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German Name Generator

Struggling with a novel, play or script? Need to name a German character but have no idea how to make sure you're getting it right? Solve your problem with The German Name Generator!

About German Names

Unlike the Scandinavian countries, Germany has utilised a system of personal given names (called 'vorname', or plural 'vornamen') followed by hereditary surnames since the late Middle Ages. Thanks to this, while there are a few echoes of the patronymic system of handing down the father's surname, none of these are counted as 'official' names. German children can have multiple given names, and one of these will be singled out officially as the 'call name' (or 'Rufname') that the child will generally be known as, although this does not always have to be the first of the names.

There are certain rules in naming German children that mean the names have to be approved by a local civil registry office (known as the Standestamt) – these rules include making sure that the name specifically indicates the gender of the child, and doesn't open the child up to potential mockery or embarrassment. For several centuries, a fashion for up to six or more first names spread through German nobility and was partly copied by some members of the middle class, but this mostly subsided after the end of the nineteenth century, although some members of the German nobility still sport highly elaborate names (such as Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, whose full name is Ernst August Albert Paul Otto Rupprecht Oskar Berthold Friedrich-Ferdinand Christian-Ludwig).

German surnames tend to divide up into four separate categories. Firstly, there are the 'given name' surnames, where a given name has been turned into the family name (such as Burkhard, Benz, or Fritz). Secondly, there are job designation names, which are also the most common across Germany, and include Schulze (constable), Zimmerman (carpenter), Bauer (farmer) and Schmidt (smith). Thirdly, we have bodily attribute names, which include examples like Krause (curly), Klein (small) or Schwartzkopf (black head). Finally, there are the geographical names, which are taken from the name of a city or a village, and will often have a suffix '–er' added to them that makes their origin clearer (with examples including Bayer (from Bavaria, which is 'Bayern' in German), Kissenger (from Kissingen) and Schwarzenegger (from Schwarzenegg)).

(There is also a special variant of the geographical names that are taken from a building or a specific landmark – such as Springborn (spring or well), or Busch (bush). These were used before street names and numbers were common, and could sometimes be combined with a profession name (such as Rosenbauer, meaning a rose-farmer from a farmstead called 'The Rose').

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