Find out more about your surname!
Names of Professions
Many German surnames are derived either from archaic professions or place names. If you have one of the names below, or a variant thereof, you probably had ancestors in one of these professions. The suffixes “er” or “man” often go along with a professional surname.
Ackermann = ploughman
Bauer = farmer
Becker = baker
Hauer = butcher
Hoover = landowner (Huber and Hueber are variants on this name)
Jaeger = hunter
Metzger = butcher
Muller = miller
Schultz = policeman
Schafer = shepherd
Schmidt = smith (as in blacksmith)
Schneider = tailor
Schumacher = cobbler
Wagner = wainwright (or wagoneer)
Weber = weaver
Zimmerman = carpenter
Names of Places
Many German surnames are based on place descriptors or place names which refer directly to specific landmarks, like Schwarzenegger, meaning “of the village Schwarzenegg.”
Berger = mountain
Bach/beck = stream
Busch = shrub
Stein = rock
German names can also combine these more generic place descriptors to describe unique places.
Beckenbauer = farmer who lives by a stream
Melsbach = the stream near a mill
And, if you ever think your German last name is hard to spell or pronounce, just be thankful that you don’t have this man’s last name, which means “the Otto family near the Gentschen field” and is a whopping 24 letters long. Even in Germany, Mr. Ottovordemgentschenfelde says his name is a clerical nightmare.