Here we will look at the meanings of German surnames beginning with M.
Alternatively, click on the following letters to go to German surnames beginning with:
Maas – This German surname is a short form of ‘Thomas’ made popular by ‘Thomas the Apostle’, one of Jesus’s Twelve Apostles. He is probably best known for initially doubting Jesus’s resurrection. The name ‘Thomas’, which became particularly popular during the Middle Ages, is derived from the Aramaic word ‘toma’ meaning ‘twin’.
Maack / Mack – Short forms of the German surnames ‘Marquardt’ and ‘Markward’. Please see ‘Marquardt’ listed below for further information.
Mader – From the Middle High German word ‘maeder’ meaning ‘mower’. This German surname was originally an occupational name for a ‘cutter’ or ‘harvester’.
Mahler – Deriving from the Old German word ‘malen’ meaning ‘to paint’. In the Middle Ages, a ‘maler’ would have, in particular, referred to somebody who made stained glass windows.
Mai / May – Referring to the month of the year. It is most likely to have originally been given to somebody born in May. In some cases it may have been a house name.
Maier / Mayer / Meier / Meyer / Mayr – This popular German surname stems from the old German word ‘meiger’ meaning ‘superior’. It was normally used to describe the stewards of landlords who owned large farming estates. Nowadays, a ‘Meier’ is a dairy farmer.
Mann / Man – Various potential origins and meanings, ranging from ‘strong man’, ‘husband’, ‘friend’, ‘capable man’, ‘servant of a lord of the manor’ or simply ‘older man’ used to contrast with a younger boy in the family.
Markus – A Germanic form of ‘Mark’ which is a biblical name referring to Saint Mark, also known as ‘Mark the Evangelist’ who wrote the second Gospel of the New Testament.
Marquardt / Markward – Stemming from the Middle Low German word ‘Marka’ meaning ‘border’ and ‘wart’ meaning ‘guard’. Hence, this German name was originally the occupational name for a ‘border control guard’.
Martens / Martin – A biblical name referring to ‘Saint Martin of Tours’, also known as the ‘Bishop of Tours’. In the 4th century AD Saint Martin travelled to Trier in Germany to meet the Emperors. He also travelled through the region of Gaul - present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the majority of Switzerland. Here he established the first rural churches on Western terrains, hence the popularity of this name in Germany and many other areas in Europe. His grave in Tours became the focus of pilgrimage for many Germans. Furthermore, this German surname remained popular because of Martin Luther, the famous German priest and theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.
Marx – A short form of the German name ‘Markus’. Please see ’Markus’ listed above for further information.
Maurer / Mührer / Mauer - Deriving from the Middle High German word ‘mure’ meaning ‘wall’. Thus, this German surname is believed to have originally been the occupational name for a builder of stone walls - a mason.
Maus – Two possible origins. Firstly, it may have been the occupational name for a pest controller. Secondly, as with many other German surnames, it may have referred to a particular characteristic of the original name bearer. In this case, it may have referred to a particularly timid, fearful person.
Max – The 30th most popular German surname, which is an abbreviation of ‘Maximilian’, made popular by numerous religious figures, such as the early Christian martyr - Saint Maximilian of Tebessa as well as Maximilian of Numidia and Maximilian of Celeia. Various Roman Emperors have also borne the same name. ‘Maximilian’ means ‘greatest’ and is also a popular male Christian name in Germany.
Meissner – Originally denoted inhabitants of the city Meißen in Saxony, Germany. The city developed out of a Slavic settlement called ‘Missni’ which in turn was named after the river ‘Missna’. Translated into English ‘Meissner’ originally meant ‘mosses’ / ‘marsh.’
Meister – Literally translated, this German surname means ‘master’ and generally refers to a ‘master craftsman’ or ‘master of a trade’. It is, however, also an academic title. The word ‘Meister’ stems from the Latin word ‘magister’ meaning ‘teacher’.
Melzer / Meltzer – From Middle High German ‘melzer’ referring to a ‘maltster’. Thus, originally this German surname was most likely an occupational name for somebody who farmed and malted his own barley in order to brew beer.
Menzel – A nickname for ‘Hermann’. Please see ‘Hermann’ listed under ‘German surnames beginning with H’ for further information.
Merk / Merkel – These German surnames are short forms of ‘Markward / Marquardt’. Please see ‘Marquardt‘ listed above for further information.
Mertens – A German variant of the name ‘Martin‘. Please see ‘Martin’ listed above for further information.
Merz / März – Means ‘March’ in English (i.e. the month of the year). The name is most likely to have originally been given to somebody who was born in March or simply to somebody who enjoyed this month and Spring in general.
Metzger – Originally the occupational name for a ‘butcher’. Derives from the Middle High German word ‘metzjen‘ which means to ‘slaughter’.
Michael / Michaelis / Michel / Michels – Of Hebraic origins, this surname - literally translated - means ‘Who is like God?’ ‘Michael’ was one of the three Archangels and is regarded as a Saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
Mohr – A couple of possible origins and meanings. Firstly, it may have denoted somebody who lived on a ‘moor’. Secondly, it may have originally referred to a dark-skinned person or somebody with black hair. In other cases, it may have been a house name.
Moll – Believed to have originally been the nickname for a plump person. ‘Moll’ in German nowadays means ‘minor’ (i.e. in terms of music).
Moritz – A German variation of the Latin name ‘Mauritius’ made popular by the widely venerated saint of the 3rd century, ‘Saint Maurice’. ‘Saint Maurice’, who is usually portrayed as having dark skin, was the head of the Roman Theban league. In some cases, however, this German surname may also be linked to the Jewish name ‘Moses’ due to phonetic similarities.
Moser – Deriving from the Middle High German word ‘mos’ meaning ‘moor’ or ‘swamp’. This German surname is thus most likely to have originally referred to somebody who lived on/in or near such an area. There are also several places in Germany bearing the same or similar name, such as ‘Moos’ in Lower Bavaria, Freiburg and Karlsruhe, and ‘Möser’ near Mageburg and thus ‘Moser’ may have even originally denoted inhabitants of one of these areas. In only a few cases it will refer to the Jewish surname ‘Moses’.
Mueller / Muller / Moeller / Miller – From the old German word ‘mulinari’, this most popular surname in Germany was originally the occupational name for a ‘miller’. There are numerous variations in the spelling of this name.
Muench – Originally, this German surname would have referred to a member of a monastery (a ‘monk’) or even someone who had connections to a monastery.
Read my advice on which German genealogist to use to find your German ancestors.
Top Tips & Advice
Longest German word?
Can you believe the longest German word contains no less than 80 letters?!
Click here to find out which long German words are Guinness World Record breakers and which one involves this very famous European river!
Business German phrases for use in emails and letters as well as for presentations, meetings and phone calls.
Learn German Numbers in this easy-to-follow online lesson. Lots of examples and tips on counting in German.