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According to a current scientific definition, a name is a verbal access index to a set of information about an individual . Names are therefore information assigned to a person, an object, an organizational unit (e.g. a company) or a term, which are intended to serve for identification and individualization (function of name clarity).

Onomastics deals with the scientific research of names . It is divided into namology , which clarifies the history , use and etymology of names, and theoretical name research, which deals with the question: What is a name? The name theory deals with the main meaning, the denotation , of the names, while the name theory deals with the connotation of the names beyond the denotation . See also articles Theoretical Name Research and Concept .


That is common. Word mhd. Name , ahd. Namo is based on idg. [E] nō̌mn̥- .


Name and general term

Modern logic or theoretical research on names sees names ( nouns in the logical sense, i.e. much narrower than in the grammatical sense) a special case of designation . There are three basic types of nouns:

  • If a name designates a general term as a defined class of objects, it is called an appellative or generic name
  • A name in the narrower sense, the proper name , technically Proprium , denotes a class consisting of only one object, an individual term
  • Other nouns denote an open class, the concept of substance , which is singular but open with regard to the number of objects. In this case one speaks of a substance name or continuative .

God's name

In Judaism

In Judaism, names are more than just terms, this also applies to the names of God. His “generic name” is Elohim , his “proper name” is YHWH - also called Tetragram - who was vocalized with Yahweh or, more rarely, and later with Jehovah . The Hebrew consonant writing had no vowels, only the Masoretes in the Middle Ages added vowels. So YHWH is actually not translatable because it is not a name, a thought, a substance or an existence. The central meaning is generally given as I am or I am there and indicates the inexpressibility, inexplicability and unfathomability of God. YHWH was first used in Genesis 4:26, Moses was revealed near the burning bush in the desert ( Exodus 3:14) and appears 6,823 times in the Hebrew Bible. Out of fear and awe of YHWH, his greatness and holiness, YHWH was no longer uttered by the Jews after the Babylonian captivity, instead adonay (my lord) and today ha-shem (the name), ha-makom (the other place or the other side) or adoschem (word combination of sir and name).

Personal names (anthroponyms)

The personal names include the names for individuals (first names and surnames). Popular names and tribal names are not proper names , but generic names .

In the German-speaking area, a two-part name system with an individual name (first name, first name, surname) and family name ( surname , surname , surname ) has developed since the 12th century . There are different naming systems in other countries. In Russia, for example, a three-part name system with a patronymic is used . Such multi-part name systems have been known since ancient times. The Roman names consisted of up to three elements and were divided into first names ( praenomen) , family name ( noun Gentile ) and surname ( agnomen or cognomen ). The latter was of great importance because the ancient Romans had very few first names to choose from and clan names were a privilege of the upper class. The various name systems and the applicable legal regulations ( naming law ) are listed in:

  • Erich Mergenthaler and Heinz Reichard: registry office and foreigners. 30th edition, Frankfurt am Main 2006.
  • Andrea and Silvio Brendler (eds.): European personal name systems. A handbook from Abasic to Centraladin . Hamburg 2007.

A noticeable feature that can be observed especially with family names in the German-speaking area is that there is a tendency towards variation ( diversification ) of one and the same name. In addition to “Lang”, the forms “Lange”, “Langer” and “Langen” exist as so-called “adjectival names”, a phenomenon that occurs with many names. In the case of first names, on the other hand, it can be seen that many of them are subject to naming conventions that ensure that a particular name becomes more common, reaches a peak in popularity and then loses frequency again.

Artist names / pseudonyms

Names play an important role in art. Working out a “name” for yourself with your own name or artist name is one of the greatest motivations for most artists. As one's own "name" becomes known, so does the commercial value of the art that is offered.

Salvador Dalí was playful with his name towards the end of his career. So he signed white sheets and sold them. Buyers were free to paint a picture with the name Dalí.

Artificial names

In literary and cinematic works, the characters and the places where the action takes place sometimes have fictitious names . In this way, they should already be characterized according to their inner being through their external naming.

The stylistic device of speaking names has been known since ancient times and can also be found in the oral traditions of myths and legends in the most varied of cultures.

In classical allegorical literature, the names usually do not require any interpretation on the part of the reader. In John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress , for example, the pilgrim meets the giant “Despair”, who is the master of the “castle of doubt”. Aesthetically more attractive coding is done in particular through word games , reversing letters , onomatopoeia or acronyms .

Geographical names (Geographika)

Geographical names in the real sense are always individual names. Geographical class names are not counted among the Geographika ( Sg . : Geographikum ).

Large object names (macrotoponyms)

  • Parish association names
  • Celestial bodies and celestial spheres names (cosmonyms)
  • Locality name ( place names , place names in a broad sense)
    • Mountain and mountain names ( oronyms )
    • Water names (hydronyms): names of sea, lake, river, stream, channel, swamp
    • Island and peninsula names
    • Room names (choronyms): continents, sea, zone, region, desert, landscape names , valley names
    • Settlement names ( oikonyms, place names in the strict sense of the word ): town, village, castle, district, district names , desert names
    • Forest and forest names , district names

Many of these names can also be counted among the microtyponyms if they address smaller objects.

Celestial bodies and spheres names (cosmonyms)

The celestial body and sphere names are classified according to planets , moons , planetoids , stars ( astronyms ) and constellations . Initially, names were given to those celestial bodies in our star system that were visible from Earth . They were consistently named after gods from myths , whereby in ancient times each people assigned their own god names. Today the Roman names of gods have established themselves as technical terminology. The corresponding moons were also given names from the myths. These were given to match the names of the gods of the planet they orbited.

From 1801 the astronomical research began to expand and the first planetoids were sighted. At the beginning these were given the names of the goddesses. With the increasing abundance of the minor planets, however, earthly female names had to be used. The majority of the constellations also have a mythical background.

The procedure was different with stars. Before coordinates were used to differentiate them, they were mostly given Arabic names after their discoverers. The Arabs were leaders in astronomy in the 8th and 9th centuries. Star systems or nebulae , however, rarely have proper names.

Room names (choronyms)

According to Peter von Polenz , the room names are divided into natural and political structures. The former encompass landscapes and areas, the latter firmly delimited areas (district and country names). Tribal names were used as room names from the earliest times. Examples that have survived are Lower Saxony (after the Saxons ), Bavaria (after the Baiern ), Thuringia (after the Thuringians ), Hesse (probably after the Chatten ), Westphalia (after the Westphalia ) and Holstein (after the Holsten ).

Water names (hydronyms)

The names of the waters are the oldest evidence of our language. Since the first settlements were to be found especially on the largest rivers, the first water names were given here. This leads to the observation that the bigger a river, the older its name. A distinction is made between standing and flowing waters , with flowing waters in particular being the focus of research.

In research on the names of waters, Hans Krahe and his student WP Schmidt shaped the theory of ancient European hydronymy , which is still highly controversial today . It says that there are water names that have equivalents outside of their individual language throughout Europe , which is intended to prove the existence of a pre- individual Indo-European language. An example of this is the Isère in southern France - Iser / Jizera in the Czech Republic - Isar in Germany - IJssel in the Netherlands .

Place names (toponyms)

The place name research deals in particular with the structures, the formation, the change and the loss of settlement names . She proceeds diachronically by collecting evidence based on the current place name form and with the help of which she tries to reconstruct the original name. Based on this basic form, the etymology of the name can be determined. A distinction is made according to the way in which the places are formed and the language they belong to.

Small object names (microtoponyms)

  • Small-scale locality names
  • Flurnamen : Gewann- and parcel name, arable and Viehwirtschafts-, pastoralism name
  • Path names (Hodonyms) : Street names, alley names, place names
  • House, yard and building names
  • Mining names: colliery and shaft names
  • and many others

Field names

Field names are linguistic signs that are used for orientation in space, for identification and individualization of objects in smaller landscape units. These include: fields, meadows, special crops (vines, hemp gardens), hedges, forests, mountains, valleys, alps, rocks, streams, rivers, lakes, springs, wells, paths, alleys, borders and commercial facilities (charcoal burners, mills, stamping mills) . Field names refer to the unpopulated parts of a landscape. Due to their limited communicative range, they are also known as microtoponyms. In research, it is controversial whether objects within settlements can be assigned to the field names or not. In terms of education and linguistic affiliation, they are comparable to place names.

Because of names (hodonyms)

Street names (Greek hodos "way") are used for orientation in a city. They are divided into oblong structures (prodonyms) and spaces (agoronyms) . They were created in the Middle Ages. Since then, they have often been used for political purposes, although efforts are increasingly being made to find timeless names. There are working aids for the municipalities, especially in order to avoid double or similar names. In the course of this new naming situation, hodonymic fields have increasingly emerged. This means that coherent areas are named according to uniform criteria, e.g. after composers, flowers or planets.

There are also hodonyms that can be counted among the macrotoponyms, such as Via Appia for the Roman trunk road or the Brenner motorway , as well as for railway lines such as the Trans-Siberian Railway .

House and farm names

Before house numbers based on the French model were introduced in the 18th century, house and farm names were an important distinguishing feature in cities. They divided the cities into quarters and separated them from the suburbs and villages. Above all, the public buildings received titles, as well as department stores and apartment buildings with the corresponding standard. After the Second World War, the use of house and farm names fell sharply and is only common in very rural, less densely populated areas.

Event names

- always individual names -

  • Political event names: popular movements, revolution names, war names, conflict names
  • Celebration and holiday names
  • Epoch names
  • Natural event names

Institution name (ergonym)

- always individual names -

  • Administrative area names: state, state, province, county, county names
  • Work and educational institution names
  • Resort names
  • Memorial and cultural site names

Educational institution names

Educational institutions are prestige objects, which is why they are particularly suitable for naming. Usually the names are formed from a nominal group structure, the core of which is an appellative noun ( school , college , university (→ " university name "), institute ). Through composition, these are combined with attribution or asyndetic re-enactments.

The names of the educational institutions mostly refer to the founder / benefactor , the (financial) sponsor or to patrons , i.e. people who have no direct relationship with the educational institution, but still have a special prestige. The aim of this naming is to honor the person concerned, to remind them of them or to emphasize their role model function.

In contrast, there are names that have only an intensional content. They only provide factual information in order to identify either the institution, the technical specification or the sponsorship. In doing so, (self) evaluating information should be deliberately avoided.

In Germany, the potential prestige content must be in a reasonable relationship to the importance of the institution. Accordingly, educational institutions with high prestige do not have any patronage names, whereas elementary and secondary schools, for example, usually have names with regional significance.

Product names (Ergonyms)

  • Transport means names (can be both individual names, e.g. a ship or a locomotive, as well as generic names, e.g. an ICE line)
  • Trademark names (always generic names)
  • Trade names (eco-names) (always generic names)
  • Media names (can be individual names, e.g. the name of a film, even if, strictly speaking, there are several copies and numerous performances, or generic names, e.g. the name of a television series)
  • Book and magazine names (always generic names)
  • Production process names, technology names (always generic names)

Trade names (eco-names)

- Always generic names, only the serial number is the individual name - The product names include article names , brand names and company names . You have to convey certain information to the buyer, be it about the manufacturer, the place of manufacture, the substance of the product, the properties of the product, the intended use or the mode of action.

They are a special group in that the names can become generic terms. An example is the Tempo handkerchief , which was originally named by the manufacturing company and is now called the paper handkerchief in everyday usage.

The brand names are protected by trademark law. The legal provisions for this can be found in:

  • Volker Ilzhöfer: Patent, trademark and copyright law . 5th edition, Munich 2002.

Media names

The names for the various media are defined and protected by legal regulations. With the company, a certain company is identified by name and thus individualized.

They are the names that are most subject to fads. The marketing requirements for a media name are:

  • It has to be different from those of the competitors.
  • It has to trigger a news effect.
  • He has to communicate the new value.
  • It has to be unmistakably attractive.
  • It must be protectable ( trademark law ).

Corresponding legal provisions can be found at:

  • Volker Ilzhöfer: Patent, trademark and copyright law . 5th edition, Munich 2002.

Names for actions

  • Dance and game names

Names for thought

  • Literary names
  • Planning

Musical names

  • Instrument names (usually belong to the brand names, but there are also famous musical instruments with individual names)
  • Composition names (basically individual names)

Other names

  • Animal and plant names (generic names, besides individual names of individual animals and plants)
  • Meteorological names
  • Objects (chrematonyms)

Animal and plant names

Animals with which humans develop a special relationship are very often given names that correspond to human names. In fairy tales , but also in stories from the modern age, animals often have names.

On the other hand, the nomenclature introduced by Carl von Linné in our present form , which has been verifiable since antiquity, is not in the narrower sense "name", but mostly refers to properties that are incorporated into the generic names . These properties can describe organs, appearance and locations. In addition, people who were the first to describe the species or who should be honored are also honored in some cases. German animal and plant names are formed according to similar criteria, but are not fundamentally based on binominality.

Another form of animal and plant names is the designation of cultivated forms, i.e. of deliberately created crosses or hybrids of animals and plants . The names are usually given by the breeders, who often name their products after themselves or the place of breeding. However, especially cultivated plants are often named after famous personalities (e.g. rulers).

Meteorological names

The meteorological names were coined by Clement Lindley Wragge . He gave as the first female first name for tropical whirlwinds and male for extra-tropical low pressure eddies with storm and hurricane fields . As is known, he liked to use the names of politicians who disapproved of him.

But it was not until the 1950s that the name for meteorological phenomena became established. This resulted from the fact that it took too long to describe the phenomena for the American military's fighters . First, the subdivisions of Clement L. Wragge according to male and female first names were retained. But when repeated complaints came to the public, it was decided in 1979 to burden both sexes equally with the names of the cyclones. For this purpose, an official list of the IHC was published in 1979. This list of names is the basis for the names of tropical cyclones to this day. In Germany, high and low pressure areas have been named since the 1950s. This list was originally written by Richard Scherhag , today the names are being auctioned off by the Technical University in Berlin as part of the Wetterpate campaign. These names are now also used by the media outside of Germany for strong wind events. A designation of low pressure areas is also done by the Norwegian weather service.

Objects (chrematonyms)

Objects also had or have proper names; this is in different cultures usual . With the Germanic peoples, for example, individual swords (e.g. Siegfried's sword " Balmung ") or helmets had names, and today cars (e.g. the " Green Minna "), ships , trains , dolls or play animals.

Concealment of names

In many cases and for different reasons, the real names are made unrecognizable. This can serve to leave a person anonymous ( cryptonym , pseudonym ) - as in the case of "Peter Panter" for "Kurt Tucholsky" - or a desired effect, e.g. B. in advertising, by creating a memorable name (e.g. "Haribo" for "Hans Riegel, Bonn"). Cryptonyms are also used to name actions or projects with a “hidden” but memorable word.


  • "The name is not everything, but without a good name everything is nothing." - (Karl-Heinz W. Smola, trend and future researcher)
  • "A good name is worth more than wealth." - ( Miguel de Cervantes , Spanish writer)
  • "Nomen est omen." - (Latin proverb)
  • "Name is sound and smoke." - (Goethe, Faust I, scene Marthens Garten)
  • "My name is Hase , I don't know anything." - ( Victor von Hase , lawyer)

See also


  • Adolf Bach : German naming . Multi-volume work, Heidelberg 1953.
  • Dieter Berger: Geographical Names in Germany. Origin and meaning of the names of countries, cities, mountains and waters . Mannheim, Leipzig, Vienna, Zurich 1993.
  • Peter Jordan, Hubert Bergmann, Catherine Cheetham and Isolde Hausner (Eds.): Geographical Names as a Part of Cultural Heritage. Vienna 2009 (= Viennese writings on geography and cartography, volume 18). ISBN 978-3-900830-67-0
  • Dietz Bering: Foundation of cultural studies studies on street names: The project draft from 1989 . In: Jürgen Eichhoff and Wilfried Seibicke (Eds.): Name and society: social and historical aspects of naming and name development. Mannheim, Leipzig, Vienna, Zurich 2001, pp. 270–281
  • Andrea and Silvio Brendler (eds.): Types of names and their research. A textbook for the study of onomastics . Hamburg 2004
  • Andrea and Silvio Brendler (eds.): Name research tomorrow. Ideas, perspectives, visions . Hamburg 2005
  • Andrea and Silvio Brendler (eds.): European personal name systems. A handbook from Abasic to Centraladin. Hamburg 2007
  • Frans Hendrik Breukelman : " Sjemot: de eigen taal en de vertaling van de Bijbel ", BT II / 2. Kok, Kampen, 2009. ISBN 978-90-435-1705-8 (only Dutch, German: Names: The language and translation of the Bible )
  • Ernst Eichler : Name research. An international handbook on onomastics. multi-volume work, Munich and New York
  • Dieter Geuenich and Ingo Runde (eds.): Name and society in the early Middle Ages. Personal names as indicators of linguistic, ethnic, social and cultural group affiliations of their wearers . (= German name research based on linguistic history, Volume 2), Hildesheim, Zurich and New York 2006
  • Karl Gutschmidt: Comments on the subject and the tasks of poetic (literary) onomastics . In: German Linguistics. Reports from the Research Institute for the German Language, Marburg, Lahn. Volume 98-100, 1989, pp. 425-430.
  • Hartwig Kalverkämper: Proper names in specialist communication: Onomastics of the modern age - a modern onomastics? . Hamburg 2006
  • Gerhard Koß: Name research. An introduction to onomastics . 3. Edition. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2002
  • Hans Krahe : From Illyrian to Old European. In: Indo-European Research . Volume 69, 1964, pp. 201-212.
  • Hans Krahe: The structure of the old European hydronymy . Mainz and Wiesbaden 1963.
  • Konrad Kunze : dtv-Atlas onomastics. First and last names in the entire German-speaking area . 5th, revised and corrected edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2004. ISBN 3-423-03266-9 .
  • Hartwig Lödige: Ketchup, Jeans and Haribo. The final riddles of our language . Munich 2001.
  • Andreas Lötscher: From Ajax to Xerox. A lexicon of product names . Zurich 1992
  • Kornelis Heiko Miskotte : When the gods are silent. From the meaning of the Old Testament. Stoevesandt, Munich 1963. (reprinted by Spenner, Kamen 1995, ISBN 3-927718-66-1 . For the names of God and YHWH see pages 127–301)
  • Peter von Polenz : landscape and district names in early medieval Germany. Studies on linguistic spatial development . Multi-volume work, Marburg 1961
  • Christoph Platen: Economics. On product name linguistics in the European single market . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1997. ISBN 3-484-52280-1 . The book deals specifically with linguistic aspects of product names.
  • Karl-Otto Sauerbeck: Relationships between proper names in literature . In: Contributions to Name Research , New Series , Volume 31, 1996, pp. 407-424
  • WP Schmid: The term Old Europe and the names of waters in Poland . In: Onomastica. Volume 27, 1982, pp. 55-69.
  • Rudolf Schützeichel and Matthias Zender: Name research . Heidelberg 1965
  • Wilfried Seibicke: The personal names in German. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982. ISBN 3-11-007984-4 .
  • Konstanze Seutter: Proper names and law. Tubingen 1996.
  • Adolf Socin: Middle High German name book based on Upper Rhine sources of the 12th and 13th centuries. Basel 1903; Reprint Darmstadt 1966.
  • Jochen Teuffel : NAME memory instead of God thinking. Of the difficulties with the European concept of God . Intercultural Theology. Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft (ZMiss) 37, 4/2011, pages 332–348
  • Jürgen Udolph : Germanic hydronymy from a continental perspective . In: Contributions to Name Research, New Series , Volume 24, 1989, pp. 269–291.

Web links

Wiktionary: Name  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Name  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Ernst Hansack: The essence of the name . In: Andrea and Silvio Brendler (eds.): Types of names and their research . Hamburg 2004, pp. 51-69.
  2. ^ The dictionary of origin (=  Der Duden in twelve volumes . Volume 7 ). 2nd Edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 1989, p. 479 . See also DWDS ( "Name" ) and Friedrich Kluge : Etymological Dictionary of the German Language . 7th edition. Trübner, Strasbourg 1910 ( p. 327 ).
  3. Frans Hendrik Breukelman: Sjemot: de intrinsically taal en de vertaling van de Bijbel "BT II / 2 Kok, Kampen, 2009. ISBN 978-90-435-1705-8 (only Dutch, German: name: The language and the translation of the Bible )
  4. Kornelis Heiko Miskotte: When the gods are silent. From the meaning of the Old Testament. Stoevesandt, Munich 1963. (Reissued by Spenner, Kamen 1995, ISBN 3-927718-66-1 ) For JHWH see pages 127–301
  5. Jochen Teuffel: NAME memory instead of God thinking. Of the difficulties with the European concept of God. Intercultural Theology. Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft (ZMiss) 37, 4/2011, pages 332–348.
  6. ^ Konrad Kunze: dtv-Atlas onenology . 4th edition, Munich 2003, p. 38.
  7. Wilfried Seibicke: The personal names in German. De Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1982, ISBN 3-11-007984-4 , p. 174.
  8. Hermann Bluhme: Comments on the forms of the name Schmidt. In: Peter Grzybek and Reinhard Köhler (Eds.): Exact Methods in the Study of Language and Text. Dedicated to Gabriel Altmann on the occasion of his 75th birthday. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin and New York 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019354-1 , pp. 33-38.
  9. ^ Gerhard Koß: Name research. An introduction to onomastics. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1990, ISBN 3-484-25134-4 , p. 88.
  10. Wolfgang Kleiber: The field names . In: W. Besch, O. Reichmann and St. Sonderegger (eds.): Language history. Berlin and New York 1985, p. 2130, col. 1.
  11. Erika Waser: Field names . In: Andrea and Silvio Brendler (eds.): Types of names and their research . Hamburg 2004, p. 350.
  12. ^ A b Andreas Lötscher: Names of educational institutions . In: Ernst Eichler : Name research . Munich and New York 1996, Volume 11.2, p. 1552.
  13. ^ Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference ( Memento of April 17, 2007 in the Internet Archive ).