I'm currently tracing the root meaning/history of the German family name "Würker", specifically regarding the authenticity of the American transliteration of "Worker" - how commonly used is this form, and how established is it?

2 Answers 2


While phonetically and etymologically reasonable (as demonstrated by the answer to your question at German Language SE), a key factor in determining whether any American individuals surnamed Worker are descendants of someone originally named Würker, is time.

20th and 21st century immigrants are more likely to come with documentation that contains a fixed surname spelling. Names changes are now made more deliberately, requiring legal records.

Earlier generations were less able to maintain foreign spellings in an English-speaking environment, especially when both education and foreign language skills were less valued. Name changes were informal and often unsystematic, thus descendants of the same family often carry different variations of the original surname.

The website "AmericanSurnames" shows some statistics for the surname Worker and some of the variant spellings that could be associated.

A complication is that there will be Worker individuals who are descendants of Worker immigrants from England and there may be Workers whose origins are from other surnames that also evolved into Worker.

At ancestry.com, an exact search for surname "Worker", and

  • birthplace blank, has 219,043 results
  • born in Germany, has 127 results
  • born in United States, has 2,307 results
  • born in United Kingdom, has 7,375 results

There are a number of books on American surnames, for instance

  • Dictionary of American Family Names (Patrick Hanks)
  • American Surnames (Elsdon C. Smith)

that could be checked, but Worker seems to be relatively rare. Finding surname-specific references is made more difficult by the more frequent non-surname usage of the word.


This site indicates that "worker" is indeed the original equivalent root of this:


Berufsname zu mittelhochdeutsch wirker, würker (der etwas hervorbringt, schafft, arbeitet, bewirkt); wohl allgemein für einen Handwerker (Würke (1321), Wirger (1470))

Translation: Middle High German occupational name (producing, managing, working, creating); generally, a craftsman (Wurke 1321, Wirger 1470)

  • Would you be able to include an English translation of the relevant portion from that website into your answer, please?
    – PolyGeo
    Sep 25, 2014 at 21:41

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