Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

German Names

As in Britain, Biblical names are popular, and versions of classical names also exist. Roman influence was less strong, with many of the old Germanic names being retained. In ancient times these were often compound names made up of two different elements which made sense together, but as the custom of naming a child with elements taken from both parents became common, the meanings were no longer so important. Prior to the adoption of inherited surnames, a family could indicate their relationship by using the same first element for all the children.

Under Nazi rule, a list of names was compiled and it was illegal to use any other names. Nicknames were not allowed and if a child was given two first names the parents had to record which was going to be for daily use.

Many Germanic names have now become common in other countries but it was only in recent years that foreign names began to be popular in Germany. French name forms are widely used in the western part of the country and Slavonic influence is apparent in the eastern regions with names such as Wenzel and Stenzel and diminutives like Anja, Anke and Annuschke being common. In southern Germany and Austria, pet names ending in -l and -i are very common, hence Gretel (Grete) and Poldi (Leopold), and the influence of the Catholic church has led to many saints' names being retained.

Naming Patterns

In the C18th, a child was often given two baptismal names, the first one being that of a saint or having religious connotations. This might be the same for each child in the family. It was the second, secular name by which the person was known. This custom was also followed by German communities in America. It was also common to name children according to a pattern which honoured specific relatives and some families adhered strictly to this, although some only went as far as the grandparents. If a name was duplicated, the next in the pattern was used instead.

Child Pattern 1 Pattern 2 Pattern 3
Eldest son paternal grandfather same as 1 for boys paternal grandfather
Second son maternal grandfather   maternal grandfather
Third son father   father's eldest brother
Fourth son paternal grandfather's father   father
Fifth son maternal grandfather's father    
Sixth son paternal grandmother's father    
Seventh son maternal grandmother's father    
Eldest daughter maternal grandmother paternal grandmother paternal grandmother
Second daughter paternal grandmother maternal grandmother maternal grandmother
Third daughter mother mother mother's oldest sister
Fourth daughter paternal grandfather's mother maternal grandfather's mother mother
Fifth daughter maternal grandfather's mother paternal grandfather's mother  
Sixth daughter paternal grandmother's mother    
Seventh daughter maternal grandmother's mother    

Top Ten Names of the 1980s

(Leslie Dunkling)

  Boys   Girls
1 Christian 1 Stefanie
2 Michael 2 Christine
3 Daniel 3 Julia
4 Stefan 4 Sabine
5 Andreas 5 Melanie
6 Sebastian 6 Nadine
7 Matthias 7 Kathrin
8 Markus 8 Katherina
9 Alexander 9 Nicole
10 Thomas 10 Anita

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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