26 February 2013

German Cities

Looking at the suffixes used in naming cities can tell you something about the language and the geographical or topographical setting of that city.

One example I came across recently deals with the names of German cities. Of course, all of these have come over to America in the naming of cities by early German immigrants.

For example, cities with the suffix -dorf or -torf  which mean "village" and was used for small towns. Of course, after hundreds of years, that village may have become a city, such as Düsseldorf.


Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and center of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region. Düsseldorf is an international business and financial center and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs. This "village" has a population of 592,393 (2011) and an area of 83.78 sq miles (217 km²). Doesn't sound like a village to you? Well, imagine it back when it was founded - in 1288.

Copper-engraving of a view of Düsseldorf by Matthäus Merian.
Published in "Topographia Germaniae" edition: "Topographia Westphaliae" in 1647.


Here are some other German suffixes associated with cities:

with the suffix -furt ("ford"). Examples: Erfurt, Frankfurt.

with the suffix -brücken or -brück ("bridge"). Examples: Saarbrücken, Osnabrück, Innsbruck.

with the suffix -hausen ("house"). Examples: Mülhausen (Mulhouse), Mühlhausen, Schaffhausen.

with the suffix -feld ("field"). Examples: Bielefeld, Mansfeld.

with the suffix -werth, -wörth, or -ort ("holm"). Example: Kaiserswerth, Donauwörth, Ruhrort

with the suffix -roth or -rath, -rode, -reuth, -rade ("clearing"). Example: Roth, Wernigerode, Overath. It can also be used as the prefix -Rade: Radebeul, Radevormwald.

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