German Surnames
Beginning with G

Here we will look at the meanings of German surnames beginning with G.

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G

Gabel / Gabler – Means `fork` in English and is likely to stem from the word ‘pitchfork’ possibly originally used to describe someone who made such forks. It is, however, also a house name and the name of a town in the Czech Republic - ´Gabel an der Adler’ in German.

Gabriel – Of Hebrew origins meaning ´God’s fighter’, ‘God’s hero’ or ‘Man of God.’ Gabriel is one of the Archangels, first appearing in the Book of Daniel. ‘Gabriel’ is a German first name as well as a German surname.

Gaertner / Gärtner / Gartner – An occupational name stemming from the Middle High German `gartenaere` meaning ‘gardener‘ in English. Up until the 19th century a ‘Gärtner’ also meant a ‘Bauer’ (‘farmer’ – see ‘Bauer’ for further information). Particularly in central Germany, a ‘Gärtner’ was the name of a small farmer. Gardening as a profession can be traced back to medieval times and even earlier. During this period a gardener would have only worked for the most noble and richest families in an area.

Galen / Gahlen / Gahl – Two potential origins. Firstly, possibly stemming from the Middle High German word `galle` meaning ‘acrimonious / bitter’ and may have originally referred to a ‘mean, fake person.’ Alternatively, it may have once referred to someone from a village called ‘Gahlen’. There are two in Germany - one in Nordrhein-Westfalen and the other in Brandenburg. There is also a ‘St. Gallen’ located in Switzerland. The name might also be possibly linked to Gahlenz near Chemnitz, Germany.

Galster - From the Old High German word ‘galstar’ meaning ‘magic chants’. It is highly likely to have originally referred to someone who was deceitful or a swindler. Nowadays, it is more normally used to describe a certain type of magic in relation to witches.

Garn / Garner / Gerner – From the Middle High German word ‘garn’ meaning ‘yarn’ in English. This German surname may have originally referred to somebody who dealt in or worked with yarn.

Gast – From the Middle High German word `gast` meaning ‘guest / stranger.’

Gebhard / Gebhardt – A particularly old German name. From the Old High German ‘geba-hart’ : `Geba` meaning ‘gift’ and ‘hart’ meaning ‘hard / brave / strong’ – possibly referring to somebody who was generous with gifts. One of the first people known to bear this name was Gebhardt, Bishop of Constance (ca. 1040 – 1110). The popularity of the name during the Middle Ages is believed to be attributed to him.

Gehler – From the Middle High German word ‘gel’ meaning ‘yellow.’ Believed to have originally referred to someone who had blonde hair.

Geier / Geyer – From the Middle High German word `gîr’ meaning `vulture‘. There are a few possible origins. It may have originally referred to someone who was ‘greedy’. Folklore, however, suggests the name emerged after a group of brave peasants climbed up into the nest of a vulture and bludgeoned it to death after having learnt it was responsible for stealing and killing human babies from their town. The name may also be linked to towns called ‘Geyer’ in Germany, for example in Saxony.

Geiger – From the Middle High German word ‘gîgære’ meaning ‘fiddler’. Thus, this German surname was originally the occupational name of a musician and, in particular, someone who played the fiddle or violin. Musicians were important during the Middle Ages and would often be summoned to entertain noble families and travel to various towns.

Georg / George – A shortened version of ‘Georgius’ which is of Greek origins and means ‘farmer.’ One of the oldest surviving records of the name is of an Everadus Georgii who lived in Hamburg in Germany in 1256. Also Saint George – a highly respected Christian saint. He is possibly most famous for having slain a dragon in the legendary tale. As well as being patron saint of a number of countries, St. George is also the patron saint of soldiers, archers and chivalry to name but a few.

Gerber - A particularly old German name. Originally the occupational name of a ‘tanner’ - someone who tanned animals hides. The earliest record of the name can be traced back to Hamburg, Germany in 1258 and to somebody named Thidemannus Gerbere.

Gerhard / Gerhardt /Gehrhardt – Believed to originate from Cologne in Germany and stem from the Old German `gërhart’ meaning ‘strong with a spear.’

Gerste / Gersten / Gerstner - An occupational name stemming from the Middle High German word `gerste‘ meaning ` barley’ and likely to have originally referred to a trader in or farmer of barley.

Gerstenberg – Likely to have originally stemmed from the village of Gerstenberg in Thüringen situated between Leipzig and Chemnitz in Germany. The village was first documented in 1227 as ‘Gerstenberch’ and again in 1233 as ‘Gerstinberg.’ ‘Gerste’ means ‘barley’ and ‘berg’ means ‘mountain’ and thus literally means ‘mountain of barley.’ The land is particularly fertile in this area and barley would have thrived here.

Glas / Glass / Glaß – Means `glass` in English and is likely to have initially been the occupational name of a glazier, glass dealer or glass blower. The first known recording of the name was made ca. 1330.

Gloeckner / Glockner / Glocker – Derived from the Middle High German word ‘glocke / glogge’ meaning ‘bell.’ This German surname would have originally been the occupational name for a bell ringer in a church.

Gluck / Glück – From Middle High German meaning ` luck‘ in English. Likely to have originally described somebody who was deemed to be particularly lucky.

Göbel / Gobel / Goebel – Possibly a shortened version of the Old High German name ‘Godebert’. ‘God’ meant ‘good’ or ‘god’ and ‘berht’ meant ‘bright / shining / famous.’ Other research suggests it may derive from the word ‘gobel’ and may have been an occupational name for somebody who made ‘goblets.’ Further research required to determine most likely origin.

Goethe / Göthe – A short form of German names beginning with ‘Got’ (God) normally ‘Gottfried.’ Please see ‘Gottfried’ for further information.

Gold / Goldmann – Most likely to have formerly been the occupational name of a gold miner, refiner, guilder or jeweler.

Goldschmidt - Means ‘goldsmith’ in English. Thus, originally the occupational name of somebody who worked with gold and other precious metals. Goldsmithery is a particularly early occupation and for which specialized skills were required.

Gottfried - A particularly popular first name during the Middle Ages stemming from Old High German. ‘Got’ meant ‘god’ and ‘fridu’ meant ‘peace / protection / safety.’ Thus, meaning ‘someone who is protected by God’ or ‘Godly peace.’ This German name, which is both a first name and surname, has been popular with various rulers over the centuries.

Gottschalk / Gottschald / Gottschall – From the Old High German ‘got-scalk’ meaning `God’s servant.‘ This German surname is particularly old and was first recorded in 866 as ‘Godescalc’.

Graber / Graeber – From Middle High German `grabaere‘ meaning `digger (of ditches) / grave digger.

Graebner / Grabner / Gräbner – Believed to have originally referred to someone living near a ditch or moat. Other research suggests it may be a variation of the German surname ‘Graber’ listed directly above.

Graf / Graffe – Nowadays means ‘earl’ or ‘count’ in English. There are two possible origins, however. Firstly, ‘Graf’ was the title given to aristocratic officials. Secondly, during the Middle Ages a mayor of a village was also often referred to as a ‘Graf’. Under the direction of an earl, the mayor would have carried out various administrative tasks in the village.

Grahl / Grahle – Most likely to originate from the seaside health resort of Graal-Müritz in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the northern state of Rostock, Germany. Graal-Müritz is popular with tourists as well as those looking for health cures. There are a number of maritime museums in the area drawing attention to its sea-faring past.

Greger / Gregor / Grieger – Of Greek origins meaning the ‘vigilant /watchful one.’

Gronert / Grone / Gronemann – Originally a name given to someone from Grone which is an urban area of the university town of Gottingen. Grone itself is named after the ‘Grone stream’ which runs through it. The area has been a settlement since the early part of the New Stone Age.

Grubert / Gruber – Believed to originate from the Alps and have initially referred to someone living in or near a valley, ravine or depression. The most popular surname in Austria.

Gruenewald / Gruenwald / Grunwald – Literally means ‘green forest’ and is likely to have originally referred to someone from a place with the same name, for example, Grünwald in Munich or Grünewald in Brandenburg. It may have also simply referred to someone who lived in or near to a green area or forest.

Gruner / Grunert – This German surname is most likely to have originally denoted somebody who lived near a green field or meadow. It is also the name of several places, for example, Grün in Bavaria and Grünau in Upper Austria.

Günther / Gunter – Stems from the Old High German names ‘Gunthar’ and ‘Gunther’ and comprises the following two parts. The first part ‘Gund’ meant ‘fight / war’ and the second part ‘heri’ meant ‘people / the mass’ and hence Gunther could be translated as ‘people’s warrior.’ The Old High German word stems from the Anglo-Saxon name ‘Gundahar.’ Furthermore, Gunther was the name of the part legendary king of Burgundy who lived in the 5th century. The legend of King Gunther was the focus of numerous historical works thereafter, including the epic medieval poem, ‘Nibelungenlied’ - or the Song of the Nibelungs in English.


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