What Are the Meanings of Some German Surnames?


Quick Answer

The German surname Braun means "brown," while Fischer is the equivalent of the English "fisher," and Meer means "from by the sea." Some origins of German surnames include physical features, occupations or geographic locations.

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What Are the Meanings of Some German Surnames?
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Full Answer

Some German families took their surname from a nickname, so that, for example, "Leon with brown hair" became Leon Braun. One of the most common sources of surnames was the person’s occupation. Names ending with the -er letter combination, such as Fischer, indicate that the person does a particular task. The -haur suffix indicates one who cuts or chops, so the name Baumhauer indicates a person who chops or carves wood. The -macher suffix indicates one who makes, as in Schumacher, indicating "one who makes shoes."

Because German people came from different regions, some took surnames indicating their family’s home of origin. The German name Cullen indicates a family from the region of Cologne. Other geographic names include that of the family farm. While English surnames typically follow the male lineage, in Germany, if a woman inherited her family farm, her family likely took her surname.

When Germans immigrated to the United States, some changed their German surname to the English equivalent. The German Becker became Baker, Zimmerman translated to Carpenter, and Swartz became Black. When there were no English equivalents, the families used English phonetic spellings, changing Guhr to Gerr and Veicht to Fight.

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