Some Early Middle High German Bynames
with Emphasis on Names from the Bavarian Dialect Area

Brian M. Scott

© 2004 by Brian M. Scott; all rights reserved.


The basis for this list is Chapter XIX, Übernamen, of Adolf Socin's Mittelhochdeutsches Namenbuch, which treats bynames of nickname type. From that collection I began by discarding all citations dated after 1240 except those referring to someone also named in a citation dated 1240 or earlier. (Undoubtedly some of the undated citations are actually early enough to have been included, but since I cannot be sure which, I have preferred to exclude all of them.)

I also deleted citations tagged by Socin with a question mark. For some bynames this left only fully Latinized citations; in those cases I have added in parentheses one or two of the earliest German citations, if any. I also added any citations of these names dated 1240 or earlier in Josef Karlmann Brechenmacher's Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Deutschen Familiennamen; each of these is followed in parentheses by the headword under which it is found in Brechenmacher. Finally, I added some early southeastern citations found on page 268 of Socin.

I have tried to be sure that all citations are from the High German dialects. The majority are from the Upper German dialect areas, Alemannic in the southwest and Bavarian in the southeast, though some are Middle German. I have not tried to localize every citation, but those that I know to be from the Bavarian dialect region are marked ‘(*)’.

Headwords entirely in upper-case are normalized Middle High German (MHG) forms. A few of these are preceded by an asterisk; this indicates that I did not find the actual word in any available MHG references but that I am confident that it is properly constructed from attested MHG elements. If I was not certain of the normalized MHG form, I used one of the cited forms as headword, capitalizing only the first letter. Note that normalized MHG includes some editorial diacritical marks: long vowels are indicated by a circumflex, and a variety of <e> with a particular historical origin is indicated with a diaresis.

Abbreviations and Special Notations

adj.: adjective
dim.: diminutive
Lat: Latin
MHG: Middle High German
MLat: Medieval Latin
n.d.: no date
NHG: New High German
OHG: Old High German
[ ]: Square brackets around a symbol indicate that it appears directly above the preceding letter in the original.

The Bynames

Identifiable Bynames

ALT: 'old', usually for the elder of two; Lat senex ‘old, aged’.

AMOR, AMÛR: ‘god of love; love’.

ANGEST: ‘affliction, distress, trouble; worry, anxiety, fear’; can also signify the condition in which one sees oneself surrounded by difficulty and danger, even if one calmly accepts it or vigorously combats it. Lat anceps ‘doubtful, extremely hazardous’; NHG Angst.

BART: ‘a beard’, Lat barba; all except the last actually represent mit dem Bart ‘with the beard’.

BELLÎZ, BELLIZ, BELLEZ: ‘pelt, fur, hide, skin’; NHG Pelz.

BIBER: ‘a beaver’.

BLÂTERE: ‘pocks, pustules’; NHG Blatter.

BLIKIZE, BLICZE: ‘lightning’; NHG Blitz.

BLINT: ‘blind’, Lat cæcus; NHG blind.

BLUOME: ‘a flower’, Lat flos; NHG Blume.

Bluscichof: The second element is MHG kopf, koph ‘a head’; I have not identified the first element, but according to Socin the sense of the byname is ‘obstinacy, stubbornness, mulishness; a mule’.

BOESE: ‘bad, evil, wicked’, originally ‘grim, fierce, hostile’; Lat malus ‘bad, evil, wicked’; NHG bös.

Bonezza: From MHG bône ‘a bean’ and ëzzen ‘to eat’, ‘bean-eater’ (literally ‘bean-eat’).

*BRÔTELÎN: Dim. of brôt ‘bread’; NHG Brötchen, with a different dim. suffix.

Bulstrich: Possibly analogous to MHG bûlslac ‘a blow that causes a swelling’, from slac ‘a blow’ and bûl, related to biule ‘a swelling’; if so, the second element is strîch ‘a stroke, a blow’. The second element could also be strich ‘a line’, in which case the byname might refer to a weal of some sort.

BUOLE: ‘a close relative; a lover’; buollîn is a diminutive. NHG Buhle ‘paramour, lover’, now obsolete except in literary usage.

Chastelose: Perhaps from MHG kaste ‘a chest, a container’ and -lôs ‘-less’; for a poor man (or, ironically, a wealthy man)?

Chegere: Possibly from MHG kegen 'to drag, to haul', 'a hauler'.

DICKE, DIC: ‘large, thick, fat’, MLat grossus; NHG dick.

*DRÜZZELSTÔZ: From MHG drüzzel ‘throat, gullet; snout (of an animal)’ and stôz ‘a stab, a blow’; NHG Drossel, stoß.

ENINKEL: ‘grandchild, grandson’; NHG Enkel.

ESEL: ‘a donkey, an ass’, Lat asinus.

Eselin: MHG eselîn ‘a she-ass’ or esellîn ‘a small ass’; perhaps the latter is more likely here.

Frazali: From a dim. of MHG vrâz ‘a glutton’.

GEIZBART: ‘goat-beard’.

*GEIZRIBE: From MHG geiz ‘a goat’ and ribe, ribbe, rippe ‘a rib’; however, the compound is apparently another name for the yarrow or millefolium, like NHG Schafrippe ‘sheep-rib’.

GELÜCKE: ‘fortune, fate; chance; favorable outcome’, Lat felicitas ‘luck, piece of luck; felicity, happiness’. However, gelücke is attested only from the 12th century, and it is possible that Felicitas represents some other word. NHG Glück.

GENUFTING: ‘(male) relative, cousin, nephew’.

GËRSTBRÎ: ‘barley porridge’; NHG Gerstenbrei.

GÎR: ‘a vulture’, popularly used of any large bird of prey; NHG Geier.

GLOCKELÎN, GLÖCKELÎN: ‘a small bell’, dim. of glocke, glogge ‘a bell’; NHG Glöckchen, with a different dim. suffix.

GRÔZ: ‘big, large’, Lat magnus, but the primary connotation of the byname is ‘tall’; NHG groß.

GUOT: ‘good’, as a byname in the sense ‘friendly, pleasant, mild-mannered’; NHG gut.

GUOTMAN: ‘a good man, an honest man’, Lat bonus homo ‘good person’; also used of the class of free men serving under arms from whom the knightly class recruited.

Hadrarius: Apparently a Latinization of MHG *haderære, a nomina agentis from the verb hadern ‘to argue, to quarrel, to squabble; to tease (between lovers)’. NHG Haderer ‘grumbler’.

HAN, HANE: ‘a rooster’, Lat gallus; NHG Hahn.

Havenblast: The first element appears to be MHG haven ‘earthenware container, pot’; the second could be blâst ‘a snort, a blowing; flatulence’.

HELBELINC: ‘1/2 Pfennig’, MLat obolus ‘halfpenny’; perhaps also for one who is not taken seriously.

HÊRRE, HËRRE: ‘master, lord’; sometimes ironic, and sometimes for a member of the local authority. NHG Herr.

HERZOGE: ‘leader of the army; a duke’, Lat dux, usually for one who was in charge of some community function (e.g., the dux annonä was responsible for receipt of the grain gathered as tax); occasionally for a role in a play. NHG Herzog.

HOLZAPFEL: ‘a crabapple’.

HUNT: ‘a dog, a hunting dog’, Lat canis ‘a dog’; NHG Hund.

HUON: a hen’, dim. huonlîn; Lat pullus ‘a chicken’. NHG Huhn.

JUNC: ‘young’, originally for the junior of two, or MHG junge ‘a youth, a young man’; Lat juvenis ‘young; a young man’. NHG jung, Junge.

KABÜTZE: ‘a hood, a cowl’; NHG Kapuze.

*KÆSEBIZZE: From MHG kæse ‘cheese’ and bizze ‘closing of the mouth to bite; the piece bitten off’ or possibly bîz ‘act of biting’.

KALP: ‘a calf’; NHG Kalb.

KIENAST: ‘a pine-branch’.

KINT: ‘a child’, Lat puer ‘a boy, a lad’; NHG Kind.

*KLINGELVUOZ: ‘clink-foot’, from the practice of wearing small bells on the turned-up toes of one's shoes; the Latinization sonipes is from sonare ‘to sound, to ring’, sonus ‘a sound, a noise’, or the like, and pes ‘a foot’. Modern surnames based on this idea include Klinke(r)fuß and Klingelfuß. This suggests that there were two slightly different underlying MHG forms, and Sonipes may represent the other one.

KLOBELOUCH, KNOBELOUCH: ‘garlic’; NHG Knoblauch.

KÔLHUPFER: ‘a grasshopper’, OHG côlhopfo, literally ‘cabbage-hopper’.

KRAPFE: ‘a hook, a clamp’, OHG chrapho, or an identical word meaning ‘a kind of deep-fried cake, a doughnut’.

KREMPEL: ‘a claw, a curved prong’.

KRÖUWEL: ‘a fork with hook-shaped tines; a hook for grabbing or dragging’.

KUPFERHELBELINC: From MHG kupfer ‘copper’ and helbelinc ‘1/2 Pfennig’.

KURZ: ‘short’.

Landœse: From MHG lant ‘land, earth, region’ and oesen, ôsen ‘to make empty, to exhaust’; literally something like ‘land-waste’, and the sense is ‘one who

ravages or lays waste the land’.

LANC: ‘long’, Lat longus ‘long’, i.e., ‘tall’; NHG lang.

Leckelere: Apparently related to MHG lëcker ‘a sponger, a freeloader; a glutton; a clown, a buffoon’.

LILJE: ‘a lily’; NHG Lilie.

MARSCHALC: ‘a farrier, a groom’, later a high official; NHG Marschall.

MÂZE: ‘measure, moderation, appropriateness, adequacy’, for a person who behaves in a measured, moderate fashion.

MËLDE: ‘betrayal; slander, calumny; boasting; rumor, general gossip, both good and bad’.

MERZE, MERZ: ‘(the month of) March’, Lat Martius, MLat also Marcius; NHG März.

MORSAERE, MORSER: ‘a mortar’; NHG Mörser.

MÛL, MÛLE: ‘a mouth’; NHG Maul.

MÜNECH, MÜNICH, MÜNCH, MUNCH: ‘a monk’, MLat monachus; often a nickname rather than a literal description. NHG Mönch.

NÂDEL, NÂDELE: ‘a needle’; Nadilinc may be an error for Nadelin, representing MHG nâdelîn, a dim. of nâdel. NHG Nadel.

NÔTHAFT: ‘needy, living in poverty; oppressed’.

*NÔTÎSEN: From MHG nôt ‘hardship, trouble; need; pressing reason’ and îsen ‘iron’; a byname for a smith, but the sense is not clear to me.

*OVENLÎN: Dim. of MHG oven ‘an oven, a kiln, a furnace’, NHG Ofen.

PHAFFE: From OHG phaffo ‘a cleric, a priest’; NHG Pfaffe (now pejorative).

PRINZE: ‘prince’; NHG Prinz.

Rebil: Perhaps MHG rebell ‘rebellious’, but perhaps a dim. of the forename Raban, Rab or of MHG rabe ‘a raven’.

RÊCHBOC: ‘a roebuck’; NHG Rehbock.

RÎCHE, RÎCH, RICH: ‘rich, wealthy’, originally ‘powerful, mighty, noble’; Lat dives ‘rich’. NHG reich.

RISE: ‘a giant’; NHG Riese.

RÔT: ‘red’, Lat rufus ‘red; red-haired’; NHG rot.

ROUBÆRE, RÖUBÆRE, RÖUBER: ‘a robber’; NHG Räuber.

Ruber: Perhaps Lat ruber ‘red’, representing MHG rôt, but perhaps a bad spelling of MHG roubære ‘a robber’ (see above for both).

RÛCH, RÛHE: ‘hairy, shaggy’, Lat hirsutus; NHG rauh ‘rough’.

SATEL: ‘a saddle’, MLat sella; NHG Sattel.

Scaphili: Probably MHG schæfelîn, a dim. of schâf ‘a sheep’, but perhaps a dim. of scha(p)f ‘container for fluids, a barrel, a tub’.

SCHADE: ‘one who harms, an opponent, an adversay’.

SCHËCKE: ‘a striped or quilted coat’; also an adj., ‘striped, spotted’.

SCHIFFELÎN, SCHËFFELÎN: Dim. of schif, schëf ‘a ship’; NHG Schiffchen, with a different dim. suffix.

SCHIRBEN: ‘a fragment of broken crockery’.

*SCREIVOGEL: From MHG schrei ‘a cry, a shriek’ and vogel ‘a bird’.

*SCHÜZZELWANST: ‘bowl-belly’, from MHG schüzzel ‘a bowl’ and wanst ‘belly, paunch’.

Seligkint: From MHG sælec ‘fortunate, good-natured’ and kint ‘a child’; NHG selig, Kind.

  • Heinricus Seligkint 1189 (*)

    Sellose: Probably MHG sêlelôs ‘without a soul, lifeless’, attested as sellos, but possibly ‘deserted, abandoned’, from selle ‘a companion, a comrade’ and -lôs ‘-less’.

    SPANSEIL: ‘a tether, a hobble for horses’; NHG Spannseil.

    SPORLÎN: ‘larkspur’, but also simply a dim. of MHG spor ‘a spur’, used for the son of a man with the byname spor.

    Steinmutte: The first element is MHG stein ‘a stone’; the second seems to be mütte, mutte, müt, mut ‘a measure of capacity roughly analogous to a bushel’. The sense as a nickname is not clear.

    STÖR, STÖRE, STÜR, STÜRE: ‘a sturgeon’; NHG Stör.

    STROBEL: ‘full of underbrush; unkempt, shaggy’, referring to hair.

    STRÛCHÆRE: ‘one who stumbles or trips’.

    Stullin: Perhaps a dim. of MHG stolle ‘a support, a stand, a post, a foot’ or of stuole ‘a stool, a bench’.

    STURMÆRE, STÜRMÆRE: ‘a fighter’.

    *SUNNENKALP: literally ‘sun-calf’, this is a name for the ladybird, which was supposed to bring good luck; from MHG sunne ‘sun’ and kalp ‘a calf’. NHG Sonnenkalb.

    *SÛRMAN: ‘a sour man, a bitter man’, from MHG sûr ‘sour, dour, bitter, grim, fierce’ and man ‘a person, a man’.

    SWARZ: ‘black, dark-colored’, Lat niger ‘black’; NHG schwarz.

    TIUVELÎN: Dim. of MHG tiuvel ‘devil’, Lat diabolus; the word is also an adjective meaning ‘fiendish, devilish, stemming from the devil’.

    TORSE: ‘cabbage-stalk’, for a skinny, gaunt person.

    TÔT: ‘dead; death’', Lat mors ‘death’; NHG tot, Tod.

    TRÔST: ‘help, assistance’; as a byname, ‘helper, comforter; guarantor’; NHG Trost.

    UNGESMAC: ‘stinking; disgusting, unpalatable’.

    VLÔCH, VLÔ: ‘a flea’, OHG flôh, Lat pulex: NHG Floh.

    VOCHENZE: ‘bread baked at one’s own hearth’; the vochezer did not bake bread to sell, but was permitted only to use grain brought to him by the customer.

    *VOLARC: From MHG vol ‘full’ and arc ‘treasure chamber’.

    VRÂZ: ‘a glutton; feasting, gluttony’.

    VRIUNT: ‘a friend’, OHG friunt; NHG Freund.

    VUHS: ‘a fox’, Lat vulpes; NHG Fuchs.

    VÜHSELÎN: Dim. of vuhs ‘a fox’.

    VÜRSTE: ‘the first, the best, the highest; a ruler; a person of the highest rank after the king’, OHG furisto; NHG Fürst.

    WANDELBÆRE: ‘not as it should be, defective; fickle’.

    WILDE, WILT: ‘wild, fierce’; NHG wild.

    Wirsinc: Probably a derivative in -ing of MHG wirs ‘worse’, wirsen ‘to make worse, to damage’, thus, ‘one who is worse’.

    WÎS, WÎSE: ‘sensible, clever, educated, wise’, Lat sapiens; NHG weis.

    Wisebegere: ‘white Bavarian’, from MHG wîz ‘white’, Lat albus, and a variant of Beier ‘a Bavarian’.

    WÎZ: ‘white, bright’, Lat albus ‘white’; NHG weiß.

    *WÎZSILBERLÎN: From MHG wîz ‘white, bright’, silber ‘silver’, and the dim. suffix -lîn.

    Wutan: Apparently MHG Wuotan ‘Woden’.

    ZWIBOLLE, ZIBOLLE: ‘an onion’; NHG Zwiebel.

    ZAGEL: ‘a tail’, metaphorically also ‘penis’, here with a dim. suffix; can also refer to a piece of land that sticks into another.

    Zophilare: Perhaps ‘one who does the zopfen’, a hopping dance step; some connection with zopf, zoph ‘a pigtail, a plait, a braid’ is also imaginable.

    Latin Only With No Clear MHG Basis

    Falsus: ‘false, untrue’.

    Parvus: ‘small; short; insignificant’.

    Testa: ‘tile; jug, crock; potsherd; fragment; head’, as a byname probably referring to the head.