First name

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The first name of a person is the part of the name, not belonging to a family expresses, but individually identified.

A person's first name is usually determined by his or her parents after birth. In some countries, such as the German-speaking countries, there are regulations that restrict the freedom of choosing a first name.

In German and in most other European languages ​​the first names (as individual names) come before the family name (apart from regional exceptions), while in Hungarian , Vietnamese , Chinese , Japanese or Korean , for example, the individual name determined by the parents comes after the family name . In German, nickname refers to the first name or first names under which a person is addressed.

In the Anglo-American language area are between names in use that even a middle name (middle names) called and are usually abbreviated with the first letter (middle initials) . There are also intermediate names in East Frisian. In Russian , the patronymic is between the first name and the family name.

Function and selection of the first name

In many personal name systems, the first name is used within a family to differentiate between family members; in contrast to the family name , which expresses belonging to a family.

The naming in the German-speaking area is determined by Germanic , Latin and Christian-religious traditions. For a long time, the names of Christian saints or biblical names were given preference .

In many Asian and African cultures, like in southern Germany or Hungary , the family name is mentioned first and then the individual proper name of the family member, so that the expression "first name" does not actually apply in these name systems.

In some countries, a patronymic is used together with first names and surnames , for example in Russian , where the patronymic is between the two elements. The patronymic is derived from the father's given name. The first name in Russian is often a combination of first and patronymic names, for example Ivan Vasilievich .

Family names have developed from many first names over time. On the other hand, some first names are derived from common family names. The scientific discipline of name research deals with the meaning, origin and distribution of names.

The choice of the first name depends on the mother tongue and gender of the child. However, there are a number of other influencing factors, such as family, national or regional traditions, customs or time-related preferences. The namesake often chooses a name with the most "appropriate" meaning or impression that conveys the characteristics of the child, the wishes or expectations of the environment or a political or ideological agenda. The naming after well-known personalities, idols , relatives or role models inside and outside the own family context is common. Factors such as the euphony of a name or its originality, with which the individuality of the name bearer can be underlined, also play a role, which has different effects depending on the culture and epoch. The experience with one's own name is also important as a motive when assigning a name.

First names by region

German language area

Historical development of the names

First name / first name

First names have been in use since earlier times. The term “first name” may cause confusion, however, as a person can have several first names, which require a BEFORE name and an AFTER name. The designation "nickname" is perhaps more suitable for the time of the single name, since until the Middle Ages only a single name was common in German-speaking countries. At most there was an individual surname to differentiate, from which, together with the nicknames , today's inherited family names developed, but in reality they could change for a long time due to changes.

Formation of first names (historical development)
Germanic time

The Germanic nicknames were built up to the 4th century on the principle of meaningfully connecting two members of the name; z. E.g .: Gud-run, Sieg-run ( run = magic, secret), Ger-hart, Ger-not ( ger = spear, hard = hard / strict). Many parts of the name could only be used on one side, that is, they were either only used as the first link (e.g. man ) or only as a second link (e.g. run ). Quite a few of them can act both as a front and back link of the compound name (e.g. her and bert as in Walt-her , Her-bert , Bert-hold ). In addition, some members of the name lived in only one gender, while others could be used for both female and male names (e.g. Sieg in Sieglinde and Siegfried ). The initial importance of the content did not last; Over time, the nickname was chosen with more attention to sound and descent.

middle Ages

Non-Germanic names were, after the Roman times of the south, only from the 7th / 8th centuries. Century really present; At this time one finds mainly names borrowed from the Bible ; z. B. Christian , Elisabeth or Daniel etc.

In the 12th century (the "Christian" Middle Ages ) names from the New Testament were common, which were often adapted or shortened to German, e.g. B .:

The names of saints also spread at this time from the west and south to the north of today's German-speaking area, although this depended on the areas of worship, since, depending on the region, certain saints were given more importance; z. E.g .: Benedikt, Andreas, Elisabeth, Florian, Anton (ius).

Renaissance and Reformation

With the Renaissance , under the influence of humanism, Greek and Latin names from antiquity found their way into the German world of names such as Hector , Agrippa , Claudius , Julius , Augustus . At that time, Hohenzollern princes were called Albrecht Achilles , Albrecht Alcibiades , Johann Cicero . First names and surnames of educated people were usually Latinized, such as Henricus , Martinus , Joachimus . Humanists of the time were also interested in Germanic antiquity and thus spread names such as Hildebrand , Hartmann or Reinhold .

The Reformation led to a general decline in the use of saints' names and Old Testament names such as Benjamin , Jonas , Daniel , David , Rebekka or Martha were preferred until the 18th century . On the Catholic side, on the other hand, the Catechism Romanus , first published in 1566 , determined that one should (continue to) choose names of saints. A similar recommendation can be found in Rituale Romanum , published in 1614 . As a result, certain names developed into distinctly Catholic first names such as Ignaz / Ignatius , Vincenz , Xaver , Franz , Josef , Maria . Maria also became a popular middle name with men. Perhaps the best-known example of this is Rainer Maria Rilke .

17th and 18th centuries

In the 17th and 18th centuries, French first names (e.g. Charlotte, Babette ) and English (e.g. Alfred, Edith ) were given, but they only became popular in German-speaking countries in the 20th century.

The Calvinist preference for Old Testament names did not survive the 18th century and during this century a preference for German names with a Christian appeal developed, such as Gottfried , Gotthold , Gotthelf / Gotthilf , Fürchtegott or Liebfried .

19th century

"By and large, Protestantism was preparing a return to Germanic names."

At the end of the 19th century, double names (also known as "hyphenated names") increased in number. These were particularly popular in the 1930s and 1950s: Hans-Peter, Eva-Maria, Klaus-Dieter . In the years that followed, sooner or later some of these double names also existed in written form (Hanspeter 1810s, Evamaria 1880s, Klausdieter 1930s).

20th century and present

The world of first names became increasingly international in the 20th century. After the Second World War , the Germanic names went under (which is also to be interpreted as a reaction to National Socialism ) , while the Hebrew, Greek and Latin names took their place; subsequently there was a strong Anglo-American influence. Mainly through international media such as television and radio or literature one came into contact with many foreign-language names and adopted them in German. Borrowing from all European countries - from Scandinavia to the Balkans (Björn to Dragan) - is also common.

As a contrast to the international variety of names, a countercurrent to the preservation of the old Germanic names developed.

Since the 1950s, Anglophone and Romance first names such as Jennifer , Mike or Natalie and Marco have gained in importance.

The following factors in particular are responsible for these changes.

  • The abandonment of family traditions (for example: naming the eldest son after the father or grandfather, hereditary names or naming after the godfather (s ).
  • The pursuit of individuality : the uniqueness of children should also be reflected in unique names.
  • Avoiding names that are typical of the parent and grandparent generation (and perceived as 'old-fashioned') .
  • The loss of meaning of the Christian faith in society (thus also unconsciously using names with a Christian background).
  • The recourse to national German traditions, which was perceived as problematic after the Holocaust and World War II .
  • The high prestige of the Western European and North American countries.
  • An increased consumption of the mass media , in which productions from the USA , Great Britain and France dominate.
  • In general, the increased internationalization of culture.
  • Greater consideration of phonetic criteria (names with as many vowels as possible for both genders, female first names in -a , such as 'Albert / Alberta', and reluctance to use the phonemes / p /, / t / and / k /, as in Paul, Theo and Karl) .

In contrast, the following can be excluded as influencing factors.

  • Immigration to the German-speaking countries - Typical first names of the immigrant groups were limited to the same.
  • International tourism - increase in western first names, also with different travel destinations.

A phonetic adjustment has always been observed when adopting foreign names. First, names were adapted that could be connected to traditional phonetic habits. In the Middle Ages , Johannes became Hans , Christian became Christian and Marcus first became Marx . Some names were also taken over in their written form, although the pronunciation in the regions of origin was different: So Spanish Xavier was taken over as Xaver and not as Chabier and Norway. Harald as Harald and not as Harall .



Legal situation

In Austria a person can have several first names. The following restrictions apply to the choice of name:

  • Names that are not commonly used as a first name may not be used.
  • Names that are detrimental to the best interests of the child are also prohibited.
  • At least the first name must correspond to the gender of the child (§ 13 Personal Status Act 2013).

Parents are entitled to choose a child's first name; in the case of illegitimate birth, it is the mother's right. The declaration of the first name must be submitted in writing to the responsible registry office ; it is a prerequisite for issuing the birth certificate . If the declaration is not made when the birth is reported, it must be submitted to the registry office within one month of the birth at the latest. If the parents of a child born in wedlock cannot agree on the first name (s), or if they give inadmissible or no first name at all, the guardianship court will be notified.


In 2010, newborns were most frequently given the first names Anna and Lukas among Austrian nationals . Lukas has been the most common name since 1996.

German Switzerland

Legal situation

According to Swiss naming law, there are first names like Andrea , which, as in Italian, do not clearly determine the gender. Such first names must be combined with another, clearly male or female first name (Andrea Luigi, Andrea Franziska), or you have to resort to a name variant that clearly indicates the gender (Andreas, Andre, André for boys or Andrée, Andreina, Andrina, Andrietta for girls). Other examples of such names are Dominique, Gabriele or Sascha.


As in other parts of the German-speaking area, some first names are common in German-speaking Switzerland that are as good as nonexistent in the rest of the German-speaking area. These include Beat (in Germany the female variant Beate is known), Reto , Urs and Regula or Solange (pronounced in French).

In 2019, the first names Mia were given most frequently to girls and Liam to boys in Switzerland .


In Greece mostly Christian, rarely ancient first names are given. Traditionally, the first daughter was always given the first name of the paternal grandmother and the first son was given the first name of the paternal grandfather. Correspondingly, the names of the maternal grandparents for the second children. Fashion names are rather rare and a phenomenon of the last few years (also here often ancient names like Iason (Jason) or Danae, but hardly ever from the Anglo-Saxon area).

While several first names are unusual here, the father's first name (in the genitive form) is used as a middle name and is also given on identity papers.


The ten most popular names for newborns in Italy in 2007 were among girls Giulia, Sofia, Martina, Sara, Chiara, Aurora, Giorgia, Alessia, Francesca, Alice, and in boys Alessandro, Andrea, Matteo, Lorenzo, Gabriele, Mattia, Luca , Davide and Riccardo. Due to the high proportion of Catholics in the population, many first names are based on the names of saints and the Virgin Mary .

In some Italian regions it is a tradition to name the first son after the paternal grandfather, the second son after the maternal grandfather, the first daughter after the paternal grandmother and the second daughter after the maternal grandmother. This leads to a widespread use of traditional first names.

See also: Italian personal names Germanic root .


In Poland, the first names given to a newborn child are legally restricted as follows in accordance with the Civil Service Act ( pln.Prawo o aktach stanu cywilnego ):

  • No more than two first names may be given.
  • The first name or first names must not be grotesque or crude.
  • Short and nicknames are not allowed first names.
  • The first name or first names must be clearly assigned to a gender (male / female).

Up to six months after the birth of the child, the first name or first names may be subsequently changed by the parents in accordance with professional law. If neither parent has determined the first name (s) for the child within 14 days after the birth, the registrar must decide on the first name and enter a first name of his choice that is customary in Poland .

In principle, every first name to be entered must comply with the Polish spelling standard in accordance with the regulation on the details of registry office files. In particular, this means that first names with the letters Q , V and X, which traditionally do not exist in the Polish alphabet , are not entered or are correspondingly Polonized in the spelling. Thus, from Kevin 's first name Kewin and from Roxana 's first name Roksana . Other spellings that differ from Polish are also adjusted according to the pronunciation. From Jessica is Dżesika and out Brian is Brajan . There is no legally anchored list of registrable first names, but the registry offices usually use the list of the Council of the Polish Language as a reference in cases of doubt .

Since the legal provisions only concern the registration, but not the use of first names, it can happen that Polish citizens have names that do not correspond to the above regulations. This can result, for example, from being born abroad or being naturalized. Furthermore, the restriction to a maximum of two first names has only existed since 1952 and people born before can still have three or more first names.

East Asia (China, Korea, Vietnam)

In China , Korea , Vietnam and other East Asian countries (except Japan ) first names have a different function. They identify their bearer far more than in Europe, which is necessary there, as the population in these countries only shares a few family names . The first name can be formed from one or two morphemes of the language, which are classically written as Chinese characters . So there is an almost unlimited number of permitted proper names. In many families, a morpheme of the first name is assigned identically to all descendants of the same generation (generation name).

In contrast to European first names, there is no fixed assignment of proper names to the gender of the wearer (apart from fashion trends that cause certain proper names to occur more frequently and sometimes suggest a specific gender of the wearer). The designation "first name" for the East Asian proper names is misleading, as they are consistently placed behind the family name in East Asia . The designation "first name" is also inappropriate, since the proper name is almost never used in addressing in East Asia (except in the closest family circle). Either the full name or the family name is used for the formal address, possibly supplemented by a functional designation (for example "colleague"). In the Freundeskreis the surname with the addition “venerable / young” is usually used as a salutation or nicknames, and among relatives it is common to address them with the degree of kinship, for which there are linguistically differentiated terms than in Europe (for example, Chinese 妹妹mèimèi = 'younger Sister ', 大伯dàbó =' older brother of the father 'etc.).

See also


Onomatology in general
  • Andrea Brendler / Silvio Brendler: European personal name systems. A handbook from Abasic to Central Arabic , Hamburg: Baar 2007, ISBN 978-3-935536-65-3 .
  • Jürgen Gerhards : The modern age and their first names. An invitation to cultural sociology. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 3-531-13887-1 .
  • Jürgen Gerhards: Globalization of everyday culture between Westernization and Creolization: The example of first names. In: social world. Journal for social science research and practice. Vol. 54, issue 2, Bonn 2003.
  • Astrid Kaiser (2010): The first name in elementary school - sound word, buzz word or stimulus word ?. In: Die Grundschulzeitschrift, 24th year, H. 238.239, 26–29.
  • Michael Mitterauer : Traditions of naming , Verlag Böhlau , Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2011, ISBN 978-3-205-78645-0 .
German, general
  • Michael Mitterauer: ancestors and saints. Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37643-6 .
  • Dieter Geuenich , Ingo Runde (Hrsg.): 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 2), Hildesheim / Zurich / New York 2006, ISBN 3-487-13106-4 .
  • Dieter Geuenich [and a.] (Ed.): Nomen et gens. On the historical significance of early medieval personal names. Berlin u. New York 1997, ISBN 3-11-015809-4 .
  • Henning Kaufmann: Studies on old German nicknames. Munich 1965 (= basic questions of naming , 3).
  • Jürgen Eichhoff, Wilfried Seibicke, Michael Wolffsohn, Duden -Edaktion, Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (Ed.) Topic German, Volume 2, Name and Society: Social and Historical Aspects of Naming and Name Development. Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim 2001, ISBN 3-411-70581-7 .
  • Astrid Kaiser : First names produce pictures. In: Brockhaus. The great first name dictionary. Gütersloh: FA Brockhaus 2012, pp. 5–8
Given names lexicons, German
  • Andreas Brosch: Our first names - and what they tell us. 1500 names from biblical to modern , Brunnen Verlag, Giessen 2018, ISBN 978-3-7655-0995-7 .
  • Günther Drosdowski : Lexicon of first names. Origin, meaning and use of more than 3000 first names . Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim / Zurich 1968 (= Duden pocket books , 4).
  • Duden. The great first name dictionary. Edited by Rosa and Volker Kohlheim. 3rd, completely revised edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2007, ISBN 978-3-411-06083-2 .
  • Margit Eberhard-Wabnitz, Horst Leisering: Knaur's first name book. Origin and meaning. Lexicographical Institute, Munich 1984.
First name lexicons, German regional
  • Reinhold Trautmann: The old Prussian personal names . 1925.
First name dictionaries, international

Web links

Commons : First names  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: First name  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Directory: International / Male first names  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Directory: International / Female first names  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Directory: International / First names with ambiguous gender affiliation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Example of regional naming in the 15th century in today's Bavaria: Sara L. Uckelman: 15th Century Bavarian Names. In: November 22, 2005, accessed April 1, 2014 .
  2. a b c Rudolf E. Keller, Karl-Heinz Mulagk (ed.): The German language and its historical development . 2nd Edition. Buske Verlag, 1995, ISBN 3-87548-104-6 , p. 450 ( limited preview in Google Book Search [accessed April 1, 2014]).
  3. Pars. II, Caput II., Then different counting, text passage beginning with "Nomen ab aliquo sumendum est, [...]"
  4. Archived copy ( memento of the original from September 9, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ↑ Right to name on ( Memento of the original from May 29, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed May 26, 2008 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. full text
  7. Most common first names for newborns with Austrian citizenship ( memento from September 11, 2012 in the web archive ) on the de Statistics Austria page, accessed on December 30, 2011
  8. Name trends: How first names conquer Switzerland and then disappear again In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of August 22, 2016
  9. First name hit parades of the newborns and the population in 2019. In: . August 18, 2020, accessed August 25, 2020 .
  10. First names 2007, ISTAT 2009
  11. Ustawa Prawo o aktach stanu cywilnego , on, accessed on August 14, 2012
  12. Ustawa Rozporządzenie Ministra Spraw Wewnętrznych i Administracji (…) zmieniające rozporządzenie w sprawie szczegółowych zasad sporządzania aktów stanu cywilnego… , on, accessed on August 14, 2012
  13. The Recommendations of the Polish Language Council for Registrars , The List of First Names Used in Poland and The Extension of the List of First Names Used in Poland (below the list of expressly non- registrable first names) , on, accessed on 14. August 2012