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The term ''von'' () is used in
German language German ( Standard High German: , ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultu ...

German language
surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name 300px, First/given, middle and last/family/surname with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example. This shows a structure typical for the Anglosphere, a ...
s either as a
nobiliary particle A nobiliary particle is used in a surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name 300px, First/given, middle and last/family/surname with John Fitzgerald Kennedy as example. This shows ...
indicating a noble
patrilineality Patrilineality, also known as the male line, the spear side or agnatic kinship, is a common kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although ...
, or as a simple
preposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions), are a used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') or mark various (''of'', ''for''). A pre ...
used by commoners that means ''of'' or ''from''. Nobility directories like the ''
Almanach de Gotha The ''Almanach de Gotha'' (german: Gothaischer Hofkalender) is a directory of Europe's royalty Royalty may refer to: * Kingship * Royal family, the immediate family of a king or queen regnant, and sometimes his or her extended family * Royalty ...
'' often abbreviate the noble term ''von'' to ''v.'' In medieval or early modern names, the ''von'' particle was at times added to commoners' names; thus, ''Hans von Duisburg'' meant "Hans from
he city of He or HE may refer to: Language * He (pronoun), an English pronoun * He (kana), the romanization of the Japanese kana へ and ヘ * He (letter), the fifth letter of many Semitic alphabets * He (Cyrillic), a letter of the Cyrillic script called '' ...
Duisburg Duisburg () is a city in the Ruhr metropolitan area of the western Germany, German States of Germany, state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Lying on the confluence of the Rhine and the Ruhr (river), Ruhr rivers, Duisburg is one of the largest cities ...

Duisburg
". This meaning is preserved in Swiss
toponymic surnameA toponymic surname or topographic surname is a surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates their family, tribe or community. Practices vary by culture. The family name m ...
s and in the
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
or
Afrikaans Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 5 ...
''
van A van is a type of road vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles include wagons, bicycles, motor vehicles (motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses), railed vehicles (trains, trams), watercraf ...
'', which is a
cognate In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
of ''von'' but does not indicate nobility.


Usage


Germany and Austria

The abolition of the
monarchies A monarchy is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legisl ...
in
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
and
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked Eastern Alps, East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine States o ...

Austria
in 1919 meant that neither state has a privileged nobility, and both have exclusively
republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a month ...

republic
an governments. In Germany, this means that legally ''von'' simply became an ordinary part of the surnames of the people who used it. There are no longer any legal privileges or constraints associated with this naming convention. According to German alphabetical sorting, people with ''von'' in their surnames – of noble or non-noble descent alike – are listed in telephone books and other files under the rest of their names (e.g., the economist
Ludwig von Mises Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (; 29 September 1881 – 10 October 1973) was an Austrian School economist, historian, logician, and Sociology, sociologist. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on the societal contributions of classical liberal ...

Ludwig von Mises
would have been found under ''M'' in the phone book rather than ''V''). In Austria, in contrast, not only were the privileges of the nobility abolished, their
title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may be inserted between the firs ...

title
s and prepositions were abolished as well in 1919. Thus, for example, ''Friedrich von Hayek'' became simply
Friedrich Hayek Friedrich August von Hayek ( , ; 8 May 189923 March 1992), often referred to by his initials F. A. Hayek, was an Austrian-British economist, and philosopher who is best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nob ...
. (See also
Austrian nobility The Austrian nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of the realm, e ...
on this issue.) In contrast to the peerage of the United Kingdom, the aristocracies of the German-speaking countries were held to include untitled nobility, although the names of nearly all the families falling into this category did include ''von'', '' zu'', ''von und zu'', ''von der'', ''von dem'', ''zum'', ''vom und zum'' or ''zur''.


Non-noble use

The preposition originated among German speakers during the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
and was commonly used to signify a person's origins, appending the name of the place they originated from (see
toponymic surnameA toponymic surname or topographic surname is a surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name that indicates their family, tribe or community. Practices vary by culture. The family name m ...
), or the name of their parents, as the concept of a surname did not start to come into common usage until later on. Nevertheless, it was mostly aristocrats and other land owners who acquired a surname consisting of ''von'', ''zu'' or ''zur'' and a
toponym Toponymy, toponymics, or toponomastics (from grc, τόπος / , 'place', and / , 'name') is the study of ''toponyms Toponymy, also toponymics or toponomastics (from grc, τόπος / , 'place', and / , 'name') is the study of ''wikt: ...
. When families were raised to nobility later on, the prefix was added in front of their existing name whatever its source, e.g. ''
von Goethe
von Goethe
''. In some cases, even an existing non-noble ''von'' became noble, or vice versa, therefore the same surname sometimes would be shared by noble and non-noble individuals. Especially in the Northwest (Bremen, Hamburg, Holstein, Lower Saxony, Schleswig, Westphalia) and in German-speaking Switzerland, ''von'' is a frequent element in non-noble surnames."Adelszeichen und Adel: Kennzeichnet das 'von' in jedem Fall eine Adelsfamilie?"
obiliary particle and nobility: Does the "von" indicate a noble family in every case? Institut Deutsche Adelsforschung nstitute of German Nobility Research retrieved on 8 January 2013.
About 200 to 300 known non-noble surnames contain the element ''von''. On the other hand, especially in Lower Saxony, several prominent noble surnames do not contain the particle ''von'', e.g. ', ' or '' Vincke''."Nichtadeliges 'von' "
on-noble "von" adelsrecht.de, retrieved on 8 January 2013.
In order to distinguish the noble ''von'' from the non-noble one, the Prussian military abbreviated it to ''v.'' in noble names, often without a space following it, whereas the non-noble ''von'' was always spelled in full. In the 19th century in Austria and Bavaria, non-noble surnames containing ''von'' were widely altered by compounding it with the main surname element, such as ''von Werden → Vonwerden''. "Untitled" and "non-noble" are not synonyms in the German-speaking world. However, most German nobles used ''von'' and most users of ''von'' were noble. Nonetheless, desiring to add cachet to their perceived lineages in the era since titles of nobility were abolished, some individuals of no titled descent chose to add the particle to their name, such as movie directors
Josef von Sternberg Josef von Sternberg (; born Jonas Sternberg; 29 May 1894 – 22 December 1969) was an Austrian-American filmmaker whose career successfully spanned the transition from the Silent film, silent to the Sound film, sound era, during which he worked w ...
,
Erich von Stroheim Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim (born Erich Oswald Stroheim; September 22, 1885 – May 12, 1957) was an Austrian-American director, actor and producer, most noted as a film star and avant-garde, visionary director of the silent era. H ...
, and
Lars von Trier Lars von Trier (born Lars Trier; 30 April 1956) is a Danish film director A film director controls a film's artistic and dramatic aspects and visualizes the screenplay (or script) while guiding the film crew and actors in the fulfilment o ...
.


Ancient nobility

Some very old noble families, usually members of the ''
Uradel ''Uradel'' (, German language, German: "ancient nobility"; adjective ''uradelig'' or ''uradlig'') is a genealogical term introduced in late 18th-century Germany to distinguish those families whose noble rank can be traced to the 14th century or e ...
'', bear surnames without the rather young nobiliary particle ''von'' but are nevertheless still noble. Also, a very few German families were elevated to the nobility without use of the preposition ''von''. This was the case of the
Riedesel Riedesel is a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language ...
''Freiherren zu Eisenbach'' who received baronial dignity in 1680. In order to distinguish themselves from bearers of regionally frequent non-noble surnames containing ''von'', nobles in Northern Germany continue the royal Prussian military practice of abbreviating the noble ''von'' to ''v.'' but spelling the non-noble ''von'' in full.


Russia

Generally, the growth of the
Tsardom of Russia The Tsardom of Russia or Tsardom of Rus' (russian: Русское царство, translit=Russkoye tsarstvo, later changed to: ), also externally referenced as the Tsardom of Muscovy, was the centralized Russian state from the assumption of the ...
into the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, succeeding the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad that ended the Great Northern War. ...
was accompanied to a greater or lesser extent by the inflow of German surnames. Two main channels of such migration were the absorption of territories where Germans constituted a part of local nobility, such as
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gulf of B ...

Finland
,
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
, and the
Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countries/states refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the ...
, and the state-supported immigration of Germans into Russia, such as the '' Volgadeutsch''. As a rule, the members of the local nobility who found themselves in Russia as a result of geopolitical shifts preserved their privileges in the Empire. Their surnames were listed in the State Register of Noble Families as soon as the required documents were provided. The particle ''von'' was preserved as well; once
hyphen The hyphen is a punctuation Punctuation (or sometimes interpunction) is the use of spacing, conventional signs (called punctuation marks), and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading of written text, ...
s came into common use in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was used to connect the ''von'' with the following part of the surname (e.g. russian: Фон-Визин, von-Wiesen). However, since the twentieth century the particle has been written separately, as in the German origin. In the Baltic region, the German language continued to be used alongside Russian, so the language environment was friendly enough there to keep these surnames from localisation. Meanwhile, some of those whose ancestors individually entered the Russian service from abroad, and who settled themselves in Moscow or the core Russian provinces, sooner or later found it easier to adjust their surnames to the local speaking mode. However, unlike immigrants to English-speaking countries during the 18th to 20th centuries, who usually lost their nobility particles and often simplified and
anglicised Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand in English language, English. ...
the remaining parts of their surnames, immigrants to the Tsarist and Imperial Russia did not lose their noble particles, although some of their core surnames may have experienced some minor changes. At the end of the 16th century, after the
Livonian War The Livonian War (1558–1583) was fought for control of Terra Mariana, Old Livonia (in the territory of present-day Estonia and Latvia), when the Tsardom of Russia faced a varying coalition of the Denmark–Norway, Dano-Norwegian Realm, t ...
,
Ivan IV of Russia Ivan IV Vasilyevich ( rus, Ива́н Васи́льевич; 25 August 1530 – ), commonly known as Ivan the Terrible ( ''Ivan Grozny''; "Ivan the Formidable" or "Ivan the Fearsome", la, Ioannes Severus), was the Grand Prince of Moscow from ...

Ivan IV of Russia
invited Baron Berndt von Wiesen () from the
Livonian Brothers of the Sword german: Schwertbrüderordenfrench: Ordre des Chevaliers Porte-Glaive , image= , caption= , dates=1204–1237 , country= Terra Mariana , allegiance= Catholic Church , garrison=Cēsis, Wenden (Cēsis), Viljandi, Fellin (Viljandi), Sigulda, Segewo ...
into Russian service and granted him some
landed property In real estate Real estate is property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this (also) an item of real propert ...
. In the 17th century his descendants wrote their surnames as russian: Фон Висин, links=no (which preserved the German spelling rather than the ). Circa 1660 one of them added''-ov'' (russian: Фон Висинов, links=no, ), yet in the 18th century this suffix was lost, and the middle consonant changed again ''s''→''z'' (russian: Фон-Визин, links=no, which preserves the German pronunciation rather than spelling: ). Finally, in the 18th century decided to merge the particle ''von'' with the core, thus giving a start to a new Russian family of German origin. His son,
Denis Fonvizin Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin (russian: Денис Иванович Фонвизин; —) was a playwright and writer of the Russian Enlightenment, one of the founders of literary comedy in Russia. His main works are two satirical comedies, one of the ...

Denis Fonvizin
(russian: Фонви́зин, links=no, ) became a playwright whose plays are staged today.


Nordic countries

In the
Nordic countries The Nordic countries (also known as the Nordics or ''Norden''; lit. 'the North') are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impac ...

Nordic countries
, ''von'' is common but not universal in the surnames of noble families of German origin and has occasionally been used as a part of names of ennobled families of native or foreign (but non-German) extraction, as with the family of the philosopher
Georg Henrik von Wright 220px, Von Wright's home on Laivurinkatu Street, Helsinki: a commemorative plaque marking his long-term residence was installed in 2006 Georg Henrik von Wright (; 14 June 1916 – 16 June 2003) was a Finnish philosopher A philosopher is so ...
, which is of , or as with the family of the painter
Carl Frederik von Breda Carl Frederik von Breda (16 August 1759 – 1 December 1818) was a Swedish people, Swedish painting, painter who studied in and spent much of his career in Kingdom of Great Britain, Britain before becoming painter to the Monarchy of Sweden, Swedis ...
, who was of .


Capitalisation


In German

The German dictionary ''
Duden The Duden () is a dictionary A dictionary is a listing of lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is ...

Duden
'' recommends capitalizing the prefix ''von'' at the beginning of the sentence, but not in its abbreviated form, in order to avoid confusion with an abbreviated first name. However the Swiss ''
Neue Zürcher Zeitung The ''Neue Zürcher Zeitung'' (''NZZ''; "New Journal of Zürich") is a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_ty ...

Neue Zürcher Zeitung
''
style guide A style guide or manual of style is a set of standards for the writing, formatting, and design of documents A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of ...
recommends omitting the ''von'' completely at the beginning of the sentence. Examples, meaning "Von Humboldt came later.": * ''Duden'' styles: "''Von Humboldt kam später''." and "''v. Humboldt kam später.''" * ''Neue Zürcher Zeitung'' style: "''Humboldt kam später.''"


References

{{reflist German words and phrases