4 common types german surnames

German-Americans are the largest single ethnic group in the U.S. If you are one of 46 million Americans with German ancestry, your surname could yield some interesting clues to your family history.

The the most common form of German family name is occupational. It can often be identified by its ending: -er, -hauer, -macher, or man/-mann.

Occupational German Surnames

Often a person was distinguished by a reference to his or her father. This is referred to as “patronymic.”


Many German surnames are descriptive names based on a physical characteristic, such as size or hair color.

Descriptive German surnames

Lastly, geographical names derive from where a person lived or came from. They may stem from the name of a city or village or the location of someone’s home.
Geographical German surnames

What does your last name mean? Find out.