Here we will look at the meanings of German surnames beginning with K.
Alternatively, click on the following letters to go to German surnames beginning with:
Kabel – From the Middle High German word 'kabel' meaning 'rope'; hence this German last name would have originally been the occupational name for a rope maker. The name is likely to have originated in a port city in northern Germany, such as Hamburg, Bremen or Lubeck, as a 'Kabel' would have normally referred to a ship’s anchor.
Kafer / Käfer / Keefer – Means 'beetle' in English and may have originally described somebody who worked in areas where such insects lived and was thus possibly the occupational name for a 'gardener', for example.
Kahl / Kahlert – Means 'bald head' in English and was thus originally a nickname for somebody who was short of hair.
Kahn – Two very different possible meanings. Some research suggests it may stem from the lower German word meaning 'boat / barge' and would have thus originally been the name of a 'bargeman'. Other research suggests 'Kahn' was originally the name of a priest.
Kaiser – Means 'emperor / king' in English. This old German surname derives from the Roman Emperor title 'Caesar'. Although it may have originally been a family name - the most famous and original member being, of course, 'Julius Caesar', no records exist to prove name holders today can be traced back to Julius Caesar himself. As, like so many other German surnames, 'Kaiser' was often used as a nickname to describe peasants, for example, who acted like 'kings' or even actors in medieval plays who played the part of a 'Kaiser'.
Kalb – Means 'calf' in English and would have originally referred to a 'butcher' or 'somebody who tended calves'.
Kammer / Kammerer – Means 'treasurer' in English and would have thus originally most likely described somebody who was responsible for the management and administration of finances in a town. The name may also refer to 'Kamm' (comb) thus originally referring to somebody who made and sold combs.
Kamp – Derives from the Latin word 'campus' meaning a flat open area and thus, more often than not, can simply be translated into English as 'field'. Likely to have originally referred to somebody living on or near such a flat area.
Karcher / Kercher – From the Latin word 'carruca' meaning 'cart / wagon / carriage' and thus is likely to have originally been the occupational name for a 'coachman' or 'transporter'.
Karl – More common as a German first name, this German surname is normally of pre 5th century origins. Deriving from the Old High German male first name 'Karl' or 'Karal' meaning 'man', 'husband' or 'loved one'. It can also mean 'the free one' or 'the brave one'. It was particularly popular in noble families due to the 'Emperor of Charlemagne' - also known as 'King Charles the Great' or in Latin 'Karolus' or 'Carolus Magnus'.
Karsten / Kersten / Kirsten / Carsten – This German surname would have originally referred to a 'Christian person'.
Kase / Käse / Keese – Originally the occupational name for a 'cheese dealer' or 'cheese maker'. There are many variations in the spelling of this name.
Kaspar – Kaspar was the name of one of the three wise men / three kings who visited Jesus after his birth offering him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Kaspar is believed to have been a Persian scholar and offered Jesus the gift of frankincense. The name 'Kaspar' is believed to stem from the word 'Gaspar' which in turn originates from the ancient word 'Gizbar' which even today in Hebrew means 'treasurer'.
Katz – A particularly old Jewish name meaning 'priest of justice'. Likely to have originated from the Rhine area in Germany where the Katz Castle can also be found. 'Burg Katz', as it is known in German, is located above the town of St. Goarshausen in Rheinland-Palatinate and was built by Count Wilhelm II of Katzenelnbogen in 1371. Although nowadays in German 'Katze' means 'cat', the German surname would have only in a few cases originally referred to cat lovers.
Kaufmann – This German surname means 'wholesale merchant' in English or literally translated 'buying man'.
Kegel – Means 'bowling pin / skittle' in English and thus most likely originally referred to somebody who was particularly good at bowling. 'Kegel' (or 'Kegeln') is also a traditional German version of nine-pin bowling.
Keller – From the Middle High German word 'kellaere' meaning 'cellar' in English. Originally this common German surname would have referred to somebody who in the first instance was 'ministerial in rank' (a type of 'civil servant') who was responsible for the commercial and financial interests of the lord of the manor. A 'Kellar' would have managed accounts and general household duties at large, important estates as well as at monasteries and castles.
Kiel – Originally described inhabitants of Kiel in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Kiel is located in the north of Germany roughly 90 kilometres north of Hamburg.
Kind – Means 'child' in English. Although in some cases it may have referred to a 'young person' generally it would have referred to somebody who was childish, selfish or naïve.
Kirchner – Means 'sexton' in English. This German surname would have thus originally been the occupational name for a church attendant who maintained the church and graveyard, rang the bells and dug the graves.
Kirsch – Means 'cherry' in English and it is most likely to have originally denoted a cherry dealer or even somebody who lived near a cherry tree or orchard.
Klein – Means 'small' in English and is one of the earliest surnames recorded. In some cases it would have simply referred to somebody who was 'short' or 'petite' and in other cases this German surname would have referred to the 'youngest' (member of a family.)
Klose / Klosa – One of numerous variations of the name 'Nicolaus' (Nicholas) in the Middle Ages.
Klug – Means 'clever' in English. Thus, this German surname, not surprisingly, would have originally referred to someone who was deemed to be particularly 'intelligent', 'wise', 'skillful' or even 'noble' and 'refined'.
Knecht – Stemming from the Middle High German word 'kneht', this German surname would have originally been an occupational name for a 'journeyman', also 'helper' or 'servant'.
Knorr – Stems from the Middle High German word 'knorre' meaning 'lump' and would have normally referred to somebody who had a 'lump', for example a hunchback or even sometimes somebody who was overweight.
Koch – Currently listed as the 12th most frequent surname in Germany, 'Koch' was originally the occupational name for a 'cook'.
Kohler / Köhler – Means 'charcoal burner' and thus originally most likely to have referred to people who burnt charcoal.
Konig / König – Means 'king' in English. Like so many other German surnames, 'Kaiser' was often used as a nickname to describe peasants, for example, who acted like 'kings' or even actors in medieval plays who acted out a 'König'. It may have even once referred to a servant of a king.
Konrad – From the Middle High German compound 'Kuoni-rat' meaning 'bold/brave in counsel'.
Kopf – Means 'head' in English. It is most likely to have referred to a particular physical characteristic – maybe somebody who had a large head, a small head, a bald head or an odd-shaped head, for example. Interestingly, however, 'kopf' originally meant 'cup' or 'mug', so it also may have originally referred to a producer of mugs, particularly in the case of German compound surnames, such as ‘Guldenkopf’ meaning 'golden cup'.
Kopper / Koppermann – Originally an occupational name for a 'copper dealer'.
Korn / Korner / Körner – Two possible origins. Firstly (and most likely), it may have been the occupational name for a 'grain dealer'. Secondly, however, it may have originally referred to inhabitants of 'Körner' in Thüringen, central Germany.
Kraft – Means 'strong' in English and would have thus originally referred to somebody who was deemed 'strong'. It was a popular first name for knights and noblemen because of its meaning.
Kranzler – From the Old High German word 'cranz' meaning 'wreath' and is thus likely to have originally been the occupational name for a 'wreath maker'.
Krause – Currently listed as the 29th most frequent surname in Germany, it derives from the Middle High German word 'krus' meaning curly and was thus originally a nickname for somebody with curly hair.
Kraut – Means 'cabbage' or 'herb' in German and was originally the name of a 'gardener' or 'herbalist’. Nowadays, it is a derogatory term for a German.
Krebs – Means both 'crab' and 'cancer' (the disease and zodiac sign) in German nowadays. Originally though, this German surname it most likely to have been the occupational name of a crab fisherman.
Kruger / Krüger – Currently listed as the 22nd most frequent surname in Germany, this name has two possible meanings. Firstly, it may have originally stemmed from the Middle High German word 'krug' meaning tavern or inn and referred to an 'inn keeper'. Secondly, it may have stemmed from the Old High German word 'kruog' and originally referred to a potter, in particular a producer of mugs and pitchers.
Kuhn / Kühn – A short version of the German name 'Konrad'. Please see 'Konrad' listed above for further information.
Kunst – Nowadays this German surname means 'art'. Originally however, this German surname was the nickname for an 'educated, clever person.'
Kunz – A short version of the German name 'Konrad.' Please see 'Konrad' listed above for further information.
Kupfer – Originally the occupational name for a 'copper smith' or 'copper dealer.'
Kurz / Kurtz – Means 'short' in English. This German surname would have thus originally referred to somebody who was 'small' or 'petite.'
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