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German Surnames Glossary
with English Meanings: C-D-E

Nachnamen-Lexikon • German Surnames Glossary

Genealogy Contents > German Surnames Glossary: A-B >
  C-D-E > F-G-H > More soon!

German Surname Glossary: C-D-E
For each Germanic surname in this glossary you will find the English meaning(s), which may or may not be a surname in English. This is not a list of equivalent names or name origins, but a sampling of English translations or meanings of German surnames. In many cases, there may be several possible origins or translations for a surname. The translation shown for a surname may not be the only possibility. Some names are derived from Old German and may have a different meaning from that in modern German. Name research is not always an exact science.

Abbreviations Used: MHG (Middle High German, Mittelhochdeutsch), MLG (Middle Low German, Mittelniederdeutsch), LG (Low German, Niederdeutsch), OHG (Old High German, Althochdeutsch), N. Ger. (northern Germany), S. Ger. (southern Germany)

with English Meanings
Nachname (Surname) English Meaning
  C C C C
Campe, Campen, Kampe, Kampen place name; warrior (Kämpfer)
Camphausen of/from Kamphaus (Lower Saxony) or Kamphausen (North Rhine-Westphalia)
Canetti from Italian for "small dog"
FAMOUS PERSON: The ancestors of Austrian writer Elias Canetti received their surname during a stay in Italy when they fled Spain (as Shepardic Jews) and later settled in Austria. See Famous German, Austrians at The German Way.
Canter, Canther, Cantor, Kanter from Latin for choirmaster, singer
Cappel, Kappel Name of residence: Someone who lived in the chapel (Kapelle); or a place name: someone from a town named Cappel/Kappel or similar.
FAMOUS PERSON: Doris Day's real surname was Kappelhoff ("chapel courtyard"). All of her grandparents, maternal (Welz) and paternal, were of German heritage. See Famous German, Austrians at The German Way.
Carsten, Carstens (see "Christian" below)
Cäsar, Caesar Latinized form of Kaiser (emperor); or related to the given name Caesarius from the Middle Ages, for St. Caesarius of Terracina.
Christian, Christians, Christiansen from Christ (Christian) and Christus (Christ)
NOTE: Many German first and last names have a C/K variation. All of the following names are related and based originally on forms of Christ: Carsten/Karsten, Christmann, Christner, Kersten, Kersting, Kesten, Krist, Kristan.
Claas, Claasen, Claass, Claassen a form of Nikolaus (Nicholas)
Clemens, Clement, Clemenz from the Latin for merciful (or "clemency")
Cranach of/from Kronach (Upper Franconia)
FAMOUS PERSON: Lucas Cranach the Elder (Lucas Cranach der Ältere, 1472-1553), the German Renaissance painter and printmaker/engraver, was born Lucas Maler ("painter") at Kronach in Upper Franconia. He later took the name of his birthplace as his surname.
Cremer shopkeeper, grocer; see "Kramer"
  D D D D
Dabrowski from a Polish city starting with Dabrow-
Dacher, Daecher, Decker roofer, tiler, tyler; place name
Dahl valley, Thal; place name (in the valley)
Dahm, Dahme, Dahmen place name; short form of names with "Adam"
Daimler, Däumler occupational name: from MHG diumen, diumeln, to torture (with thumbscrews)
FAMOUS PERSON: The ancestors of automobile inventor Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler (1834-1900, orig. "Däumler") were well-known thumbscrew torturers Teimbler, Teumler (after 1540) in Thuringia.
Damm, Damme embankment; causeway (place name)
Daries, Darius, Darjes from the Greek diety Isidor ("gift of the godess Isis"); other forms of the name include Dörrie, Dorries and Dörries.
FAMOUS PERSON: German film director Doris Dörrie (1955- ) - Men (1985), Enlightenment Guaranteed (2000), Naked (2002), Cherry Blossoms (Kirschblüten - Hanami (2008)
Dichter from MHG diehter (grandchild); more rarely, from MHG tihter (writer) - The modern meaning (poet) did not come into use until the 18th century.
Diebald, Diebold from OHG thiot (people, nation) + bald (bold); this name has many spelling variations: Debald, Dewald, Debelt, Debold, Diebel, Dippel, etc.
Dies, Diesel derived from the sound of a shortened form of the first name Matthias; variation of names containing "Diet-" (such as Dietrich); rarely, from the town of Dies in Rhineland-Palatinate
FAMOUS PERSON: Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) - German inventor of the engine named for him.
Diederich, Dietrich skeleton key; ruler (OHG); this name has many variations: Dieterich, Diederich, Diederichs, Dittrich, Dederichs
FAMOUS PERSON: Actress and singer Marlene Dietrich was a legend in her time. See Marlene Dietrich - German-Hollywood Connection
Dietmar, Ditters, Dittert, Dittmaier all based on OHG thiot (people, nation) + mari (famous); also see Diederich above
Dietz, Dietze, Dietzmann derived from the diminutive/familiar form of names containing "Diet-" (such as Dietrich); rarely, from the town of Diez in Rhineland-Palatinate
Dill, Diller occupational name: from MHG dille (board > "carpenter"); place name: Dille, Dill (river)
Dilling, Dillinger place name: Dillingen, Tüllingen
Dillmann, Dillschneider see Dill above
Ding, Dinger thing; judge (MLG dinger)
Dombrowski, Dombrowsky from a Polish city starting with Dabrow-
Doppler from MHG topelöre (dice player) and topeln (to throw dice)
FAMOUS PERSON: The Austrian scientist Christian Doppler (1803-1853) who discovered the "Doppler effect."
WEB >: Christian Doppler - Wikipedia
Dorn thorn
Dörrie, Dorries, Dörries see "Daries" above
Drechsler, Dreher turner
Dreifuss tripod; place name (from Latin for Trier, Germany's oldest city)
Dresdner, Dresner place name: "of Dresden"
Drescher thresher
Duerr, Durr dry, thin, drought
Durer, Dürer place name: from Düren, a town name in Bavaria and several other regions of Germany; a variation of "Thürer" (doormaker), "T(h)ür" (door) or "T(h)urm" (tower)
FAMOUS PERSON: Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) - German painter, artist from Nuremberg. The name "Dürer" is derived from the Hungarian "Ajtósi". Originally it was "Thürer," or doormaker ("ajtós" in Hungarian). A door is featured in the family coat-of-arms. Albrecht Dürer the Younger later changed "Türer" to "Dürer", to adapt to the local Nuremberg dialect.
Duscha, Duschek, Duschke from the Czech for "spirit" + "fame" or a variation of duch (spirit)
Dutschke from the Sorbian word dučh (the German)
FAMOUS PERSON: Rudi Dutschke (Alfred Willi Rudi Dutschke, 1940-1979), the most prominent spokesperson of the German student movement of the 1960s. In 1968, Dutschke survived an assassination attempt that led to street riots and protests against the newspapers published by the Axel Springer media empire.
  E E E E
Ebbe, Ebben, Ebbing from the LG for Eberhardt (see below)
Eben, Ebener, Ebner place name ("flat, even"): from the flat land/valley; person from a town named Eben
FAMOUS PERSON: Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916), Austrian writer. In 1900 she received the first honorary doctorate ever granted a woman by the University of Vienna. Ebner-Eschenbach, who trained as a watchmaker, authored many clever aphorisms, including "even a stopped clock is right twice a day."
Eberhard, Eberhardt, Eberhart strong as a boar
Ebersbach, Ebersbacher boar brook; place name
Ebert, Eberth from LG for Eberhard (see above)
FAMOUS PERSONS: Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925) - First president (SPD) of Germany after WWI (1918-1925, Weimar Republic); Roger Ebert (1942- ) - Well-known American film critic (with German paternal grandparents).
Echter, Echtermann form of Achter/Ächter; place name (Echt, Echte); place name from MLG for "behind" (mod. Ger. echt = real, genuine)
Eck, Ecke, Ecker lit., "corner" - short form of names beginning with Eck-; place name;
Eckel, Eckeler, Eckelmann from diminutive form of Eckhard; rarer: place name (Eckel)
Eger, Egerer, Egermann place name (town or river); occupation name (from eggen, to harrow/plow)
Egger, Eggers short form of Eggert or Eckhard; also see Eger above
Egloff (Egolf, Egli) from a combination of OHG agil + wolf (Agilolf/Egilolf, "horrible wolf"); place name
Ehrlich from MHG ērlich (honest, honorable)
Ehrlichman, Ehrlichmann honest or honorable man
FAMOUS PERSON: John Ehrlichman (1925-1999) was a key figure in the Watergate break-in (1972) and the ensuing scandal during the Nixon administration. He spent 18 months in federal prison.
Ehrmann honored man
Eichel acorn, oak
Eichelberger place name: of the oak hill
Eich oak tree (place name)
Eichmann oak man (place name)
Eiffel place name: German mountain range, region
Eisenberg iron mountain
Eisenman, Eisenmann occupational name: iron monger, hardware dealer
Eisler, Eisner occupational name: iron monger, hardware dealer
Eitel from the old MHG first name îtel = pure, unadulterated (NOT the modern meaning of "vain')
Eitner from Eite, a derivation of family names based on the first name Agathe; occupational name: MHG eiten, to burn, heat, melt
Egger, Eggers harrow, plow man
Elsässer place name: from the Alsace region (now part of France)
Elsner place name: from Elsen; variations: Elzner, Oelschner, Ölsner, Elschner
Emmerich derived from Heinrich (Henry); also a place name
End, Ende Place name: Someone who lived at the end of the village or street
FAMOUS PERSON: Michael Ende (1929-1995), Bavarian author of The Neverending Story (Die unendliche Geschichte, 1979), Momo (1973) and other children's stories.
Ender, Enderle, Enderlein, Enders Surnames derived from the name Andreas (Andrew).
Engel, Engelbert, Engelmann, Engelmayer, Engelmeier, Engelmeyer, Engels Angel: Names derived from a characteristic (nice as an angel) or given names that begin with Engel- (Engelbert, Engelhard, Engelheid, etc.). Sometimes also a person associated with an inn or pub named "zum Engel."
Erhard, Erhardt Based on the old Germanic first name (OHG ēra + harti = honor, fame + hard). The name was spread by the popularity of Saint Erhard in the late Middle Ages, and has many spelling variations today: Earhart, Ehrhardt, Ehrhart, Ehrat, Ehrath, Ehret, Ehrt, Ehrle, etc.
FAMOUS PERSONS: Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977), West German chancellor (CDU) from 1963 until 1966. Also the finance minister under Konrad Adenauer, noted for making the CDU's "social market economy" a success. - Amelia Earhart (1897-1937), American aviation pioneer.
Esch, Esche Place name: Either "ash tree" or from MHG esch (cornfield, grainfield). Also a person from a town named Esch/Esche. Also see Eschemann below.
Eschemann Occupational name: From MHG esch (cornfield, grainfield), the owner of a field for farming.
Eschenbach Place name: From a town named Eschenbach, found in many parts of German-speaking Europe. FAMOUS: See Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach above.
Espe Place name: From a town named Espe or Espa; or from a place with aspen trees (Espe).
Esselmann Place name: From a town named Essel. (Not to be confused with Esel, a donkey!)
Essich, Essig, Eßig, Essiger Occupational name: From the Germanic word Essig (vinegar): A person who made or sold vinegar. Essiger can also be a place name, a person from a town named Essig.
Ester, Esterer, Estermann Place name: From a town named Ester or with Ester in its name (Esterbach, Esterholz, etc.); originating from a place with fenced fields or meadows (MHG erster).
SOURCES: Kohlheim, Volker and Rosa (Eds.), Familiennamen: Herkunft und Bedeutung, F.A. Brockhaus (Duden), 2005; Naumann, Horst (Ed.), Das große Buch der Familiennamen: Alter, Herkunft, Bedeutung, Bassermann, 2007; Udolph, Jürgen and Fitzek, Sebastian, Professor Udolphs Buch der Namen: Woher sie kommen, was sie bedeuten, Goldmann, 2007.

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