Searching for baby names is one of the best parts of expecting a child. Naming your child is a very important and fun process, as it’s the very first gift you will give to your baby. Parents may look for a name with special meanings, to honor a loved one, because of the meaning of the name itself, or because a name is either well-known or obscure and unique.
Another strategy for choosing a baby moniker is looking for names within a certain culture or heritage. That being said, have you mulled over any German baby names?
German words may be known for twisting the tongue and being hard on the ear for some people. However, there are many beautiful baby names used in one of those other countries across the pond. Remember those cute singing kids from “The Sound of Music”? Who knew there was such a veritable bevy of inspiration from the country with such words as flugzeug and kugelschreiber? (That’s airplane and pen, by the way!) So, before you get distracted by joyfully belting out “Do Re Mi” – as we know you will be - here are some beautiful German names to consider for your little bundle of joy.
Origin: German hybrid
Meaning: Anna (Hebrew: “Grace”) and Elise (French: “God is my Oath”)
Put Anna and Elise together, and what do you get? A beautiful combination: Analiese. The name is similar to the more English-looking Annalisa, and also can be spelled Analisa, Anelise, Annaliese, Analise, Anneliese or Annelise.
For those who like traditional names, but with a unique European flair, Analiese may be a great name for your little baby girl.
Meaning: From the name Theodoric, “Ruler of the People”
Did you know Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a religious writer and anti-Nazi resistance worker executed for his efforts in World War Two? Now you do.
It was also the name of Dietrich of Ringelheim, a Saxon count and father of St. Mathildathe in the 9th century; Dietrich von Hildebrand, a German Roman-Catholic philosopher who was called "the 20th Century Doctor of the Church” by Pope Pius XII; and it was the last name of Marlene Dietrich, a German-American actress in the Golden Age of Hollywood, so there’s that.
You would have so many great stories to tell about other Dietrichs!
This name comes with various nicknames or variations as well: Deke, Derek, Dieter, or Dirk, to name a few. The name Dietrich - or any of these alternates - would be wonderful for inspiring a strong, self-assured little guy.
Pronounced: (EH-rik-uh) / (EH-rik)
Origin: German from Old Norse
Meaning: “Eternal Ruler”
Background time: Erik and Erika derived from the Old Norse name Eiríkr. As that’s a bit of a mouthful, we like Erik and Erika. There is even a name day for people with this moniker; in Norway, Sweden and Finland, May 18th commemorates the death of Saint Eric of Sweden. Your little one could have his or her very own day!
Not only are these well-known names in Germany, but they are also seen throughout the rest of Europe. For the kleiner gentlemen, the name Erik has been employed by countless Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian royals. Your little guy would be in special company!
And as for your little fräulein: Erika Slezak played Viki Davidson on One Life to Live, Erika Christensen is an actress, and Erika Harold was Miss America 2003, to name a few well-known Erikas.
Will people constantly spell the name with a “c”, as in Eric and Erica? Probably. But at least your child will have a name that is out of the ordinary.
Meaning: “Peaceful Ruler”
Here we have the first of our “Sound of Music” names – the gentle yet strong older brother. We can just imagine Friedrich – the role model, a source of wisdom, the leader. Giving your son the name Friedrich is giving him the potential to shine and be an influence for good.
Friedrich or Frederick was the name of many kings of Germany. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was a Revolutionary War Hero who helped George Washington immensely by training the colonists with the knowledge he learned as a Prussian general. If Friedrich is a bit heavy for your everyday use, you can always use the nicknames Fred, Freddy, Fritz, or even Fiete.
Origin: German from Greek
Gretl. When you hear that name, can you even avoid picturing the adorable youngest von Trapp child? Nope, we can’t either. (Although, did you know the youngest daughter's name was actually Martina in real life? It’s okay. We didn’t either.)
In "Hansel and Gretel", one of Grimm's fairy tales, Gretel frees her brother Hansel from the clutches of a witch. Both occurrences evoke a name of beautiful innocence, with a winsome, pure spirit.
Gretl comes from the name Margaret, which is of Greek origin. You could also use Gretal, Gretel, Greta, Grethel, Gretta, Grette, or Meta. Oh, the possibilities! This name definitely should be placed on your short list for your baby girl!
Origin: German/Scandinavian from Hebrew
Meaning: “Gift from God”
Originally, Hans was created as a shortened version of Johannes, or John for the English-speaking world. Nicknames might be Hansel (yes, from the fairy tale) or Hansi.
Fellow holders of this name include Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish storyteller, and Hans Zimmer, composer of the music for “The Lion King,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and many other movies. Knowing those connections, this name should arouse the creative side of your little guy as he grows and learns.
Origin: From the Greek name “Helen”
Meaning: “Bright, Shining Light”
Helena is a daintier version of Helen, used by Helena Bonham Carter, the English actress, and Helena Christensen, the Danish model. Shakespeare also loved the name, using it for female characters in his writing not once but twice, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and All’s Well that Ends Well. Your little one may also enjoy being named after Disney’s latest animated series, Elena of Avalor. Although the name Elena has more of a Spanish or Latin flair, the connection is noticeable.
Helen of Troy was supposedly the most beautiful woman who ever lived, according to Homer’s ancient Greek story The Iliad. Give your daughter a name that inspires beauty on both the inside and the outside.
Pronounced: JAY-kub (or YAH-kawp if you want to sound really German!)
Origin: German from Greek from Hebrew
Meaning: “Heel-grabber” or “Supplanter”
It’s like Jacob, only cooler and more distinct. Instead of using one of the most popular boy names of recent years (read: Jacobs are everywhere), choose a unique variation like Jakob.
Want a short history lesson? The name Jacob/Jakob technically comes from the same origin as the name James – who knew? The Hebrew Jacobus inspired them both, as Iacomus is its Latin variation, where James comes from.
The name can be found in the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau, where Jacob was the second twin, but came into the world grabbing his brother’s heel, eventually being considered greater than his older brother. He went on to become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. We’ll just say the name has great leadership potential.
Origin: German from Middle English
Meaning: “God will Increase” or alternately “Beautiful”
Jolina is a German variation of the English names Jolene or Jane. It originally came from the male name Joseph as it was used in Middle English, which was very similar to German. A cute nickname or similar name is the French-sounding Jolie, meaning “pretty.”
According to Dolly Parton’s song, Jolene is a woman with "flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green.” Now there’s a pretty picture.
Origin: German from Hebrew
Meaning: “Gift from God”
Don’t confuse this name with the middle sister on “The Brady Bunch.” This Jan, a more European form of John, is pronounced with a “y” sound instead of a “j.” This name is very popular world-wide, as the name is also used in Afrikaans, Belarusian, Catalan, Cornish, Czech, Dutch, Polish, and Scandinavian languages. (Yes, this is all similar to Hans mentioned above, but still cool and different.)
Famous Jans include Gothic painter Jan van Eyck, German football player Jan Koller, and American comedian and actor Jan Murray. Your handsome little Jan will be in good company!
Meaning: “Bright” or “Clear” or “Famous”
Sure, you can be Claire or Clara, but why not be a Klara? They all mean “clear,” or “bright” – a beautiful aspiration for a little girl. Clara and Klara were a Top 10 name in the 1880's, a name used by Red Cross founder Clara Barton, who was born Clarissa.
What about with a “K”? Klára Zakopalová is a Czech professional tennis player and Klara Prast is the name of a Marvel Comics heroine (her superpower is the ability to talk with plants).
Klara has been steadily moving up the baby name charts in recent years, but it still unique enough to be special. This name would be perfect for your bright, idealistic, spontaneous sweetheart.
Origin: High German
Meaning: “Counselor” or “Advisor”
We’ve got the other “Sound of Music” brother over here! Also, if you chose Kurt for your little one, Canadian figure-skater Kurt Browning, Nascar driver Kurt Busch, and American football player Kurt Warner would all share his name.
Note: don’t go thinking that Kurt is the same as Curt. Wikipedia tells us, "Kurt is a male name of Germanic origin. Sometimes confused with Curt, which is more aptly related to the Anglo-Norman name Curtis. Kurt, Cord, Curd, and Kort originated as short forms of Germanic Konrad or Conrad, depending on geographical usage.”
Who knew? You should definitely choose Kurt over Curt then.
Origin: German from Hebrew and Greek “Elizabeth”
Meaning: “God is my Oath”
Back-to-back “Sound of Music” names! You probably know Liesl as the eldest von Trapp daughter in the popular play and movie. The name is considered by natives as one of those old-fashioned, traditional names in Germany, however those names are rising in popularity in Europe as they are in the English-speaking parts of the world.
The name Elizabeth is the origin from which Liesl comes – one of many derivations world-wide. Instead of using Elizabeth (beautiful, yet familiar), how about choosing something a bit more uncommon? The German language has so many variations of Liesl you could consider: Elisa, Elise, Elli, Elsa, Else, Ilsa, Ilse, Lies, Liesa, Liese, Liesel, Lili, Lilli, Lisa, or Lisbeth. Whew!
Origin: German from Greek
Meaning: “Man from Lucania”, an ancient district of southern Italy
The name Lukas/Lucas came into fashion in the Middle Ages, although it was more often used as a surname than a first name. The name became Lucas in English-speaking countries – the Authorized Version of the New Testament used Lucas as the preferred spelling for Luke – thus because it seemed more “learned.”
You will most often find Lukas in Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Scandinavian nations, and Lucas in English-speaking countries and the rest of Western Europe.
Saint Luke is revered in the Catholic Church as the patron saint of physicians and surgeons. Just imagine your little Lukas as a doctor. There’s a wonderful picture.
Origin: German from Hebrew/Aramaic “Martha”
Another “Sound of Music” name here! We find it much prettier and younger-sounding than Martha, from which it is derived. An alternate spelling would be Marte, which is just as cute. However, don’t confuse Marta with the similar-looking Swedish name Märta, which comes from the Greek name Margaret (and means "pearl", as stated above under Gretl). These are two totally different names, people!
You may know some famous Martas. Marta Kauffman created the television show “Friends,” and Márta Károlyi is a Romanian-American Olympic gymnastics coach. Your little jewel would be a great addition to this list!
Origin: German from Greek “Matthew”
Meaning: “God’s Gift”
The name Matthew, the root name for Mathias, became popular during the Middle Ages in Europe, but blew into popularity in the English-speaking world in the 1970s. Matthew, however, was listed as the fifteenth most popular name for baby boys in America last year, and Matthias was #555.
If you like Matthew, but you’re looking for something a little less common, give consideration to Matthias. You may choose to spell it with one “T” – as in Mathias, which is more Danish than German, but still nice with a European flair.
The name has been used by many notable men, such as Matthias Grünewald, a German Renaissance painter. AND Matthias was also the name of the Jewish historian Josephus’s father and brother. With a name rooted in such history, your kleiner mann will go far!
Pronounced: MAH-ni-kuh or MOH-ni-kuh
Origin: German from Latin and Greek
Meaning:”Advisor” (Latin) and “Unique” (Greek)
Monika is the German form of the name Monica. It was extremely popular in Germany in the mid-20th century, stemming from the 1953 Ingmar Bergman film "Summer With Monika." Monika is still fairly popular in Eastern European nations like the Czech Republic, Croatia and Poland.
The foundation of the name seems to be unclear. Monica is said to be the name of St. Augustine’s mother, so it may be first from Latin, but Monica was also a name of many citizens and a goddess in ancient Phoenicia. Regardless, with a name like Monika, your baby girl will grow up to be capable, a strong leader and extraordinary!
Origin: German from French “Maurice”
Obviously, you are aware that the name Moritz comes from the famous children’s character. What? You’re never heard of “Max and Moritz”? Max and Moritz (A Story of Seven Boyish Pranks) (the original title: Max und Moritz - Eine Bubengeschichte in sieben Streichen) is a German picture book written by Wilhelm Busch in 1865.
This book was actually the forerunner in style to what we see as the modern comic strip. A piece of German literature history, the many pranks and tricks of the horribly behaved boys are written about all in couplets, and is to this day very well-known by German families, a proud part of the culture in German-speaking countries.
Even in modern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, it is assumed that everyone knows “Max and Moritz,” as it is often referenced in many places. Young German couples have even named their boy twins Max and Moritz to honor the characters. Naming your child Moritz would definitely be a conversation starter – and be assured that choosing the name doesn’t automatically mean you will have a rascally boy!
Although a little mischief is to be expected, right?
Origin: German from Old Greek
Meaning: “Horn” or “Closing”
This is a popular derivation of Cornelia in Germany, but hasn’t spread very far outside of the country yet. Bonus points for uniqueness! You can choose this delicate, feminine sounding name for your beautiful little girl. It is a perfect name for those parents who want a simple, unfussy, yet pretty name for their daughter.
Origin: German from Greek
Meaning: “People of Victory”
In Niklas you are choosing a name that is sturdy-sounding, yet not too musty and old-fashioned to be considered appropriate for our current times. The variations of the name – Nicholas, Nikolas, Nikolaus, etc – have been in use for many centuries, yet aren’t ubiquitous enough that one sees it too often.
Your son would share his name with many international hockey players and performers. And, obviously, the name honors Saint Nicholas – yes, THAT one - a 4th-century bishop of Myra who is regarded as the patron saint of Russia and Greece, and of children, and who began the tradition of leaving small presents in children’s stockings left hanging to dry in front of their fireplaces.
What a name to encourage generosity and friendship!
Origin: Old German
Meaning: “Water Sprite”
It may sound like you invented it yourself, but you’ll find that this name has a story of its own already. If you like charming, girly names, this name of a mermaid-like sprite in German folklore may be for you.
Sir Walter Scott first wrote about these water fairies in 1816, music- and dance-loving beings that can change shape into humans or fish – or even become invisible - with ease. A girl named Nixie would no doubt be a clever and spirited young lady.
Here in America, actor Chad Lowe named his daughter Nixie. However, it is not a commonly-used name. Nixie flew under the radar on the baby names list, never being used by more than five girls out of every million worldwide, until spiking relatively higher since 2007 to twenty per million. That still is not a high percentage, so you could enjoy giving your daughter a distinctive name.
Origin: German from Old English / Norse
Meaning: “Champion Warrior” or “Spear of the Gods”
Naming your child Oskar may be setting him up for a lifetime of success and respectability. Oskar has been a name used for plenty of European royalty over the years. The Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, heir to the throne, recently named her second child Oscar. Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who saved over 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust, inspiring the book and movie “Schindler’s List,” would be another namesake.
The name is an old one, spanning back many, many centuries. Oskar may come from the Old English name Osgar or the Old Norse Ásgeirr, brought to Britain by the Viking invaders.
In Irish legend, Oscar was the name of the poet Oisín's son and the grandson of the hero Fionn mac Cumhail. It’s interesting how the name jumped back over to the European continent, where it is well-used in Western European and Scandinavian countries.
Meaning: “Prosperity” or “Fortunate”
Less than 2,500 people in the entire world have this name, so your child would definitely be one-of-a-kind. It was once fairly common in Great Britain, but hasn’t been popular in America since the end of the 19th century.
Though it truly is a German name, Ottilia may evoke more of a French essence to some people. Ottilie Assing, a German journalist, abolitionist and feminist, had a long involvement with fellow abolitionist Frederic Douglass.
Ottilia is the feminine form of the German boys’ name Otto. Some other forms of the name are Otilia, Ottilie, or Otilie. Tilly or Lottie would be adorable nicknames as well.
Meaning: “Shepherd” or “Steward”
With a name that means “Shepherd,” we can already see the adorable sheep motif of the nursery. The sound of the name at first hearing may seem to categorize it in the “surname-as-first-name” class that has gained popularity over the past few decades.
However, even though many fabulous people have it as a last name, it actually is used and could be used well as a first name. It comes originally from the Middle High German word schafferre, which —in that language— referred to the manager of a household – so it’s one of those occupation names, like Baker, Miller, or Smith. You could also spell the name Schaffur, Schaffer, or Schaefer.
Pronounced: VIK-toor or vik-TOH-ree-yah
Origin: German from Latin
Meaning: “The Victor” or “Victorious”
Whether you’re naming your son after Viktor Krum (the Quidditch star, obviously) or Queen Victoria, your child would be a go-getter with a will to succeed. You can call him Vick or Vik, or call her Vicky or Tori for nicknames.
Victoria was #17 on the names of baby girls born in America last year; the name was just as popular, if not more, in countries like Canada and Iceland. With the resurgence of more traditional names in recent years, choosing this name would be on par, but yet would stay a bit unique if you spelled it Viktoria. Choose Viktor or Viktoria - your child is sure to be a winner!