Most Germans have surnames with roots in common occupations (think: Müller) that date back to the early Middle Ages. Others have last names that can sound quite funny to non-German speakers. No matter the German surname, there’s bound to be an interesting story behind it. So, let’s take a look at a list of the funniest and most common German surnames.
Funny German last names
In the long list of German family names, you’re bound to find a few that bring a smile to your face. Ready? Here’s a selection of the funniest and strangest German surnames.
“Bastian Schweinsteiger” is widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders in German football history. But we wouldn’t blame him if he sometimes wished he had a different last name. That’s because “Schweinsteiger” literally means “pig climber”. A friendlier interpretation of this German family name would be “swine supervisor” as a “Steiger” was a supervisor or manager overseeing miners.
“Wunderlich” can be translated to whimsical or quaint. Surnames like this often originated from characteristics or qualities attributed to an individual. We can only wonder (wundern) how the first bearer of this name earned it.
“Hühnerbein” means “chicken leg” in English. Perhaps the first bearer of this name was a butcher who specialized in poultry, or perhaps the name alluded (unkindly) to a peculiarity in his appearance. Fortunately for modern contemporaries of that name, today we ask for Hähnchenschenkel when we go grocery shopping.
“Blut” translates to “blood”. It is impossible to know with certainty what exactly this surname once referred to. In any case, all associations are rather on the dark side: blood-stained clothes, pools of blood or bloodsuckers come to mind.
“Frauenschläger” literally means “wife beater” or “woman beater”. Imagine introducing yourself to your girl on the first date like this.
Fick is the German word for “f*ck”. Need we say more?
Most common German surnames
If you’re familiar with German last names, you probably already noticed that some are particularly common. Who, for example, doesn’t know a “Herr Schmidt”? The fact that these names are so widespread is due to their origins. Almost all of them go back to an occupation that was very much in demand at least at the time the name was created. “Schmidt” or “Schmitt” for example goes back to the profession of the blacksmith. Here are some more examples of the most common German surnames and their meanings.
Another common field of names centers around the topic of beer: Bier (beer), Biermann (beer man), Bierbaum (beer tree), Biersack (beer sack). This shouldn’t come as a surprise in Germany!
Some of these names may be a bit difficult to pronounce for beginners. No worries. Practice makes perfect and will make you look like a pro when you have to address “Herrn Schulz” or “Frau Schneider”.
Germanic surnames and their meanings
While names such as “Müller” and “Fischer” are pretty obvious in their meaning, things are different for “Meier” and “Schulz”. This is because these names go back to older forms of German and denote occupations that no longer exist in this form today. Thus, “Meier” goes back to the Old High German word “meiger” or “meyer”, which denoted the person who worked for a noble landowner, supervising and running the manor or estate. The name “Schulz” has its origins in the Middle High German word “schulte” or “schultheize”, who held administrative or leadership positions in medieval villages and communities. Germanic surnames can also have their origins and meanings in Old Norse or Old English like “Thor” or “Hunt”.
Funny and common German last names
The most common German surnames go back to an occupation that used to be widespread, some also to special personal characteristics. These cases can be funny, even if the bearers of these names probably do not see it that way. So be nice the next time you meet a “Herr Blöd” (Mr. Dumb).