1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Hermann "von" der Tann


Hermann "von" der Tann

what does "von" mean in german surnames? and what about "der"? are they used in german surnames yet? what does "Tann" mean?

July 24, 2012



"Von" means "from" or "of" (as in "coming from") and "der" is "the". So, "von der Bergwald" (a made-up name) would basically mean "from/of the mountain forest". And "Tann" might be a place name.


It often also signals, that the bearer of that name is of nobel ancestry. The interesting thing about this is, that people bearing a title like Graf or Freiherr leave out the "von" when they are talking among themselves. Theodor Fontane wrote some novels with nobles as principal characters. Still interesting if you want to know about Prussia 1860-1890, the time when the German Empire was shaped.


thanks so much! :)


Note that you'll sometimes see "van" instead of "von" in German names; "van" is the Dutch equivalent of "von" (e.g. Ludwig van Beethoven's father was Dutch).

Just "von" is usually followed by a place name (town, province...), "von der" is usually followed by a type of place, e.g. Tann = pine forest (hence the word tannin, which is a fir tree extract).


In Swedish too we have this, but we use "af" ("of"), as in "Gustaf af Klint".

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.