German Surnames
Beginning with D

Here we will take a look at the meanings of German surnames beginning with D.

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D

Dach / Dachauer – Most likely to stem from the Middle High German words ‘tahe’ and ‘dahe’ meaning ‘clay / mud’. Possibility of a link to the German city of Dachau in Bavaria which has a large marshy area nearby called the Dachauer Moos.

Dahl / Dahlmann – Originates from the Middle Lower German word ‘dal’ which meant ‘valley.’ It is, therefore, likely to refer to someone living in or near a valley.

Daecher / Decke(r) / Deckermann – From the Middle High German occupational name, ‘Decker’, meaning ‘slater/roofer/tiler’.

Daimler / Däumler – From the Middle High German words ‘diumen’, ‘diumeln’ meaning ‘torturer’. In particular, it refers to torture through use of the thumbscrew. This medieval torture instrument gradually crushed the victims’ thumbs, fingers and big toes. Sometimes it was lined with razor-sharp metal points in order to inflict even greater pain. Alternatively, it could refer to a ‘conman’ stemming from the word ‘deumeler’.

Damm / Damme – Likely to originate from villages called ‘Damm’ or ‘Damme’. For example, the village of Damm in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Daniel / Daniels – From the ancient name Daniel, which is of Hebrew origins, meaning ‘God is my judge.’

Dankwart –Likely to mean ‘protector of the mind.’ Dankwart is the name of Hagan’s brother in Nibelungenlied (or in English, The Song of the Nibelungs) – a classic medieval poem written in Middle High German.

Daum / Daume – Means ‘thumb’ in English. It was most likely a nickname for somebody who had a very large thumb, a deformed thumb, a missing thumb or a particularly small thumb. First recorded bearer of the name was ‘Graf Ulrich mit den Daumen’ (Count Ulrich with the thumbs) in Württemberg in around 1250.

Degen / Degener – Most likely stems from the Old High German word ´degan‘ which meant `warrior, hero and free man’. It could also be a short version of the name ‘Degenhard.’

Degenhard(t) / Deinhard(t) - Stems from the Old High German word ‘degan-hart’. ´Degan‘ meaning ´the warrior’ and `hart` meaning ‘hard’ and ‘strong.’ It is also a German male first name.

Dehn / Dehne – Likely to have been a nickname for someone called ‘Daniel’ and/or ‘Degenhardt.’ However, it was also the name of a Danish person (‘the Dane’). It could, therefore, possibly relate back to the Norwegian influence in Germany during the Middle Ages. It does not relate to the German verb ‘dehnen’ which means to stretch or extend.

Deichmann / Teichmann – From the Middle High German name ‘tich-man’. Literally means ‘dike or fishpond man.’ Likely to have originally referred to someone owning, managing or living near a large pond and thus the original bearers of the name were likely to have been fish farmers.

Dengler / Tengler – From the Middle High German ‘tengelen’ which means ‘to hammer’ / ‘to hit’ and from Old High German ‘tangol’ which meant ‘hammer.’ It was an occupational name for the craftsman who sharpened and smoothed the blades on a scythe through use of a hammer. A scythe is an agricultural tool for mowing grass and reaping crops and is still used nowadays in developing countries as well as in mountainous regions.

Denke / Denker – A shortened variation of the names Dankwart or Daniel or, alternatively, relating to the Old High German noun ‘thank’ meaning ‘thinker.’

Denzel / Denzler – Of medieval origins, it was an occupational name for a ´dancer‘ or ´fiddler‘. In particular it would refer to a ‘troubadour’. ‘Troubadours’ were medieval composers and performers of songs. Their songs normally centered on chivalry and courtly love. The tradition is believed to have begun in the 11th century in south west France.

Dick / Dicke – Means ´fat or thick‘ in English. Although some research suggests it might have in some cases referred to a `fat, likeable person` it is most definitely not the only meaning. More likely to have originally referred to the density of a forest or even to place names themselves. There are several villages in Germany bearing the same or similar name. It is also possibly a short form of ‘Dietrich.’

Dickhaut – Means ‘thick skin’ in English. Unlikely to have referred to someone who is ‘thick-skinned’ (i.e. insensitive), rather it was an occupational nickname for someone who worked with animal skins – a tanner, for example.

Dickmann – See ‘Deichmann’ and ‘Dick’ for two possible meanings.

Diedrich / Dietrich / Diederich(s) - A German male first name as well as a German surname. The first part of the name (Diet) derives from Old High German ‘diot’ meaning ‘people, folk’ and the second part (rich) from ‘rihhi / reiks’ meaning ‘rich and powerful’ as well as ‘rihhan’ meaning to ‘rule / lead.’ The name thus essentially means either the ‘The rich/powerful one (of the people)’ or ‘ruler of the people.’ ‘Dietrichsage’ was one of the most popular names of the Middle Ages and `Dietrich‘ was a medieval folk hero. There are various spellings of the name which was originally used as a first name only.

Diener / Dienert - Occupational name stemming from Middle High German word ‘dienaere’ meaning ‘servant / attendant.’ Also the occupational name for somebody who worked on behalf of large trading companies.

Dieter / Dieters – Both a German male first name and a German surname. Two possible origins. Firstly, it could have been a short form of Dietrich (please see above). Or secondly, it could stem from the Old High German ‘thiot-heri’ meaning ‘people warrior.’

Dose – Believed to have modest begins in or near the town of ‘Dose’ in the borough of Friedeburg, East Frisia. The town, which is located in the north west of Lower Saxony, is presumed to have been founded in the early Middle Ages. Also, the name ‘Dose’ was used in noble families during medieval times and there are records of numerous knights having been given this name, ‘Knight Dose Black’ in 1371 for example. ‘Dose’ in German nowadays means ‘can/tin.’

Dräger / Drager / Draeger – Occupational name originating from Middle Lower German ‘dreger / drager’ meaning porter (or possibly civil servant.)

Drechsler / Dreher / Dressler / Drexler – From the Middle High German word ´Drehseler´ which means ‘turner’ in English. It is thus originally likely to have been an occupational name for somebody who worked with a lathe. Believed to originate in Thuringia in central Germany.

Dreck(mann) – The Middle High German phrase ´up den Dreck’ referred to a location in swampy/muddy terrain. Likely to have originally referred to people living in or near to such an area.

Drescher / Threscher – Means ´thresher‘. It was an occupational name referring to somebody who threshed grains with the use of a flail. A flail is an agricultural tool which separates grains from their husks. The name ‘Threscher’ can be traced back to 1284 and ‘Drescher’ to 1398.

Dürr / Du(e)rr / Durre / Dirr / Dörre – Two potential meanings. Firstly, possibly referring to a lean, thin person. Or secondly, referring to someone who lived on dry, barren land. 

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