German Surnames
Beginning with H

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



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H

Haar – A few possible origins with very different meanings. Although nowadays it means ‘hair’ in German it is likely to have originally stemmed from the Middle Low German word ‘hor / har’ (dirt / mud) referring to a ‘swamp’. Thus, it may have formerly denoted somebody who lived near a swamp or moorland. In North West Germany, interestingly, the term ´Haar’ was generally used to describe a range of hills or mountains. It is, therefore, also likely it originally denoted somebody from one of several mountains (and areas) bearing virtually the same name, for example the mountain range of ‘Haarstreng’ in Westfalen. More unlikely is that it originally denoted somebody with a particularly unusual hairstyle or somebody with an abundant amount of hair.

Haarmacher – Referring originally to a manufacturer who worked with hair.

Haas – See ‘Hase’ listed below.

Hagel – Nowadays means ‘hail(stone)’ in English. It may have originated from the old German word for ‘hedge’ which was ‘Hag(en)’ thus possibly initially referring to somebody who lived in a field surrounded by hedges. It is also likely, however, that it originated from one of several places, such as ‘Hagelberg’, which is a village and peak in Brandenburg or ‘Hagelloch’ which is an area in the university town of Tübingen in Baden-Württemberg.

Hagemann – Literally translated this German surname means ‘hedge man’ . From the old German word for ‘hedge’ which was ‘Hag(en)’ and from ‘mann’ which means ‘man’ in English. It, therefore, may have originally referred to a man who lived in a field surrounded by hedges. (Also see ‘Hagel’.)

Hahn – Means ‘cock’ or ‘rooster’ in English. Possibly originally the nickname of a proud, rowdy or cocky person. A rooster, however, also symbolizes a very dignified person who is self-confident and genuine. It may also be a short form of the German name ‘Johannes.’

Haller – A couple of possible origins. Firstly, it may have originally denoted somebody from one of several places bearing a similar name, such as Schwäbisch Hall ¬which is a town in Baden-Württemberg. ‘Schwäbisch’ refers to the name of the region of Schwabia in which it is located and ‘Hall’ meant ‘drying something through the use of heat’ thus referring to the production of salt at the salt mine which existed in the town until 1925. It is, therefore, also likely that ‘Haller’ may have initially been the occupational name of a salt miner. This German surname may also have links to the ‘Heller’ (or Häller) which was the name of a coin produced in and named after Schwäbisch Hall. The coin was manufactured at the beginning of the 13th century and was valued at half a pfennig. ‘Heller’ eventually became a general term for a coin with low value.

Hals – Means ‘neck’ in English and is likely to have once referred to someone who had an unusual neck line.

Handschuh – Originally the occupational name for a glover – a maker of gloves. Normally the whole family would have been involved in making the gloves. The father would be working at the work bench, the mother on the sewing machine and the children at the spinning wheel or carrying out other menial tasks.

Hans – A short form of the German name `Johannes.‘ Please see there for further information.

Hardenberg – Originally likely to have denoted people from a place bearing the same or similar name, for example, ‘Hardenberg’ in Overijssl in the Netherlands or ‘Nörten Hardenberg’ in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Hartmann / Hartman – A very popular first name in the Middle Ages. Literally translated it usually meant ‘bold/brave/strong man’. However, in southern Germany ‘hart’ also meant ‘wood/forest’ and this German surname could, therefore, also have originally described a man who lived near or in a wood. There are also a number of villages and farmlands/fields in Germany bearing the same name.

Hase – Means ‘hare’ in English. Originally, it probably referred to a particular characteristic of a person: it was possibly the nickname for a quick runner or a fearful / cowardly person. In German the word ‘Angsthase’ - literally translated ‘frightened hare’ - means ‘coward / scaredy cat’ in English. It might have even been the name of a 'hare hunter'.

Hassel – Originally likely to have meant ‘hazelnut (tree)’ and may have formerly signified somebody from a place called ‘Hassel’ where presumably hazel trees grew. There are several places called ‘Hassel’ in Germany, the majority of which are located in either Lower Saxony or Nordrhein-Westfalen. For example, the borough of Hassel in Saxony-Anhalt, which was first officially documented in 1208. Another example is the borough of Hassel in Nienburg / Weser, Lower Saxony. This old German surname may also have links to the River Hassel of Harz, Saxony-Anhalt.

Haube – From the Middle High German word ‘hoube’ meaning ‘bonnet’ or ‘cap’ in English. Originally an occupational name for a manufacturer of bonnets and caps.

Hauptmann – Translated literally this German surname originally meant ‘head man’. A ‘Hauptmann’ is a high-ranking officer in the military and is normally likened to a captain in the US and British armies. It is thus highly likely that the original bearer of this name was a ‘Hauptmann.’ ‘Haupt’ in German nowadays means ‘main.’

Heck / Heckmann – From the Middle High German words ‘hecke / hegge’ meaning ‘hedge’. Therefore, this German surname would have originally referred to somebody living near a hedge or in a field surrounded by hedges. It may also derive from the place ‘Hecken’ in Rhineland-Pfalz in the state of Mainz, Germany.

Heiden – Two possible meanings. Firstly, it may have referred to somebody who lived in moorland or, alternatively, denoted a pagan in the Middle Ages - a ‘heathen’. It may have also denoted somebody who had connections to a pagan / paganism.

Heinrich – A particularly popular first name of the Middle Ages which means ‘ruler in the home.’ Stems from ‘Heim’ meaning ‘house / home’ and ‘rîhhi’ meaning ‘ruler.’ Official documents show the German name ‘Heimrich’ disappeared from records at roughly the same time ‘Heinrich’ emerged thus suggesting ‘Heinrich’ was its successor. Various German rulers have bore the same name, such as King Heinrich II, which would have added to its popularity. There are various spellings of this German surname.

Helf – From Middle High German ‘helfe’ meaning ‘helper’ or ‘assistant.’

Helfenbein – From the Middle High German ‘helphant’ meaning elephant and ‘bein’ meaning bone, thus literally translated it means `elephant bone‘. This German surname is believed to have originally been the occupational name for a carver of ivory.

Henne – Means ‘hen’ in German nowadays. A few possible origins, however. Firstly, it may have been a short form of one or more of the following German names: Johannes, Heinrich and Hans, particularly if there are northern German connections (i.e. Hesse). Secondly, it may have been the nickname for a poultry farmer.

Henning – A short form of the name ‘Johannes’ and possibly also a variant of the German name ‘Heinrich.’ It was very popular from around 1300 to 1500, particularly in northern Germany in areas such as Mecklenburg, Hamburg and Hannover. The name was also very popular with noblemen and knights.

Herbert – From the Old High German ‘heri’ meaning ‘army / warrior’ and ‘beraht’ meaning ‘bright / shining / famous’. It could thus be translated as meaning ‘the bright army’, ‘the shining warrior’ or ‘the famous warrior.’ The name day for Herbert is on 16 March as well as 10 December.

Herbst – Means ‘fall / autumn’ in English. This German name thus most likely derives from the harvesting time of year when farmers had to pay certain taxes.

Herrmann / Herman – Derives from ‘heri’ meaning ‘army’ and ‘mann’ meaning ‘man’ thus literally translates as ‘army man’ (i.e. soldier / warrior / fighter.)

Hertz / Herz – ‘Herz’ means ‘heart’. There are, however, a couple of possible origins. Firstly, it may have signified somebody with a ‘kind heart’ or ‘a loving person.’ Secondly – and probably less likely - it may have derived from the word ‘Hirz’ meaning ‘stag / red deer’ possibly referring to ‘the horned one’. Stags’ antlers are a symbol of fertility and vegetation.

Hess – In 1394 ‘Hess’ became the first officially recognized variation of the name ‘Hessi’ which originally referred to members of a tribe called the ‘Germanic Chatti.’ The tribe settled in Hesse - now a German state and cultural region in mid-west Germany – in the 1st century BC. It may have also referred to somebody who had connections to Hessen through trade or even travel, for example.

Heu – Means ‘hay’ in English. This German surname would have originally referred to a `hay farmer’ or ‘hay cutter.’

Hildebrand / Hildebrandt – Deriving from the Old High German words ‘hiltja’ meaning ‘battle / fight’ and ‘brand’ meaning ‘(flaming) sword’. The name was made famous through legendary ‘Hildebrand’ figures, such as the one described in the legends of ‘Theodoric the Great’ as well as those featuring in the following old German songs: ‘Hildebrandslied’, ‘Nibelungenlied’ and ‘Hildebrand’s Death.’

Hildegard – This was a particularly noble feminine name in the Middle Ages made popular by the Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179), also known as Saint Hildegard. From Old High German consisting of ‘hiltja’ meaning ‘fight/battle’ and ‘gard’ meaning ‘fence / protection.’ Thus, in essence means ‘the one who protects in a battle / fight.’ Between 1910 and 1925 Hildegard was one of the most popular names for a newborn in Germany.

Himmel - Means `sky‘ and `heaven` in English. It may have originally been the nickname of somebody who was particularly tall. Alternatively, it may have religious connections.

Himmelreich – Means `Kingdom of heaven / god` in English. It is also the name of several places in Germany, the majority of which are located in Bavaria. It may have thus originally referred to natives of one or more of these places. Several mountains in Germany also bear the same name.

Hirsch – Means ‘stag’ / ‘red deer’. Most likely to have originally been a house name. Up until the 18th century there were very few street names (and house numbers) and many people couldn’t read thus instead chose a name for their house and added the corresponding sign. Over the years, as people referred to residents by their house name rather than their Christian name, house names become surnames. ‘Hirsch’ is popular across Germany and, therefore, very difficult to determine where it originally emerged. Stags are very common in both the mythology and culture of many countries in the world. It is also possible that the name initially simply referred to a ‘hunter’.

Hoffmann / Hofmann - Literally means ‘(court) yard man’. This German surname was a common occupational name which originally referred to somebody who ran a property owned by the nobility.

Hohn / Höhn – Likely to have originally been the name of a poultry grower and / or dealer. However, it may also stem from the old German word ‘hon’ which meant ‘swamp/bog and thus may have referred to somebody who lived near to moorland. There are also several places in Germany which are spelt identically (or almost), for example, ‘Höhn’ in Rheinland-Pfalz, Bavaria or ‘Hohne’ in Lower Saxony, Westfalen amongst others. It may well have originally described inhabitants of one (or more) of these areas.

Holz / Holtz – Literally translated this name means `wood‘ in English. This German surname is likely to have initially denoted somebody who lived in or near to a wood / forest. It may have even referred to somebody who worked in the lumber industry. Please see post below.

Holtzmann / Holzmann – Literally translated it means `wood / timber man‘. It would have originally been the name of a forest labourer or lumberjack (woodcutter). ‘Holzhauer’ can also be interpreted in the same way.

Horn – There are many places in Germany bearing this name and it is thus most likely to have originally denoted inhabitants of one (or more) of these places. For example, ‘Horn’ in Baden-Württemberg or ‘Horn-Bad Meinberg’ in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

Hueber / Huber – This frequently occurring German surname was originally used to describe ‘farmers’. It derives from the old German word ‘hube’ which meant ‘hide’ referring to the amount of land a farmer might own. There are numerous variations in spelling of this name.

Hubert / Hübert – Stems from the old German name ‘Hugibert‘ which can be translated as ‘bright mind/spirit’. Believed to have been made popular by Saint Hubert (ca. 656 – 727), the patron saint of the hunters (among others), who was the first Bishop of Liège, Belgium. He was worshipped in many places during the Middle Ages.

Hugo – A short form of Hubert. Please see post above for further information.

Huhn – Literally translated this German surname means ‘chicken’ in English. Likely to have originally been the name of a poultry grower and / or dealer. 


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