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For example: Zum Schusterjungen, Zur Post, Zum Flaucher.

The first thought was "going to a place" which fits for any named after locations. But there are some more figurative names, so I wondered if the pattern, if there is one, is to toast to the object/place. Or maybe there's no pattern.

This has been hard to google.

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    Welcome to German.SE. Regarding your profile you are from UK. A very short search says that in UK it is common to have a restaurant name like "the xy" (and maybe where xy can be a place or person) - is that right? Then it sounds there is a "transferable", because in France you have things like "chez xy" which is "bei ..." while xy here is the chef. Jul 24 '20 at 17:45
  • (and my search was just your question title^^) Jul 24 '20 at 18:10
  • "Zum Flaucher" is in Munich, isn't it? Flaucher is a part of the Isar, and the word is not used elsewhere in Germany.
    – Paul Frost
    Jul 24 '20 at 23:43
  • Althoug quite a number of restaurant names start with "zum" or "zur", I doubt that most names do. But the question is very interesting.
    – Paul Frost
    Jul 24 '20 at 23:52
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Zu is a beast as a preposition and its usage can widely vary. Duden lists the definition for the particular usage as follows, in the same category as the usage "zu Hause sein" (at home):

  1. c) kennzeichnet den Ort, die Lage des Sichbefindens, Sichabspielens von etwas
    - ...
    - (in Namen von Gaststätten) Gasthaus zu den Drei Eichen

My personal interpretation of this usage is a stylized description of the building; "Zur Post" is "by post office" and "Zum Löwen" might merely mean "with lion signage" as knut commented. For a bonus, the "The Prancing Pony" inn in Lord of the Rings was translated as "Zum Tänzelnden Pony" in German.

Found more discussion in another forum at UPenn LDC Language Log - Ask Language Log: German restaurant-name zum? Seems to be an indeed popular question, where no one likely had definitive explanation why zu is used for this purpose, other than it being a tradition or a formulated phrase.

Similar question of usage of zu have appeared in GLSE before. Meaning of "zu" in the name of a Gasthof. My answer above can be interpreted as an elaboration on Ingmar's answer to this. Another example of usage of zu for building albeit a bit different is asked in Wieso heißt es „Universität zu Köln“?. This again is not "(toasting) to", merely describing its location and/or affiliation.

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  • I like the interpretation referring to signage, since historically, houses did not have numbers, but often signs with animals or something related to their craft. Jul 27 '20 at 7:06
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Your first idea is right. Imagine a Wirtshaus close to a linden (lime). The famous place in this town is this tree. So there is no real name of this Wirtshaus like e.g. 'Peters Kneipe', but it's simply the Wirtshaus next to the linden, thus das 'Wirtshaus zur Linde'.

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    I wondering how this explanation fit names like „zum Löwen“. Especially when you consider that said animal isn’t a frequent occurrence in Central Europe.
    – Stephie
    Jul 24 '20 at 21:05
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    Lions are often used as heraldic animals. So it could be, that the Wirthshaus is in the house with the lion over the door.
    – knut
    Jul 24 '20 at 21:11
  • I doubt that this a good explanation.
    – Paul Frost
    Jul 24 '20 at 23:46

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