American Names · International

German Word Names

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Word-names are very trendy in the U.S., but this category isn’t just limited to the English language. The Social Security Administration‘s extended list of baby names from 2017 is full of words from other tongues! Here are some entries from the German Wörterbuch (dictionary), from the most popular to the rarest.

  • Roman (noun) means “novel,” as in a fictional book or as in “Bildungsroman.” 4253 boys were given this name in 2017; it’s currently the #91st most popular boys’ name in the U.S.
  • Lila (adj.) refers to a lavender, lilac, or mauve shade of purple. 1456 girls were given this name in 2017, giving it a rank of #210.
  • Kaiser (n) means “emperor.” A kaiser is also type of sandwich roll. 224 boys, with a rank of #929.
  • Adler (n) means “eagle.” 194 boys and 31 girls.
  • Keller (n) means “cellar” or “basement.” 123 boys.
  • Bauer (n) means “farmer.” 47 boys.
  • Eben (adjective) means “flat, smooth, even.” It can also be an adverb. As a name, Eben is nickname for Ebenezer.  37 boys.
  • Sommer (season) means “Summer.”  24 girls.
  • Rock (n) means “skirt,” as in the clothing item. 17 boys.
  • Eber (n) means “boar.”  16 boys. Parents could use Eber as a nickname for ancient Eberhard, which means “brave boar.”
  • Reis (n) means “rice.” An inadvertent word-name that probably started as a variant on Rhys / Reese.  16 boys.
  • Edel (adj.) means “noble.” This is closely related to “adal,” which is the ancient Germanic root of names like Adeline and Albert. 15 boys.
  • Klein (adj.) means “short, little, small.” 15 boys.
  • Stark (adj.) means “strong.” 15 boys.
  • Bader (n) means “barber-surgeon.” 14 boys.
  • Juni (month) means “June.” 14 girls.
  • Gift (n) means “poison.” This one could cause issues during international travel, however unintentional. 13 girls.
  • Ehren (verb) means “to honor, respect.” 12 boys. I wonder if some parents use this as a variation on Aaron.
  • Oktober (month) means “October.” 12 girls.
  • Bergen (n) means “recovery, salvage” or can be a verb meaning “to salvage.” Very similar to another word, “Berg,” which means “mountain.”  Bergen is also place name; one of its better-known spots is Bergen County, New Jersey. 10 girls, 7 boys.
  • Schneider (n) means “tailor.” 10 boys were named Schneider in 2017.
  • Alter (n) means “age.” 9 boys.
  • Juli (month) means “July.”  It’s pronounced like “you-lee.” 8 girls.
  • Richter (n) is an occupational word that means “judge.” 8 boys.
  • Edelweiss (n) is a flower that literally means “noble white.” It’s also a famous folk song. 7 girls.
  • Ritter (n) means “knight.”  John Ritter was a famous actor. 7 boys.
  • Eisen (n) means “iron,” making it an elemental baby name. 6 boys.
  • Reise (n) means “vacation,” though in American usage it’s probably a variant of Reese. 6 girls.
  • Riese (n) means “giant,” as in the mythical creature.  This is also probably a variant of Reese. 6 girls.

There are also a few German words that have died out as baby names in the United States:

  • Dick (adj.) means “fat.” Last appeared in 2005.
  • Ernst (adj.) means “serious.” Last appeared in 2016.
  • Prinz (n) means “prince.” Only appeared in 2015.

It’s evident to me that most of these are inadvertent word names, considering the Reese variations and other common surnames. I think it’s also worth noting that – with one or two exceptions – these are not considered baby names in German-speaking countries.

Thoughts? Can you think of any other German words that parents might be naming their children? Let me know!

2 thoughts on “German Word Names

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