German Surnames
Beginning with W

Here we will study the meanings of German surnames beginning with W.



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W

Wagner – This German surname stems from the Middle High German word ‘wagener’ and was originally the occupational name for a ‘wheelwright’, ‘wainwright’, ‘cartwright’ or ‘carriage maker’.

Wald – Means ‘forest / wood’ in English. Thus, this German surname would have originally denoted somebody who lived in or near a wood / forest.

Waldmann – This German surname, which literally means ‘forest/wood man’, can be interpreted in the same way as ‘Wald’, listed above. Alternatively, it may have originally been the occupational name for a ‘forest ranger’.

Walter / Walther – Deriving from the particularly popular old Germanic personal name ‘Walther’, this German surname means ‘leader of the army / military ruler’. It is derived from ‘walt-heri’ where ‘walt’ means ‘power / force’ and ‘heri’ means ‘army’.

Walz – A pet form of ‘Walter’. Please see ‘Walter’ listed above for further information.

Weber – Stemming from the Middle High German word ‘webaere’, this German last name was originally the occupational name for a ‘weaver’.

Wegner / Wegener – These German surnames are variations of ‘Wagner’. Please see ‘Wagner’ listed above for further information.

Wehner – This German surname is also a variation of ‘Wagner’. Please see ‘Wagner’ listed above for further information.

Weidner / Weider – There are a couple of possible meanings for this German surname. Firstly, it may derive from the Middle High German word ‘wîde’ meaning ‘willow tree’ and is, therefore, most likely to have originally denoted somebody who lived near a willow tree. Secondly, it may have originally indicated somebody who lived in a place bearing the same (or similar) name, such as ‘Weida’ in Thüringen and ‘Weiden’ in Upper Palatinate. In some cases ‘Weidner’ may have originally stemmed from the Middle High German word ‘wiedener’ which means ‘hunter’ or ‘feeder’ and, therefore, originally been the occupational name for a ‘hunter’ or ‘fisherman’.

Weis / Weiss – This German surname means ‘white’ in English and would have thus originally referred to somebody who had a ‘pale complexion’ or, alternatively, ‘fair’ or ‘grey/white hair’.

Wendt – Deriving from the Middle High German words ‘Wint’ and ‘Winde’, this German last name refers to the ‘Wends’ who were a tribe of West Slavs living near German settlements. Sometimes ‘Wendt’ would have referred to a ‘Slavic person’ in general.

Werner – This German surname stems from the Old High German word ‘warin-hari’ where ‘warner’ meant to ‘resist / defend’ and ‘hari’ meant ‘army’. Thus, ultimately, it means ‘army defender’.

Westphal – From the Middle High German word ‘Westval’, this German surname originally denoted inhabitants of ‘Westphalia’, a region in Germany. In some cases it may have referred to someone who simply had connections to this particular area.

Wiedemann – This German last name is a variation of ‘Weidner’. Please see ‘Weidner’ listed above for further information.

Wiese / Wiesner – This German surname has two possible origins. Firstly, it may mean ‘meadow’ and have thus originally denoted somebody who lived near to a ‘meadow’. Secondly, it may have originally denoted inhabitants of places, such as ‘Wies’ in Baden-Württemberg and ‘Wiesa’ in Saxony. Finally, in a few cases it may have referred to someone deemed ‘wise’ and ‘intelligent’.

Wild / Wilde – This German last name would have originally described somebody who was ‘unfaithful, ‘immoral’, ‘outlandish’ or even a ‘foreigner’.

Wilhelm – Meaning a ‘strong-willed, helmeted fighter’, the English equivalent of this German surname is ‘William’. It stems from the Old High German name ‘willo-helm’ where ‘willo’ meant ‘will / wish’ and ‘helm’ meant ‘helmet’.

Wilke / Wilken - This German surname has two possible origins. Firstly, it may be a short form of ‘Wilhelm’, listed above. Alternatively, it may have Silesian origins and originally denoted inhabitants of places, such as ‘Wilkau’ in Schweidnitz.

Will – This German surname is a short form of ‘Wilhelm’. Please see ‘Wilhelm’ listed above for further information.

Winkelmann / Winkler – Deriving from the Middle High German word ‘winkel’ this German last name literally translates as ‘corner / angle’. Thus, it is most likely to have originally denoted somebody whose dwelling was located in a ‘corner’ or ‘at an angle’. In a few cases ‘Winkler’ may have been the occupational name of a ‘grocer’.

Winter - Literally translated this German surname means ‘winter’ in English. There are a few possible origins. Firstly, it may have originally referred to somebody who worked primarily in the winter months. Secondly, the original bearer may have been born in the winter. Lastly, it may have originally denoted the time of year where a contractual obligation had to be met or tax had to be paid.

Wirth - This German surname was originally the occupational name for an ‘innkeeper‘ or ‘tavern owner‘ and stems from the Middle High German word ‘wirt’. In some cases it may have referred to a ‘house keeper’ or ‘landlord’.

Wolf / Wolff / Wulf – The original bearer of this German surname may have been deemed ‘dangerous’ or ‘fierce’, but equally ‘strong’ or ‘powerful’. It may have also originally been the name of a house.

Wolter – This German surname is a variation of ‘Walter’. Please see ‘Walter’ listed above for further information.

Wunderlich – Originally, this German last name was a nickname for somebody who became quickly annoyed or who was moody and/or strange.

Wurst – Stemming from the Middle High German word ‘wurstaere’, this German surname was originally the occupational name for a sausage maker or butcher. 

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