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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
Albrecht (Albright)

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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