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.

Via/ Internet Archive

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

Via/ Wiki Commons

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

Via/ Library of Congress

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.

If you enjoyed this click the “Next Page” button for a look at 13 things you had no idea were named after people!