Belgium Flag on Top of the Building

400+ Popular German Last Names

The German language isn’t known for being wistful or flimsy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — German is a strong language, so it’s no surprise that their names are, too. It’s taken centuries for German names to develop into what they are today with each last name meaning something unique. With this list of German last names, discover the origin of your surname and how your ancestors made it come to life.

Germany Flag in Front of Building

History of German Names

When names first came about in German history, people tended to only have one name. Within that name held two syllables which both held distinct meanings. Names that were comprised of syllables with the same meanings were trying to emphasize a feature that was important to the family. For example, if a man was a master swordsman, his name might be “schwerdecke”, with “schwerd” and “ecke” both meaning “sword”.

Surname Root Endings

Early on, root endings became an important aspect of the name as well. They worked as a means of classifying who the two syllables belonged to.

  • Suffix “er” or “ert”: meant farmer or “doer” of a certain profession e.g. “Rothenberger” means “farmer at red mountain” or “Becker” means “baker”.
  • Suffix “en”: means “at” the terrain represented in the root word.
  • Suffix “ing”: means “belonging to” e.g. “Kuenning” is “belonging to the brave (clan of warriors)”.
  • Suffix “ingen”: represented a person’s roots e.g. the village “Sulingen” in northern Germany meant it was home to the “Sul” people.
  • Suffix “sen”: means “son of”.

Root Words of German Surnames

The root words that formed German names often stemmed from four categories that were flushed out over time. The four categories include military-related names, terrain-related names, names related to profession, and names related to personal characteristics.

Military-Related Names

Names related to the military are the oldest German names in existence. Germany had a very strong army and oftentimes people were named after various weaponry or militaristic words such as “Gund” for “battle”.

Terrain-Related Names and Names Related to Profession

When the German population continued to grow, there became a need to diversify names as well as professions. Many became farmers, thus the terrain-related names, while others became fishermen, millers, smiths, etc., thus the names representing professions. In fact, farming in North Germany grew to be a popular profession. Despite the land being riddle with swamps, many Germans became experts at turning the swamp into flourishing farms. Names were derived from words representing landmarks that surrounded the farm each person had. For example, “Bergman” was “mountain dweller”, “Riethman” referred to a farmer near a reedy site, and so on. In a similar fashion, people with other professions were named accordingly such as “Schmidt” for a smith or “Müller” for a miller and so on.

Names Relating to Personal Characteristics

With the ever-growing population, names continued to evolve. Germans needed a way to distinguish the difference between people in their towns that had similar names. Therefore, many were named things based on physical characteristics, nicknames, or religions. Some even had their names split into a first name and a last name. For example, if there were multiple Johanns living in the same area, Johann Eichner would be the one living by the oaks, Johann Bruecker would be the one by the bridge, and so on.

In the early 700s A.D., Germany was Christianized influencing names slowly. By the mid-1500s the Roman Catholic Church began requiring parents to name their newborn after a saint. Once the child had its holy name, the parent could provide them with whatever given name they chose. This is how the tradition of having a first name, middle name, and last name, began.

white and pink petaled flowers on metal fence near concrete houses and tower at daytime

Popular German Last Names

Knowing the history of how German names began, let’s get into some of the most popular and common German names in history.

‘A’ German Surnames

Abel

Aber

Achen

Ackert

Adelberg

Ahlgrim

Aller

Altenberg

Altmann

Ames

Anders

Angert

Anschuetz

Appel

Asch

Ascher

Aulbach

Austen

‘B’ German Surnames

Babler

Bach

Bachmann

Bahler

Bahn

Ballmann

Balsinger

Bank

Banner

Bartel

Bauch

Bauer

Baum

Bayer

Beck

Beemer

Behringer

Bellinger

Belser

Berg

Berger

Bernd

Bernstein

Bertels

Bertram

Bickel

Bieber

Biehl

Biel

Birk

Blackert

Blaschko

Blatt

Bliss

Blum

Blumberg

Bluth

Boeder

Bohnert

Bohr

Bose

Brahm

Brandt

Brecker

Brenner

Brickle

Buck

Buller

Burger

Burr

Buseman

Butz

‘C’ German Surnames

Clemens

Cruse

‘D’ German Surnames

Dahm

Danner

Debus

Decker

Degler

Deichert

Dell

Denhart

Denning

Denzel

Deutsch

Dewitz

Dick

Dickmann

Dieleman

Dieter

Dinkelman

Dittmann

Doppler

Dorfman

Dorner

Dreiling

Duell

‘E’ German Surnames

Eben

Eberhhardt

Eckard

Eckelman

Edinger

Egle

Eichmann

Eidman

Eiker

Eisenberg

Eisenhauer

Eleazer

Elfman

Elm

Emmerich

Endorf

Engel

Erler

Esther

Eulberg

Eyer

‘F’ German Surnames

Fackler

Fahrer

Falkner

Fassbender

Faust

Federer

Fehler

Feldmann

Fey

Fickle

Fieber

Fink

Finkel

Fitz

Florman

Frankenstein

Frei

Friedemann

Fritz

Fuhr

Funke

‘G’ German Surnames

Gabel

Gebhardt

Gehr

Geiss

Geller

Gerner

Gerwig

Giebler

Ginger

Glaser

Glassmann

Goethe

Gossmann

Goth

Grande

Greber

Gressler

Grimm

Grimmer

Grof

Grund

Gunderman

‘H’ German Surnames

Haag

Haber

Hader

Hager

Hahn

Halberg

Haling

Hammerstein

Handler

Hansel

Hardt

Hardwick

Harling

Hasselbach

Haubert

Heffner

Heimlich

Heinkel

Helberg

Heller

Helsing

Hemp

Hendler

Henke

Hensel

Herber

Hertz

Hiegel

Hilde

Hilger

Himmel

Hoch

Hoffman

Hoffner

Hogg

Hopper

Hoss

Hummel

Hurst

‘I’ German Surnames

Ingman

Isaak

‘J’ German Surnames

Jackels

Jaeger

Jager

Janowitz

Jenner

Johannes

Judd

‘K’ German Surnames

Kafer

Kahl

Kalbach

Kant

Kaplan

Katz

Kaufmann

Kegel

Kehr

Kemper

Kiehl

Kimmel

Klamm

Klauss

Kleinfield

Kleinmann

Klopp

Kloss

Knapp

Koback

Koepf

Kohl

Konrad

Kopp

Kostner

Krall

Kramer

Kroll

Kroner

Krueger

Kuehler

Kupper

‘L’ German Surnames

Lachmann

Landt

Last

Lauer

Lehr

Lemmer

Lichtenberg

Liebe

Lillich

Linde

Lindt

Lockert

Loeb

Loewe

Lottman

Lowitz

Ludwig

Lukas

Lux

‘M’ German Surnames

Mahler

Majer

Mandel

Markus

Mauer

Mayer

Mechler

Mehr

Merkel

Messer

Metz

Moretz

Muehl

Muller

‘N’ German Last Names

Nacht

Naser

Neider

Nessel

Neuer

Neumann

Nickol

Nimz

Nix

Norder

‘O’ German Family Names

Oberhaus

Oberlin

Ockert

Odenwald

Offen

Osen

Ostermeyer

Ostwald

‘P’ German Family Names

Pahl

Palmer

Paxman

Peifer

Perleberg

Pfeiffer

Picker

Pier

Pine

Pittman

Plath

Platt

Pohl

Polk

Posner

Prather

Printz

‘R’ German Family Names

Radke

Rahman

Rand

Ranger

Rasner

Rath

Redmann

Reinhart

Rembold

Reuter

Rigler

Ringer

Ringwald

Rinkel

Ritter

Rockefeller

Rodebaugh

Roemer

Rosenbach

Roth

Rothschild

Ruben

Rucker

Rummel

‘S’ German Last Name

Sachs

Salzberg

Schaeffer

Scheffer

Schlei

Schmidt

Scholl

Schweiger

Schwimmer

Seifried

Seiss

Seltzer

Seyfried

Siegel

Simson

Sonderman

Spader

Spangler

Spielmann

Spier

Stahler

Stark

Stein

Sterling

Steuber

Stiller

Strick

Stueber

Suess

‘T’ German Family Name

Tannanbaum

Tinsman

Traeger

Tripp

Trump

‘U’ German Last Name

Uber

Uehling

Uhl

Ulrich

Ungerer

‘V’ German Last Name

Vasel

Visel

Voelker

Vogel

Von Berg

Von Stein

Voss

‘W’ German Family Name

Wack

Wagler

Walberg

Wall

Weigel

Weimer

Wein

Weisel

Weiser

Weiss

Weltman

Wendle

Werth

Wertz

Wicker

Wieber

Wiese

Wilhelms

Winkel

Wisser

Wurst

‘X’ German Last Name

Xander

‘Z’ German Family Name

Zachmann

Zaske

Zeiger

Zeller

Zimmermann

Zuckerman

TC mark

About the author
Part-time writer, full-time romantic. Future author, forever Pisces. Read more articles from Maria on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related