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