "man of God"
Fieke
Low German short form of Sophie
Geli 
Short form of Angelika
GeraldeGeraldine
Fem. form of "Gerald"
Gerda 
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."
GerlindeGerlindGerlindis f.
Old Germanic name meaning "spear shield" (of wood).
Gert/Gerta
Short form for masc. or fem. "Ger-" names
GertraudGertraudeGertraut, Gertrud/Gertrude 
Old Germanic name meaning "strong spear."
Gerwine
Old German name: "spear" and "friend"
Gesa 
Low German/Frisian form of "Gertrud"
Gisa 
A short form of "Gisela" and other "Gis-" names
Gisbert m.Gisberta f.
Old Germanic name related to "Giselbert"
Gisela
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"
Gitta/Gitte
Short form of "Brigitte/Brigitta"
Hedwig
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).
Heike
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.
HeddaHede 
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"
Waldegund(e)
Old German name: "rule" and "battle"
WaltradaWaltrade
Old German name: "rule" and "advice;" not used today.

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

Wendelgard
Old German name: "Vandal" and "Gerda" (possibly)
Waltrun(e)
Old German name meaning "secret advice"
Wanda
Name borrowed from Polish. Also a figure in Gerhart Hauptmann's novel Wanda.

Waldtraut, WaltraudWaltrautWaltrud

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

Walfried
Old German masc. name: "rule" and "peace"
WedaWedis
Frisian (N. Ger.)  name; meaning unknown