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Updated May 4, 2023

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History of German Names 

German names follow the standard Western naming conventions in that they consist of a given name(s) and a surname. Historically, the most popular German first names, or given names, have been biblical or Christian in nature. Many Old German names were inspired by famous Saints such as Johann or Hans for John, or names like James and Anna.

In Germany, it is common to give your child multiple forenames (or Vornamen as they are called in German). Germans typically use a Rufname, which is a name to be used every day. The equivalent of a "nickname" in other parts of the world. 

Germanic names have also influenced naming trends across Europe and much of the world. Many strong German boy names are popular choices for parents. According to the Office for National Statistics 200 most popular baby names for 2021, classic German names like Frederick, Louis, and Albert were all popular choices. For baby girl names, the name "Amelia" which originates in Germany was cited as the most popular baby name for girls in the last decade! 

Naming Rules in Germany 

Germany has much stricter rules for baby names than many other countries. German parents have to have their chosen first name approved by the civil registration office (Standesamt). According to German law, this name must indicate the gender of the child and must not negatively impact the well-being of the child. Surnames or names of products or objects can never be used for a forename.  The Standesamt has the authority to reject the submitted name and tell them to submit another name option. 

What is the Most Popular German First Name?

Popular German names have shifted over the years to reflect trends from different cultures and languages. The most popular boy name in Germany in 2021 was Matteo, and the most popular girl name in Germany was Emilia. This name ranking was determined by name expert Knud Bielefeld who examined data from German birth certificates. 

The 10 Most Common German Girl Names (with English Name Meanings)

  1. Emilia - Italian/Spanish, means to rival or emulate or excel.
  2. Emma - derived from the Germanic word "ermen" meaning whole or universal
  3. Hannah - deriving from the Hebrew name Channah, Hannah means "grace."
  4. Ilina -Greek in origin meaning "light" 
  5. Luisa - An Old German name meaning "warrior maiden" 
  6. Maria - The name Maria is of Latin origin and means "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved".
  7. Marie - Deriving from French/Hebrew meaning "bitter" 
  8. Mia - Origin Italian/Scandanavian. Mia means "Ocean Goddess" or "Queen"; it can also mean "guardian of justice
  9. Sophia - Sophia has Greek origins meaning wisdom, and is a variant of Sophie
  10. Sophie - The name Sophie is of French, Greek origin and means "wisdom."

The 10 Most Popular German Boy Names (with English Name Meanings) 

  1. Matteo - The name Matteo is of Italian and Hebrew origin and means "God's gift" 
  2. Ben - Ben is a name with Hebrew origins meaning "son of my right hand" 
  3. Noah - A Hebrew name for the biblical figure meaning "comfort" or "wanderer" 
  4. Felix - Felix is a name of Latin origin that means "happiness" 
  5. Elias - The name Elias is of Hebrew origin and means "the Lord is God"
  6. Henry/Henri - Henry is an old german personal name meaning "house ruler" 
  7. Finn - The name Finn is of Irish origin that means "fair or white. It is also an Old Norse term for "thunder" 
  8. Leon - The name Leon is of Greek origin and means "lion." 
  9. Jonas - Jonas is a Hebrew name meaning "Dove" 
  10. Luis / Louis -The name Luis is of German origin and means "famed warrior."

Uncommon and Unique German Names (& Meanings) 

Many traditional German names have fallen out of fashion in recent decades. However, some family names are making a comeback as parents search for unique and beautiful names to give their babies.  Some masculine German name options include:

  1. Friedrich - Germanic name meaning "peaceful ruler", derived from frid "peace" and ric "ruler, mighty". 
  2. Fritz - A short form of the German Frederick, which is derived from the Old High German Fridurih (ruler of peace) 
  3. Karl - A Germanic variant of the male given name Charles/Carl meaning free man
  4. Gunther -An Old German name meaning war or battle.
  5. Wolfgang - from the Old German language, meaning wolf and 'gang' meaning 'path'.

Unique German first names for girls include: 

  1. Anja - Name of German, Russian origin meaning "grace"
  2. Gisela - Dervives from the Old High German word gīsal meaning "pledge"
  3.  Ingrid - A name with Scandanavian and German origins. Means "Hero's daughter," deriving from Ing, the god of fertility
  4. Ilse - Ilse is a Hebrew girl's name meaning "oath of God".
  5. Ursula -Derived from a diminutive of the Latin ursa, which means "bear"

Most Popular German First Names on FamilyEducation: Sebastian, Henry, Emma, Rhee

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