Thursday, May 08, 2014


For a period of time Germans often gave their children the same first names as it was thought that the devil could only harm them if their names were known; thus the middle name was the one that was most often used for identification. For example, Jacob Pieter would be Pieter... [I've lost the reference.]

German Names - Vornamen

German Names
About German names - find here the unique and original description of German names - Vornamen, their origin and history. List of the most fashionable modern German names...

The German word Vorname can be literally translated into English as pre-name. This is a name that German parents give to a newborn child. Among Catholics it often happens that a child has more than one Vorname. However, in informal daily communication people usually call a person by just one name, and this is a Rufname. This is a person's main name, but it often takes the 2d or the 3d place in official papers, as middle names are considered to be more important. 

The name choice may be determined by various reasons. Parents choose the Rufname simply because they like it. Some people have the names of saints as their additional names. There is a popular belief that naming children after saints is a way to secure their patronage. Thus, this practice is not uncommon in religious Catholic families. Some not so religious parents name their children after the prosperous relatives in order to win their favor, often hoping that they might offer some financial aid to the child in the future. However some parents are very liberal, they let the child choose Rufname from several given names.

There are several ways of writing German names. One can specify only the Rufname and the Nachname. The second name may be written in full form or, in American fashion, as a middle initial. A few combinations of male first and second names are traditionally written with a hyphen, e.g. Hans-Joseph.

At least one of these has to be gender specific, while others may be neutral. But in Germany androgynous names are rare.
The fundamental rule is that male names cannot be used for females and otherwise. The only exception to this rule is "Maria". It can be used as a male second name, e.g. Erich Maria Remark.

Abbreviated names are not used officially. So even if Frederick is known among friends as Fred, he will still sign official documents with his full name Frederick.

There are certain restrictive naming regulations in Germany. First of all, a name must be known as a human name. It means that pet names, common nouns, place-names and newly invented names are not allowed. Secondly, it must not be offensive and humiliating so that it does not inflict problems on the bearer in the future. In some cases an unusual name may be allowed provided that the Rufname is a common name.

The Standesbeamter (this is the German word for registrar) has the right to review name choices. A Standesbeamter can bar parents from giving a name if he feels it is unacceptable. For unusual names he might ask for precedent cases. Foreign embassies often have to confirm that this or that name is acceptable. They do that at the instance of immigrants coming from the countries those embassies represent. Parents can appeal the Standesbeamter's decision in court. Such lawsuits, as well as funny names that parents sometimes bestow on their children, are often ridiculed by journalists in the newspapers.
Here are some examples of first names that have been rejected: Christus, Jesus (has been allowed with Spanish surnames), Princess, Prince, Lord, Huckleberry, Cheyenne, Berlin, Stone, Möwe (seagull), Tiger, Moon Unit, AJ, Amsterdam, B'Elanna, Filou, Gift (poison), Frühling (spring - the season), Baby, Golddust, Nightingale, Shiatsu, Tsunami, Villa, Cézanne, Hoffmann, McCoy, Nilsson, Nilson, O'Neill, Picasso, Svensson, Trenk, Wiesengrund. The maximum number of first names is five. Two of them can be hyphenated, however the parts of such names cannot be used separately.


The Vorname (in English forename) is usually given to a child by the parents shortly after birth. It is common to give a child several Vornamen (forenames), one of them intended for everyday use and known as the Rufname ("appellation name"). This Rufname is often underlined on official documents, as it is sometimes the second or third name in the sequence of given names on official record, even though it is the given name in daily use from childhood.[1] For example, in the resume submitted by mathematician Emmy Noether to Erlangen University in 1907,[2]
Ich, Amalie Emmy Noether, bayerischer Staatsangehörigkeit und israelitischer Konfession, bin geboren zu Erlangen am 23. März 1882 ...
"I, Amalie Emmy Noether, of Bavarian nationality and of Israelite confession, born in Erlangen on 23 March 1882 ..."
the underlining of Emmy communicates that this is the Rufname, even though it is the second of two official given names.
In Germany, the chosen name must be approved by the local Standesamt (civil registry office). The name must indicate the gender of the child and not negatively affect the well being of the child. Last names or the names of objects and products are not acceptable. For example, "Matti" was rejected for a boy's name because it did not indicate gender (however, these types of names are permissible if combined with a second name which clarifies the gender, for example: "Matti Oliver" or "Matti Julia").[3][4]
[Perhaps I should order this]:

GGD Newsletter #9 January 1997
Rufnamen - Or a Rose by any other Name" by Elaine D. Schwar by permission of The Journal of the Berks County (PA) Genealogical Society