60+ German Last Names Through the Years

Published September 9, 2021
Family group photo

Like many cultures, German surnames often reflect occupations, locations, or family professions. If you have a German last name, dive into where it stems from, what it means, and how your name contributes to understanding your heritage.

Popular German Last Names

Should you ever have the chance to stroll upon German soil, you will likely bump into one or two people who carry these common surnames. These last names are among the most popular ones in German culture.

  • Bauer - Means "neighbor"
  • Günther - Common name that means "warrior"
  • Klein - Means "person of small stature"
  • Kraus - Means "curly-haired"
  • Meyer - Means "steward" or "landholder"
  • Müller - One of the most popular German last names. Means "miller"
  • Schmidt - Comes from the trade of being a blacksmith. Translates to "smith"
  • Weiss - Means "someone with white hair" or "pale complexion"

German Last Names That Reflect the Natural World

Many German surnames have stemmed from natural surroundings. It is fairly typical to come across names derived from the natural world or certain regions of the country. Many centuries prior, people adopted surnames that were dependant on specific landmarks near their homes. For example, the last name "Buschmann" referred to a person who literally lived near bushes. The last name "Weidemann" referred to a man living near the willows.

  • Afflerbach -Derived from affal, which means "apple" and bach, meaning "brook."
  • Amsler - Means "blackbird"
  • Böhm - Means "of Bohemia"
  • Buchholz - Means "beech" and "wood"
  • Dahle - Means "alley"
  • Eichel - Means "acorn"
  • Frank - Descendant from the land of Franconia
  • Fuchs - Means "fox"
  • Durchdenwald - Means "through the forest"
  • Hahns - Means "rooster"
  • Stein - Means "rock" or "stone"
  • Wolf - Translates literally to the canine, "wolf"
Family walking in the park

German Surnames That Signify a Profession

Many German surnames came about due to the professions that German people made a living doing. People are often surprised to learn that their last names refer to the jobs of their ancestors.

  • Ackermann - Means "plowman"
  • Baumann - Means "farmer"
  • Bergmann - Means "miner"
  • Cantor - Means "mathematician" or "violinist"
  • Huber - A surname that means "landowner"
  • Koch - Means "cook"
  • Koehler - Means "charcoal burner"
  • Krüger - Means "potter"
  • Kuhn - Means "councilman"
  • Schäfer - Means "shepard"
  • Scholz - Means "mayor"
  • Schreiber - Means "writer" or "scribe"
  • Schulz - Means "sheriff" or "magistrate"
  • Schuster - Means "shoemaker"
  • Vogel - Means "bird"
  • Weber - Means "weaver"
  • Ziegler - Means "brickmaker"

Uncommon German Monikers

These unusual German last names are as unique and wonderful as the people fortunate enough to proudly bear them. Some of them are unusual to hear, as they are no longer popular. Additionally, over time, people have altered or changed the names. Others have very unusual meanings.

  • Bierhals - Means "beer throat"
  • Barfuss - Means "one who goes barefoot"
  • Eierkuchen - Means "egg cake"
  • Hühnerbein - Means "chicken leg"
  • Kitzler - Means "tickler"
  • Nachtnebel - Means "night fog"
  • Trinkenschuh - Means "drink shoe"

German Last Names as Strong as the People Themselves

Many of these German surnames refer to battles, strength, and power. People bearing these German names can hold their heads up high, knowing their names exude vigor and durability.

  • Baumer - Means "guardian of the border"
  • Dietrich - Means "the people's ruler"
  • Faust - Means "very strong person"
  • Garven - Means "one who wields the sword"
  • Hartmann - Means "strong man"
  • Kaiser - Means "emperor"
  • König - Means "king"
  • Ludwig - Means"famous warrior"

Learn About a Name, Learn About Yourself

When you take the time to learn about your surname's origins and meaning, you are digging into your heritage, your ancestry, and part of what makes you unique. Take the time to research where your name came from, how it evolved over time, and what it translates to, and you might end up not only discovering elements of your actual name, but also aspects of who you truly are.

60+ German Last Names Through the Years