German Names

Some German names of families that you may already know are also German words for common things, which means you may already know some common German words and how to pronounce them.

Mark Twain humorously described German names in The Awful German Language, from his book A Tramp Abroad [1880]:

“German names almost always do mean something, and this helps to deceive the student. I translated a passage one day, which said that ‘the infuriated tigress broke loose and utterly ate up the unfortunate fir forest’ (Tannenwald). When I was girding up my loins to doubt this, I found out that Tannenwald in this instance was a man's name.”

Some German-American family names are pronounced the same way in German.

If you live in North America you are probably familiar with some of the following German-American family names. These names are pronounced in Germany like in America, more or less.

These German-American family names are all also names for common things in Germany, so you already know how to pronounce these words in German.



Spellings Related Somewhat

Some German words are spelled somewhat like the English words for their meanings, like Braun means brown.


brown -- Braun -- [‘Braun’]

bush -- Busch -- [‘Busch’]

baker -- Becker -- [‘Becker’]

brewer -- Brauer -- [‘Brauer’]

beard -- Bart -- [‘Bart’]

angel -- Engel -- [‘Engel’]

fist -- Faust -- [‘Faust’]

finch -- Fink -- [‘Fink’]

fisherman -- Fisher -- [‘Fisher’]

fisherman -- Fischer -- [‘Fischer’]

fiddler -- Fiedler -- [‘Fiedler’]

celler -- Keller -- [‘Keller’]

kernel -- Kern -- [‘Kern’]

kettle -- Kessel -- [‘Kessel’]

long -- Lang -- [‘Lang’]

model -- Modell -- [‘Modell’]

needle -- Nadel -- [‘Nadel’]

nail -- Nagel -- [‘Nagel’]

pair -- Paar -- [‘Paar’]

summer -- Sommer -- [‘Sommer’]

ship -- Schiff -- [‘Schiff’]

straw -- Stroh -- [‘Stroh’]

calf -- Kalb -- [‘Kalb’]

thorn -- Dorn -- [‘Dorn’]

heaven -- Himmel -- [‘Himmel’]

cabbage [in cole slaw] -- Kohl -- [‘Kohl’]

young -- Jung -- [‘Jung’ = “yung”]


Other Spellings Not Related

Unlike some German family names that are spelled somewhat like English words, other German family names are unrelated to the English words for their meanings, like Bauer means farmer.


farmer -- Bauer -- [‘Bauer’]

tree -- Baum -- [‘Baum’]

fork -- Gabel -- [‘Gabel’]

rooster -- Hahn -- [‘Hahn’]

deer -- Hirsch -- [‘Hirsch’]

waiter -- Kellner -- [‘Kellner’]

pine -- Kiefer -- [‘Kiefer’]

small -- Klein -- [‘Klein’]

clever -- Klug -- [‘Klug’]

wall -- Mauer -- [‘Mauer’]

brass -- Messing -- [‘Messing’]

table -- Tisch -- [‘Tish’]


Return to Easiest German Introduction.


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