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German Surnames and their Origins

Names derived from profession of first bearer
Arzt - doctor

Bader - barber
Bauer -farmer
Bauman(n) - builder
Becker - baker
Brenner - distiller
Brauer, brower, brewster;- brewer

Eisenhauer, Eisenhower - iron cutter, miner

Farber - painter
Fischer - fisher
Fleischer - butcher

Gebauer - peasant or tiller of the field
Gerber - tanner

Kellerman - worker or dweller in a wine cellar or tavern
Kessler - coppersmith, own who sold or made kettles
Kramer - merchant
Krieg, Krieger - war, warrior, in Yiddish could mean tavern keeper
Kuster (Kuester) - sexton
Kunstler - artist or skilled artisan

Lederer, Lederman(n) - leather maker, tanner
Lehrer - teacher
Lesser - custodian of a forest, game keeper
Lichtermann - one who lit lamps, lamplighter
Lichtman - candle maker

Maurer - stone mason
Mehler (Mahler) - painter
Mehlinger, Mehlman(n), Melman - one who works with flour
Metzger - butcher
Muller - miller

Nachtman(n) - night watchman

Pfannnenschmidt - maker of pots and pans
Postman(n) - postal worker, (also a person from Postau)
Puttkam(m)er - person who cleans rooms

Rader - wheelwright, one who makes wheels; or a person from Raden (moor, reedy place), one who thatched with reed
Reifsneider, Reifsnyder - one who made barrel hops
Reiter - horseman, also one who cleared land for tilling
Richter - judge or magistrate

Saltz, Saltzman(n) - one who processed and sold salt
Sandler - one who carts sand, repairs shoes, a cobbler
Schafer (German with Umlaut) was a sheper
Schenker - one who kept a public house
Scherer - one who shaved others, a barber
Schlosser - lock smith
Schluter Schlueter, Schluter (with Umlaut) - the keeper of supplies
Schmidt - smith; (Blacksmith)
Schmuker, Schmu(c)kler - one who decorates, ornaments
Schneider and Schroeder - tailor
Schultz, Schultheis - village mayor
Schreiber - secretary or scribe
Schreiner - cabinet maker
Schubert - one who made or sold shoes
Schulman(n) - school or synagogue man
Schumacher, Schu(h)man(n), Schuster - shoe maker, cobbler
Steinhauer - one who cuts and breaks stone
Studebaker - one who prepared or sold pastries

Wagner - wagoner, wagon maker
Weber - weaver
Wechsler - money change

Surnames derived from location of homestead
Adler (zum Adler) - eagle, may have derived from a house name
Borg (northern German) or Burg - from or near a fortified castle
Bullwinkel - corner where bulls were kept
Kaltenbach - cold creek
Meer - from the sea, ocean
Rabe - crow
Waldschmidt - smith at/in the woods
Zumwald - at the forest

Surnames from the place a person came from
Berlin, Klutz and Lowenthal - place names in Germany
Cullen from Koeln/Cologne
Dannenberg, town of Dannenberg - pine tree covered mountain, three places in Germany
Dresdner from Dresden
Frank - from Franconia
Halpern or Halperin - one who came from Heilbronn in Wurttemberg
Mel(t)zer - can be a brewer or a person who came from Meltz
Pollack - one who came from Poland
Rockower, Rockow - ow is frequent and only in the low lands of Germany
Schlesinger - one who came from Silesia or Schleusingen in Thuringia
Schwei(t)zer - person from Switzerland, but also a dairyman
Silberg - two place names in Germany
Shapiro, Shapira, Shapero, Shapera - one from Spyer, in the middle ages spelled Spira, and by Jews spelled Shapira
Stein - numerous villages in German-speaking countries; stone, rock, marker
Sternberg - name of ten places in Germany

Surname from the first name of first bearer
Friedric
Fritz
Albrecht (Albright)
Dietrich
Dietz
Eberhard(t)
Georg(e)
Heinrich
Heinz
Hinz
Konrad
Kunz
Ludwig
Lutz
Ott(o)
Paul(us)
Reinhard
Werner

Names derived from a physical or other characteristic of first bearer
Altmann - old man
Dick - fat person
Grossmann - the big one
Hellmann - light man
Klein - short
Kurz - the short one
Lange - the long one
Lustig - happy person
Rot(h)bart - red beard
Schatz - treasure
Schwar(t)z - black appearance
Schwarzkopf - black haired
Stamm, Stump - trunk (as of a tree)
Stammler - stutterer
Stock - stick, tree trunk
Sus(s)man - affectionate person
Unruh - agitator or trouble maker
Weiss - white appearance


Names of saints which became surnames

Lukas, Matthias, Matthaeus, Paulus, Ruprecht and Nikolaus

Days of the week which became surnames
Montag, Freitag, Sonntag; or Month: May

Surnames relating to objects/materials
Baum - tree
Eisen - iron
Erzberger - ore mountain
Gold - gold
Hammer - hammer
Holz - wood
Keller - cellar, food storage space
Knopf - button
Nagel - nail
Silber - silver
Stahl - steel
Stroh - straw

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