The most common surnames in Germany are Müller, Schmidt, Schneider and Fischer. These surnames are followed in rank by the names Weber, Schäfer, Meyer and Wagner.
According to a 2012 study that collected and ranked the names in various German telephone books, the most common names in Germany come from the titles of archaic professions or the names of cities. In German, "Müller" means "miller," "Schmidt" refers to a smith, "Schneider" refers to a tailor, and "Fischer" refers to a fisherman. Surnames such as Becker, Bauer and Koch are also very common, and they mean "baker," "carpenter" and "cook," respectively. These names were originally given to families based on the profession or origin of the head male of the house, and the family kept the name even if their profession changed or if a woman from a different background married into the family.
Most common surnames in Germany also vary in spelling. For example, the surname Müller also appears as Möller, and the name Schmidt can be spelled "Schmitt," "Schmidt" and "Schmied." Surnames that derive from the names of cities or places are usually shortened or altered. The surname Frank means "from Franconia," and the surname Schulte is a shortened version of Schultheiss.