Baby names in Germany: What are the first name rules? What are the surname rules?


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When choosing baby names in Germany, some German parents get really creative. Fortunately, one might think that the registry offices do not allow everything. Find out what there is to know about approved and forbidden baby names and, surprisingly, allowed baby first names and what you should pay attention to when searching for a name. 

Parents in Germany usually walk a tightrope walk when it comes to naming their children: between the tastes of the two parents, between what is allowed and what is prohibited. In view of the fact that certain very popular baby names are extremely common in some kindergarten groups, school classes and clubs, the desire for a more individual first name for your children. However, in Germany creativity only gets you so far before the Registry office steps in.

Baby Names in Germany: First names in Germany

When it comes to baby names in Germany, the parents of a child get to determine the first name of a child.

baby names in germany

Are there any rules about what a child’s first name should be?

Yes there is. Of course, parents should be able to decide according to their own taste when choosing a name, but the focus is always on the child’s well-being.

For this reason, registry offices (and often rightly) reject first names that have a predictable potential for teasing.

So that the chosen name is not rejected, it is advisable to take into account the recommendations of the Society for German Language (GfdS) when choosing a name.

Problems with the admission of a first name can also arise with rare or largely unknown foreign baby names. In such a case, it can help to be able to provide evidence of the existence of the name (from books or files).

Registry offices also occasionally cause difficulties with gender-neutral baby names that could be used by both boys and girls. Here it is advisable to choose a gender-specific middle name.

There is increased popularity of old German baby names. Parents today are more traditional and conservative in their choice of names than the parents of the decades before, who were more into exotic first names.

It is often the short form of a classic name that is particularly popular – for example, Greta instead of Margareta, or Fritz instead of Friedrich.

Incidentally, not all of these names have their roots in Old High German, some are also of Greek or Hebrew origin. But they were also popular in Germany many decades ago, which is why we also refer to them here as “old German names”.

  • Almut
  • Alma
  • Amalia
  • Berta
  • Emma
  • Emmi
  • Karla
  • Frederike
  • Charlotte
  • Johanna
  • Hanna
  • Eleanor
  • Franka
  • Frieda
  • Gesa
  • Margarete
  • Henrike
  • Henriette
  • Irma
  • Luisa
  • Lotte
  • Mathilda
  • Marie / Maria
  • Thea
  • Theresa
  • Karolina
  • Victoria
  • Maximilian
  • Leopold
  • Friedrich
  • George
  • Arthur
  • Kaspar
  • Benno
  • Wilhelm
  • Karl
  • Johann
  • Oscar
  • Richard
  • Eike
  • Peter
  • Hendrick
  • Fred
  • Frederik
  • Fridolin
  • Fritz
  • Hauke
  • Henrick
  • Henri
  • Konrad
  • Levin
  • Kuno
  • Lennard
  • Leonhard
  • Otto
  • Robert
  • Paul
  • Theodore
baby names in germany

Prohibited baby names in Germany: This is not what babies are allowed to be called in Germany

What is still funny and what is not possible? A matter of taste! Which baby names in Germany are forbidden and which baby names are allowed? It’s a matter of the registry office. The officials there decide whether someone can name his daughter Fanta or Schnucki or the son’s name Puhbert or Sputnick. They have the last word when it comes to naming babies – and in order to protect the child, they keep rejecting particularly absurd first names or strange baby names like in the list below.

Below is a list of prohibited first names that have not been approved by German registry offices

  • Woodruff
  • Boy
  • Lenin
  • Rose heart
  • Schroeder
  • Agfa
  • Bierstübl
  • Pillula
  • gramophone
  • Atomic peace
  • Satan
  • Judas
  • MC Donald
  • Tom Tom
  • Holgerson
  • Megwanipiu
  • Mechipchamueh
  • lord
  • Sun
  • Stone
  • lobster
  • Superman
  • Pain
  • Thanatos (oldgr .: death)
  • Distribution mix
  • Clove heini
  • Gucci
  • whiskey
  • Doll
  • Juergenson

25 beautiful first names from books that are accepted by the German registry offices

The following first names also belong to the category “failed”, but in contrast to the forbidden first names above in Germany, they have already been approved.

  • Champagne
  • Frodewin
  • Pepsi-Carola
  • Nussi
  • Snow white
  • Leonardo da Vinci Franz
  • Popo
  • Winnetou
  • Prestigious
  • Seven star
  • Smudo
  • Cinderella melody
  • Blucherine
  • Matt-Eagle
  • Katzbachine
  • Dee-Jay
  • Alemmania
  • Bo
  • clover
  • Tarzan

Baby Names in Germany: Surnames in Germany

When in comes to baby names in Germany, the first name of a child is usually determined by the parents at birth. However, there is not so much room for variation in the family name. The family name or maiden name of the child must be determined at the registry office immediately after the birth.

The surname the child in Germany is given at birth depends on the surname of the parents . Their surname is the child’s surname and cannot be determined freely and arbitrarily like the child’s first name.

The family name can change in the course of life and the child can adopt a different family name through marriage in adulthood. The family names, which are used from the 8th century and at that time still alluded to physical and mental abilities, origin, occupation or office, have been exclusively inherited since the 15th century.

SIMPLE NAMING CASE: both parents have a common married surname

Which name can be chosen as the family name for the child at birth? The simplest case arises when the child’s parents are married and have a common married name. The child automatically receives this common family name at birth.

Example: Britta Müller and Thomas Schmidt get married: They choose the common married surname Schmidt, which is also provided as a family name. Britta and Thomas Schmidt’s joint children are automatically given the surname Schmidt at birth, as they have joint custody.

SINGLE CUSTODY NAMING CASE: both parents have different surnames

If the parents did not agreed on a common family name when they got married or the parents do not get married, or no common name is determined before the birth of a their child. In this case, it is crucial which parent has custody of the child.

If the mother did not make a joint declaration of custody with the child’s father when the child was born, the child is given the mother’s surname as she has sole custody.

Example: Britta Müller and Thomas Schmidt are not married and will have a child. The child’s surname will be Müller because the mother has sole custody.

SHARED CUSTODY NAMING CASE: both parents have different surnames

If the parents did not agreed on a common family name when they got married or the parents do not get married, or no common name is determined before the birth of a their child. In this case, it is crucial which parent has custody of the child.

In the case of joint parental custody, the parents have up to one month after the birth to determine a family name for the child. The parents have to agree on a surname for one of the parents. The following children together are automatically given the same family name as the first-born child.

Example: Britta Müller and Thomas Schmidt are not married and will have a child. The child’s surname can be either Müller or Schmidt because they have shared custody.

Are double names for children allowed in Germany? What options does the right to a name offer?

Double names as a family name: possible or not?

If the parents have different family names, the child can only take one of the two names. The family name cannot be a double name from both of the parents’ last names.

Example: Britta Müller and Thomas Schmidt are not married and will have a child. This child cannot be named either Müller-Schmidt or Schmidt-Müller by surname.

This is different if one parent already has a double name as a family name . For example, if the mother is called Müller-Klein , the child can also get this name as a birth name . Also a double name of the father , e.g. B. the child receives Schmidt-Dietrich as a family name.

Outwardly, there is hardly any aspect that creates a community and unity as a common surname. According to German naming law, if two people marry, they can choose whether they want a common married name or whether each should keep his or her own family name.

If one of the future spouses wants to adopt the other’s surname as the new family name, he or she has two different options:

  1. the married name replaces the former family name
  2. the married name is placed before or after the family name (double name)

If children are born into the marriage or brought into it, many parents who have either a double name or two different surnames would like the child to have a name change too – ideally as a double name in order to have a connection to both parents.

NOTE: In Germany, double names cannot be created for children when naming or choosing the name at birth. This also applies if a double name is to be chosen for a child whose parents are unmarried.

If one parent does not have custody, the child is usually given the surname of the custodian as the maiden name. If both parents have custody, they can choose between their two family names. If a mutual agreement is not possible, the decision can be made by the responsible family court.

A word of caution! In Germany, the choice of a child’s maiden name also applies to all other children. If the parents decided on the surname Müller for the first child, ALL future children will automatically receive this surname.

baby names in germany

Why are double surnames not allowed for children in Germany?

Among other things, the Bavarian Administrative Court justified its rejection of double names for children with the fact that the legal prohibition for future generations should avoid unnecessary name chains (see judgment of November 4, 2014, file number 5 C 14.2016).

Although exceptions are possible in principle, it is not sufficient to justify this that a double surname for the child should express the bond with both parents. The restriction in German naming law to deny a child a double name is also neither unconstitutional nor does it restrict the child’s personal rights .

Are there exceptions for double surnames for the child in Germany? Exception for remarriage and different naming rights?

Although the naming law in Germany fundamentally rules out the possibility of choosing a double surname for a child, there are potential exceptions here, as for all rules .

Double names can be permitted for children in a blended family, for example in individual cases. If a parent remarries and a new married name is chosen, the new name can be added to the child’s maiden name when naming a child brought into the marriage, for example to express the connection to the new family.

But a different right of naming can also justify that children are given double names. For example, if one of the parents is a citizen of an EU country in which double names are generally also allowed for children , there may be freedom of choice. Up to four family names are allowed in Portugal.

NOTE: These prerequisites alone are not necessarily sufficient to enforce double names for children in Germany as well. If the registry office rejects the choice of name, a court must decide on this in case of doubt. If there is no valid reason that can objectively justify why a double surname should be specified for the child, the competent court can also reject this.

Can the family name in Germany be changed?

If both parents take custody of the child after the birth, the family name can be changed within three months. Here it is possible to choose between the family names of the parents who have them at this point in time.

The German Civil Code (BGB) otherwise only provides for a name change in limited exceptional cases. Such is for example, if the previous family name is offensive or difficult to pronounce. This can be the case with foreign baby names. If you want to change your family name, you will have to pay a fee. The amount of the fee depends on whether the name change is made to the first or last name and what the change in your name means to you. But you can exexpect costs of several hundred euros.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about baby names in Germany

What are common names in Germany?

Girls: Emilia, Hannah / Hanna, Emma, Sophia / Sofia, Mia, Lina, Mila, Ella, Lea / Leah, Klara / Clara

Boys: Noah, Leon, Paul, Matteo, Ben, Elias, Finn, Felix, Henry / Henri, Louis / Luis

Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany


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