History of Amish last names
The majority of Amish surnames can be traced back to Amish and German origins. Some last names have been shortened from Amish terms that were originally used as nicknames or derogatory terms for certain people or occupations that the Amish did not care for. Surnames can also be traced back to Amish and Hutterite settlers.
The Amish first started immigrating to the United States in the late 18th century, and it has been recorded that they first settled into Pennsylvania and Ohio. They continued to migrate more westward, settling in Indiana and more parts of Ohio until eventually reaching Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa. During the Amish migration to North America, Amish surnames appeared in record numbers.
The Amish surname tradition is a little different from most cultures. In some places, women retain their maiden names when they marry, but men take on the surnames of their wives as a way to honor them and show respect.
Popular Amish surnames
After the Amish first started immigrating to the United States, some of them had to use Anglicized surnames because it was just easier for them that way. Names that are typically considered Amish include Yoder, Graber, Zook, King, Beiler, Eicher, and Stoltzfus. Most of these surnames mean something specific in Amish and German terms.
The Yoder surname is a variation of “Yothers”. It means ‘one who was from the town of Juterbock’, which is an Amish term for ‘the city or town of Jutarbuck’.
The Graber is a variation of ‘Grabherr’ (German and Amish origin). It means ‘one who lived by the forest’, which is an Amish term for ‘woodcutter’.
The Zook surname translates to “a person from the German words zu, meaning ‘at’ or ‘to’ and the German word koch, meaning ‘cook’.
The King surname has Amish and German origins. It means ‘tribal leader’, an Amish term.
Beiler is a variation of Beghler (German origin). It means ‘one who lived near a hut’.
Eicher is a variation of the German word eich, meaning ‘oak’. It means ‘one who lived near an oak tree’.
Stoltzfus is a variation of Stolzfuss (German origin). It means ‘proud foot’ or ‘stubborn foot’.
Uncommon Amish last names
There are many surnames of Amish origin that are not typically considered Amish names. These include Kaufman, Yoder, Bollinger, Beachy, Beechy, Nissley, Whetstone, and Zook. Some of these Amish terms have roots in German words while others do not.
The Kaufman surname means ‘merchant’ in German.
The Yoder is a variation of “Jotter”, which is Amish for ‘one who was from Juterbock’, an amish term for the city or town of Jutarbuck.
The Nissley surname, like Yoder and Yothers, is Amish. It means ‘lives at the end of the valley’.
The Beachy surname is Amish and has origins in German; it means ‘one who lives near a beach’.
The Bollinger surname is Amish but has origins in German; it means ‘cowherd’.
The Whetstone surname is Amish and comes from the Amish term “Wetstein”. It means ‘one who lived near a whetstone’ or ‘one who sharpened knives’.
Some Amish surnames are common by chance, not by tradition. These include Miller, Hostetler, Stoll, King, and Hershberger. The first two mean ‘miller’ in German while the last three Amish terms mean “one who lives at the house of.”
Common Amish surnames
The Stoll surname means ‘one who lives near or at the house of’.
The Hershberger surname comes from the Amish term “hearse driver” (hearse is spelled hartz in amish). It means ‘one who hauls the hearse’.
The Miller surname means “one who is a miller”.
These Amish and German surnames may derive from different origins, but they show how intricately connected Amish and German culture has become over time.
A German origin surname meaning ‘knee’. Some people think that the root word has to do with ‘crooked’ or ‘knobby’, but no sources can be found to back it up.
Found in many Amish books, the term is translated to ‘one who lived on a swampy land’ (i.e. ‘Lappland’).
This surname means ‘heap’ (of hay or straw).
Comes from the Amish and German roots, which translate to “spark.”
This Amish surname is a variation of “Raber” (German origin). It was originally used as a description for someone who lived near a ‘rab’ or ‘rabbits’.
This surname has German roots and comes from the terms ‘gingerich’ (means rosy red).
This name is a variation of “Mast” (German origin). It means ‘heap’ (of hay or straw).
Hilty comes from Amish and German roots (specifically, a Hutterite settlement). It means “fight” or “battle.”
This Amish term is a variation of ‘Hessian amisbary’, which loosely translates to ‘a person from Hesse’ (in Amish and German terms).
This surname comes from the term “Fisher” (German and Amish origin). It refers to ‘someone who lived near a fish weir on a river’. German family names like these are quite frequent.