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The German first names Heinrich and Friedrich have short forms Heinz and Fritz. The forms are similar - they both seem to replace the -rich ending with a z. This seems to give raise to a small pattern. However, this pattern would not apply to Ulrich, as *Ulz does not seem to exist.

And then, there is Lutz as a short form of Ludwig - which makes the z appear as a mere form of abbreviating a longer ending.

Where does this common ending stem from?

I have looked into the German and English Wikipedia articles of the names, but they do not give any hint. I don't know where else I could look.

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    »Utz« exists though, but I don’t know whether that’s a short form for anything such as Ulrich. In my father’s case, btw, »Heinz« was his official name, and »Heinrich« was the more colloquial form. So even though it looks like they are short forms, they might just have evolved differently from the same root, e.g. in different dialects or regions. Mar 22 at 13:31

1 Answer 1

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Probably nobody will be able to give you the exact origin, but shortening names with -(t)z is very common:

  • Ulrich: Utz
  • Friedrich: Fritz
  • Ludwig: Lutz
  • Heinrich: Heinz
  • Konrad: Kunz
  • Dietrich: Dietz
  • Gottfried: Götz
  • Siegfried, Seifried: Seitz
  • Richard: Reitz
  • ...

Some of these shortened names are not common any more as first names, but are still existing as last names.

Jakob Grimm dedicates a whole chapter of his Deutsche Grammatik (volume 3, chapter III) to the topic "diminuition der Eigennamen" ["diminuition of names"]. But he also just states:

... die ihnen allen zu grund liegende verkleinerung entspringt dadurch, daß der zweite Theil der zusammensetzung wegfällt und unberücksichtigt bleibt, der erste aber durch ein hinzutretendes Z, gewöhnlich auch mit Verlust der zweiten muta, eigenthümlich modificirt wird...

The diminuition stems from the fact that the second part of the composition is omitted, while the first one is modified by an additional z, usually accompanied by the loss of the second plosive.

Grimm does not say anything about the origin of this phenomenon, though. He does, however, provide records back to the ninth century and earlier and stresses the old age of this phenomenon. He also names some records of (rare) shortenings of female names which don't exist anymore, such as Hizila as a form of Hildipurh.

It might also be worth to mention that the same phenomenon can also be found in last names, for instance Schmitz ("smith", instead of Schmied) and Schulz ("village mayor", instead of Schultheiß).

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  • I believe that these pattern is usual only in northern parts of Germany. I, living in Austria, never in my life have heard these names: Utz, Dietz, Seitz, Reitz. From all the names in your list only Fritz and Heinz are common in Austria. I know Kunz only from "Hinz und Kunz" which means everybody. Götz (Götz von Berlichingen, Götz George) and Lutz are connoted as typical German (in the sense of belonging to the country Germany) in Austria allthough the Austrian chain of furniture stores XXXLutz has Lutz in its name. (Lutz was the maiden name of the wife of the company founder) Mar 24 at 5:31
  • @HubertSchölnast Die Grammatik gibt's hier: books.google.de/…. Grimm zählt Vorkommen in Württemberg und Bayern auf, ich halte es für unwahrscheinlich, dass ausgerechnet Österreich dann eine Ausnahme wäre.
    – tofro
    Mar 24 at 9:20
  • Die Statistik Austria stellt eine vollständige Liste mit Namen bereit, die zwischen 1984 und 2020 an österreichischen Standesämtern als erster Vorname an Neugeborene vergeben wurden: statistik.at/web_de/statistiken/menschen_und_gesellschaft/… Das sind die Zahlen: 11 Buben bekamen in diesen 36 Jahren den Namen Lutz (Rang 2647). Genau 1 Bub bekam den Namen Götz (Rang 10287). Die Namen Utz, Kunz, Dietz, Seitz und Reitz wurden zwischen 1984 und 2020 gar niemandem gegeben. (309 Heinz und 210 Fritz) Mar 25 at 22:17
  • @HubertSchölnast Die Statistik dürfte in Deutschland (heute) ähnlich sein. Ich weise mal kurz darauf hin, dass der Grimm inzwischen knapp 200 Jahre alt ist...
    – tofro
    Mar 25 at 22:20

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