German Surnames

Learn more about your German ancestry with this alphabetical list of German surnames; ideal for researching your family history, discovering the roots of your German last name and learning more about German family name etymology in general.

German Surnames

While this list is very detailed in places, please bear in mind there are likely to be many more possibilities for both the meaning of certain German last names and their origins. Furthermore, please remember we are focusing on the meanings of German surnames; comparable surnames in other languages may or may not have the same meanings and origins.

So the following list of German surnames is meant only as a guide to support your research and is, in essence, a bit of fun and, without a doubt, only the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’.

In fact, tracing your German ancestry accurately can often be very time-consuming and to no avail, particularly if you are unable to decipher the archaic language of your German ancestors. Therefore, the only way you can be sure of absolutely accuracy is to have your family tree traced by someone with a proven track-record.

Discover in my German surname genealogy section whom I believe could help you research your German ancestry and trace long-lost German family members quickly and accurately and why many - including me! ;) - consider him to be the best German genealogist in the world with over 30 years' experience.

Otherwise, let's get started by taking a look at German last names in alphabetical order, starting with:

German surnames beginning with A

Alternatively, click on the following letters to take you straight to German last names beginning with:

B / C / D / E / F / G / H / I / J / K / L / M / N / O / P / R / S

T / U / V / W / Z 


Aa / von der Aa / von der Ahe – ‘Ahe’ is an old German word for running water, a stream or small river and could have referred to someone living near a stretch of water.

Aaken / Acken / van Aaken / van Auken / van Aken - The origins of this German surname are in the city of Aachen, Germany. Noteworthy: In the US the name can be traced back to Ulster County, NY or Esopus, as it was formally known, as early as the 17th century. Although early US records show Van Aken and van Aaken as the most common spellings of the name, other variations include Van Nocker and Van Ocker.

Aalrep /Ahlrep / Aalreip / Ahlfänger – Means ‘eel fisherman’ / ‘eel catcher’ in English. ‘Ahlfänger’ was a fishing tool used by an eel fisherman.

Aar – An old German word for ‘eagle’ (now ‘Adler’) in German.

Abbühl /Abbuhl– Stems from the old German word ‘Bühel’ now 'Hügel' or, in English, ‘hill’.

Abel – Some dispute that the German ‘Abel’ originates from the Biblical Abel (son of Adam), rather they believe it derives from the German name ‘Adalbrecht’ and ‘Adalbert’ (meaning noble and bright.) The German form of ‘Abel’ was first recorded in Württemberg, Germany. Please see the German surname ‘Albrecht’ for further information.

Abelkis - A nickname for a ‘curvy‘ person originating from Lithuania/Prussia. In Prussian: abelka, wobelke (small apple), abale, able, wobale, woble (apple), abalne, wobalne, bobalne, woble ('apple tree') and aboualpirags (apple pie).

Abend - Means ‘evening’ in German. It was an old German name for farmers and craftsmen who enjoyed the evening. Also the name of the village Abend in Sachsen, Germany.

Abendroth - Possibly connected to ‘Abentrot’ the giant which was the subject of medieval plays and fables and possibly from the legend of King Rother. The name was first recorded in Barmen in Germany in 1250. The German surnames Abendschein (evening light) and Abendschön can also be interpreted in this way.

Abendschein – Means `evening light` in English and can be interrupted in the same way as ‘Abendroth’. Please see post above.

Abenteuer / Ebentheuer - Means ‘adventure‘ in English. Originally it described someone who left their everyday life and social circle to undertake something deemed as a little risky and which would have an uncertain ending.

Abesser /Abeßer - An old German term for someone who deals in fruit.

Abraham / Abramek / Abramczyk – Is of Hebrew origin and means ‘father of many nations.’ In the Bible, Abraham was the first patriarch of Israel. It has been used as a name since the 16th century.

Abrell – The Latin word for April deriving from the Latin ‘aperire’ meaning ‘to open’.The name could possibly originate from farmers who had to pay a tax in the month of April. Earliest known record: Burchard Abrell of Memmington, Germany. The earliest known record of this German surname in the US: John Abrell of Norfolk County, Virginia, 1654.

Absmeier/Absmayer/Abtmeier - A compound of the words ‘abt’ and ‘meier’ - in English `Steward of an abbot’. An ‘abbot’ is the title given to someone who is head of a monastery.

Abt - Means ‘abbot’ in English. (See above).

Achenbach - The name of two villages in Germany. One is located in Breidenbach in Hessen. The village, which is home to a small stream called the ‘Achenbach‘, was first mentioned in 1307. The second village is located in Siegen in Nordrhein-Westfalen. As both villages are located relatively near to one another there is no exact way of determining which one was responsible for the Achenbach surname. The first part of the word Achenbach stems from the old German word for ‘stream‘ (ahe) and the second part also means ‘stream’ so it actually means ‘stream stream’.

Achtermann – Comes from the German word ‘achtern‘ (after) and refers to somebody who has settled behind another.

Ackermann/Ackerman/Aachermann - Comes from the term ‘Ackerbauer’ meaning a farmer whose principal task is to till the land.

Adenauer / Adeneuer / Adenewer - Adenau is a medieval town located in the High Eifel in the state of Rheinland-Palatinate in Germany. The town is mentioned for the first time in 992 under the name ‘Adenova.’

Adler/Adlar – A common German surname which means ‘eagle‘ and symbolizes courage, strength and immortality. It is believed to originally have been used as a nickname to describe someone who had an extraordinary characteristic or appearance. It is also the symbol of John (or Johannes in German) the Evangelist. The eagle has formerly featured on the German and Austrian flags and is currently on the ‘Bundeswappen’ - the German and Austrian coats of arms. In fact, the eagle has been featured on many coats of arms in Germany since the feudal age.

Agricola – Latin word meaning `farmer‘. Used instead of ‘Ackermann’ and ‘Bauer’, particularly during the humanism period (1400-1650). Famous German: Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) - a German scientist known as the ‘Father of mineralogy.’

Aigeldinger / Aigeltinger / Eigeldinger / Eigeltinge - Originates from the village of Eigeltingen in Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Alber – Originates from an old German name ‘Adalbero’. The word can be split into two. Firstly, the Middle High German word ‘adal’ (now ‘edel’) meaning ‘noble’ in English and ‘bero’ (now Bär) meaning ‘bear’ in English. The ‘bear’ was viewed as the Germanic king of the animals with ‘a higher, more spiritual being.’

Albrecht – A particularly old, noble name which stems from the Old High German ‘adal-beraht’ meaning ‘noble’ (adal) and ‘shining / bright (beraht). The name is believed to have first appeared in medieval times and was particularly common during this period, most likely owing to St Adalbert of Prague who was martyred in 997 after trying to convert the Baltic Prussians. Over the years there have been dozens of German Kings, Princes and Dukes bearing the name ‘Albrecht.’

Albus – A Latin word meaning `white.‘ The ‘Albus’ is also an historical German currency, used most predominantly in the Rheinland, Germany and first issued in the mid 14th century.

Alken / Alcken / von Alcken / von Alken / Alquen - Derived from ´Adelheid‘ - one of the most popular female German names of the Middle Ages.

Allgäuer / Allgeyer / Allgayr / Allgöwer / Allgeier – Originates from the area ‘Allgäu’ in southern Germany.

Allmann – Originally the name given to German people living in the region of Alsace in France (or Elsass in German) which borders Germany and Switzerland.

Altenbeck /Aldenbeck / Altenbek - Name for old (or older) bakers. It could have also quite possibly originated from the village ‘Altenbek’ in Schashagen, Germany.

Altendorf - Means ‘old village’ in English. Most probably originates from a number of villages called ‘Altendorf.’

Althoff – Believed to originate from a farmyard in Westphalia, Germany and can be traced back to the beginning of the 16th century. ‘Alt’ means ‘old’ in English and ‘hoff’ means ‘yard’. An earlier version of the name - ‘Oldehof’ - can be traced back as far as 1260 to a village near (Bad) Doberan in Rostock, Germany.

Altmann - Means ‘old, experienced man’ in English. An old German name made famous by the Bishop of Passau, ‘Blessed Altmann’, in the 11th century.

Altmeier / Altmaier / Altmeyer - An old German word used to describe the previous owner of a farm.

Amsel /Amsler – Originally the name of somebody who caught birds/blackbirds. This German surname stems from the German word ‘Amsel’ which is a variety of European blackbird related to the American robin.

Arnold / Arnoldt / Arnhold – Is a first name as well as a surname in German. From the old German ‘arn walt.’ ‘Arn’ = ‘Eagle’ and ‘walt’ = ‘to rule / preside over’ in English.

Arzt – Means ‘doctor’ in English. An ‘Arzt’ was originally somebody who performed the art of healing rather than the profession.

Austerlitz - Originates in the town of ‘Austerlitz’ in the Austrian Empire – now the Czech Republic. Also, from the ‘Battle of Austerlitz’ which took place in 1805 and was one of Napoleon’s greatest victories.

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