Most of us often hear popular surnames from Western countries. But German surnames are so distinct that we can seamlessly recognize them even from a new bunch of last names. The German last names are largely inspired by the geographical, demographic, and political landscape. The several common surnames have their meanings associated with the occupation or profession or the geographical landscape.

Today, we are compiling a list of the most popular as well as rare German surnames with their meanings. They are unique and give us ample scope to learn quite a few new things.

Image Source: Shutterstock

List of Famous German Surnames, Family, and Last Names with their Meanings

We have brought together both the new and old German surnames with their meanings. A few of them are almost rare and extinct medieval surnames, while a few are the new last names, too. Why wait? Let us go ahead and learn all about the meanings of these popular German surnames.

1. Afflerbach:

This unique German surname means ‘apple brook’. It is a rare and old German last name that originates through the geographical landscape, going by someone who has lived near an apple tree by the stream.

2. Albrecht:

This surname has both German and Dutch origins. It means noble. The popular Swiss alpine ski racer Daniel Albrecht shares the same surname. The other variation of this Swiss-German surnames and last name is Abel.

3. Achen:

Achen last name has its origins in the people who has originally come from the city of Achen in the western part of Germany.

4. Adelberg:

This is another German toponymic surname which refers to those who have come from Adelberg town of Germany. Adel means noble, and Berg means mountain.

5. Angert:

Angert surname refers to meadow or garden. This is a new and unique German last name currently.

6. Bach:

Bach means a stream. It also refers to the creek. This surname goes by those who have lived near a stream or a water body.

7. Bahn:

This surname comes from Middle High German, which means an open area.

8. Banner:

The surname goes by the word Banier, which means flag bearer. The surname has its origins in the occupational one.

9. Bartel:

Bartel, in German, refers to a bright rule. It is a very rare German last name.

10. Baumer:

Baumer or Baume has origins in German. The last name refers to a dweller near a tree. This was an occupational surname given to those who used to be toll collectors or customs officials near borders.

11. Bayer:

Bayer surname comes from a person who is from the state of Bavaria in German. It is a rare and unique German last name, too.

12. Becker:

Becker is a German occupational surname and last name for Baker. It originated from the word backen, which means to bake.

13. Bergmann:

Berg in German means a mountain, and Mann refers to a man. This is a surname given to mountain man.

14. Braun:

Braun or Braunn, Braunne refers to brown. It is believed that this last name was initially given to those who have a dark complexion.

15. Candler:

Candler or Kandler is an occupational surname in German, too. It means potter.

16. Cantor:

Cantor has its origins in both English and Germany. It means singer and also has variations such as Cant or Canter.

17. Schneider:

Most of us have heard of this very popular German surname. Schneider, otherwise also spelled as Sneider, Snider, Schnieder, or Schneyder, is an occupational surname that refers to a tailor.

18. Dahm:

Dahm refers to a place called Dahme in Germany. This surname refers to the geographical landscape.

19. Decker:

Another very popular German surname is Decker. It means cover, or ceiling or roof. On the other hand, this surname also refers to the occupation of a carpenter or builder, a person who does the roof.

20. Deichert:

Deichert surname goes by a person who has lived by a pond. It has derived from the surname/name Teicher, where Teich means pond.

21. Durchdenwald:

This German surname refers to through the forest. It is an extremely uncommon and unique last name. It may have referred to a person who lived through a forest.

22. Eberhardt:

This surname combines Eber, which means a boar, and Hardt, referring to strong or touch. This is a popular German surname.

23. Edinger:

The name has come from someone who has been to a place called Edingen in Germany. It is a rare and unique German last name, too.

24. Eichmann:

This surname combines the words Eiche, which means oak, and Mann, referring to a man. This surname may have originated referring to a person who has lived by an oak tree.

25. Eisenberg:

In German, Eisen means iron, and Berg means a mountain. This surname is a combination of two Middle Old German words.

26. Eisenhauer:

As we observed, Eisen means iron, and Hauer means to cut. This is a German occupational surname for blacksmiths.

27. Engel:

Engel simply means an angel. This Dutch and German surname is a common one.

28. Fackler:

Fackler means a torchbearer. This is a unique and old German surname.

29. Fahrer:

This German surname has also originated by those who go by the occupation of Ferrymen.

30. Falkner:

Most of you may have heard of this popular German surname. Falkner is a name for those who have the job of looking after the birds (falcons).

31. Fink:

Fink is the German word for the bird ‘Finch’. The surname also goes as a nickname for those who are generally very cheerful.

32. Fisher:

Fisher refers to a fisherman. Also spelled as Fischer and Ficher, it is a common and mostly used surname in Germany.

33. Franke:

Franke, in German, means a free man. It is a popular surname also spelled as Frank, Frankk or Francke. Some also believe that the surname has originated through those people who have come from Franconia, a place in central Germany.

34. Fuchs:

Most of you may have heard the last name Fuchs. It means fox. It has derived from the Old German word Vuhs.

35. Gabel:

The word Gabel is a word for ‘fork’. This surname or last name goes by those who are sellers or maker of forks.

36. Geiss:

This is a surname which has origins from an occupational last name. It means goatherd. Geiz, in German, refers to a goat.

37. Geller:

This is a most common German surname, which means to cry or yell. It has come from the word Gellen.

38. Gerwig:

Gerwig is a very old and rare German last name. Here, Ger means spear, and Wig means battle.

39. Haas:

Haas or de Haas surname is uncommon globally. It means hare. The name has both German and Dutch origins.

40. Haber:

Haber is an occupational German last name. It has come from the word ‘Habere’, which means oats. The name is probably a surname for those who grow or sell oats.

41. Hahn:

Hahn is another popular German last name. However, Hahn means rooster.

42. Hardt:

This name was initially given to men who lived by the woods. It goes by the German word Hart, which means hard or strong.

43. Hartmann:

Hartmann, in German, means a brave person. It also means a tough or hardy man.

44. Hasselbach:

Hasselbach is a place in Germany. As most can guess, this surname goes back originally to those who have lived or come from this place.

45. Heinrich:

The surname Heinrich translates to ‘ruler of the household’ or ‘home ruler’. It is also among rare and ancient German last name.

46. Hermann:

Hermann means an army man in German. This last name is popular worldwide which has made up from the words ‘heri’, meaning army and ‘mann’, which means a man.

47. Hiegel:

Hiegel translates to ‘bright soul’ or a bright-hearted person. It is derived from a German word, Hugo.

48. Horch:

Horch surname came for those who used to live around Swamy land. It is derived from the German word Hor, which means mud.

49. Hoss:

Hoss is used for those who used to live in the state of Hesse in Germany.

50. Ingman:

Ingman, or otherwise, also called Engmann, is derived from the word ‘eng’, which means narrow. It is generally used to denote to those who used to live by narrow spaces like in a valley.

51. Jachim:

Jachim or Joachim came from Hebrew word Yoyakim. It means ‘raised by God’. It is a rare and old German surname.

52. Jager:

Jager, otherwise known as Jaeger, means ‘hunger’ in German.

53. Kahl:

Kahl means bald in German. It is derived from the word ‘kal’ and is a unique German last name.

54. Kalbach:

Kalbach is another famous German surname. It is derived from two words, kalt, meaning cold and bach, which means stream.

55. Kant:

Kant has come from the German word Kante, which means corner or edge. It denotes a person living in a corner of a town or village.

56. Kaufmann:

Kaufmann is another occupational-based German last name. It means businessmen or a merchant and traders.

57. Kegel:

Kegel is referred often to as the game of Skittles. It is often used to call a person who plays the game.

58. Kemper:

Kemper is a surname given as a status to a few peasant farmers in the olden times.

59. Klauss:

Klauss is another famous German surname. Klauuss or Klaus is the German version of Nicholas in Greek. It means victory for the people.

60. Kuehler:

The surname is derived from the German word Kule, which refers to a quarry. It means a person who lives by the quarry.

61. Kupper:

Kupper is the German version of the word Cooper. It is an occupational name for ‘cooper’.

62. Lang:

Lang is a very common and famous last name. This originated from Germany, which means tall. Also spelled as Lange, it is one of the popular German family names.

63. Last:

This is a unique and rare uncommon German surname. It means load or burden and is known as an occupational surname for porters.

64. Lichtenberg:

In the German language, Licht means light, and Berg means mountain. The surname is often known as given to people who have been among any of such several places.

65. Linde:

Linde is a surname given to people who lived by a lime tree in the olden times. It is a German word for lime.

66. Ludwig:

Ludwig means famous warrior in German. It has other variations, such as Ludewig and Lutwig. It is an uncommon surname from Germany.

67. Mandel:

Can you guess the meaning of Mandel? It means almonds. Mandel has German origins. Besides this, this last name also has Jewish origins. So, it is a popular German Jewish surname.

68. Meyer:

This German surname is quite popular. Meyer means estate manager. It comes from the High German word Meier, which means the county’s manager. It is among the most used and popular last name.

69. Muller:

This is among the well-known and most heard German surname. It means Miller and is among the most popular last names in Germany.

70. Nacht:

Nacht means night. It came from the word naht, which means night in Middle German. It is used by Jewish families as well.

71. Nachtnebel:

This is an exciting and rare German surname. Nachtnebel means night fog. It is among funky and rare German last names.

72. Neumann:

Neumann simply translates to New Man. It has other variations, such as Neuman and Neumanns. It is an uncommon surname and was given to those who came to a city or village newly to settle.

73. Ostwald:

Ostwald in German means Eastern woods. It is a rare but phenomenal surname in Germany. In their language, ost means east, and walt means to rule.

74. Pfeiffer:

This German surname means piper. It also refers to a whistler or fifeplayer in the German language. It is a rare surname and has other variations, such as Pfeifer and Pfeyffer.

75. Pohl:

In Germany, Pohl means a muddy pool. It also translates to wetland, and in surname language, it often referred to those men who lived near wetlands or pools in the olden times.

76. Reuter:

Reuter, also spelled as Reutter, is a rare German surname. The surname could have originated by referring to a person who clears woods for a living.

77. Richter:

Richter is a popular German last name. It means Judge.

78. Roth:

Roth is a rare German last name. It means red and wood. It is quite uncommon and is also used as a nickname for a red-haired person.

79. Salzberg:

Salzberg surname has been chiefly associated with the German city with the same name. In German, Salz also means salt, and Berg means mountain.

80. Sauer:

Sauer simply means sour. It is a German last name which is pronounced as sow-ehr. This surname is also used as a nickname often.

81. Schafer:

Schafer is an occupational surname used for Shepards. Currently, it is rare yet popular surname in Germany. The other pronunciations include Shaffer, Shafer and Schaffer.

82. Schreiber:

Schreiber surname means clerk. This is a High German and Jewish last name, which also means to write/scribble.

83. Schubert:

Schubert is another popular occupational surname and last name. This German last name refers to a shoe maker.

84. Schulte:

Schulte has its origins both in German and Dutch. It means sheriff or a steward. In middle German, the name also refers to village headmen.

85. Schulz:

This is a popular worldwide known surname from Germany. This German last name means Bailiff. It is indeed ranked as among the most common surnames in the world, too. It originally means head of the village. Schulz is also spelled as Schultz and Schulze.

86. Schumacher:

Another pretty common last name from Germany is Schumacher. It technically refers to a shoemaker and is worldwide popular.

87. Schwarz:

Can you guess the meaning of Schwarz? It means black. It is also used as a nickname for those with black hair or dark complexion.

88. Sommer:

Sommer translates to Summer. Also pronounced as Somer, Somers, and Sommers, it is quite an uncommon surname from Germany. Initially, it was given to those who were born during summer.

89. Stein:

Stein is a common surname that refers to ‘stone’. Other variations of the same surname include Steine and Stein. It also translates to a rock or stone monument.

90. Vasel:

Vasel translates to valiant. It is a rare surname with its origins in both German and French. This surname also means young noblemen. This is rare among French-German surnames.

91. Vormelker:

This is quite an uncommon and unique last name that originated in German. This surname means pre-milker. It refers to those who prepare cows for milking. Most assume that this has come out as an occupational last name.

92. Wagner:

As most of you can guess, Wagner means a wagon driver. Also spelled as Wagoner or Waggner, this German last name is pretty popular across the globe.

93. Walberg:

Walberg has its origins in Scandinavian and German. It means ruling the fortress. This rare last name is from German words Wald, which means rule and burg, meaning fortress or mountain.

94. Walter:

This usual and common last name means commander of an army. It is quite a famous German surname.

95. Weber:

Another common and popular German surname is Weber. It means weaver. Many also spell this name as Webere.

96. Weiss:

Weiss refers to white. It is an uncommon and rare surname from Germany and is also used as a nickname for very pale people.

97. Werner:

Werner means a defender. It is initially given to men during medieval times. The other variations of the name include Warner and Verner.

98. Wolf:

Wolf is a common surname, too. The nameWolf refers to the animal that goes by the same name. It is mainly used in Germany.

99. Ziegler:

This surname refers to a man who is a bricklayer. This uncommon surname is believed to have originated from the occupation of a brickmaker.

100. Zimmermann:

Zimmermann surname can be found in both Switzerland and Germany. Also spelled as Zimmerman and Zimerman, it means a carpenter.

So, how did you enjoy exploring and learning all about the famous and rare German surnames? These last names are those which are well-known around the globe. What are your thoughts?


This is exclusively a guide to learning about unique and rare German surnames and last names. These names are provided for informative purposes only. The content provided in this article is from research through various sources across the web. We do not guarantee or promise any accuracy of the facts provided in this article.


About Yashasvi

Yashasvi developed a deep passion for writing ever since she was completed her Master’s in Mass Communication and Journalism from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam and has chosen a career that is driven by creativity. A Parenting expert who believes in communicating effectively with a personal touch, she writes about pregnancy, baby care, lifestyle, and just about anything else.