What is the origin of the last name Schafer?

The last name SCHAFER finds its origin in Germany, specifically from the Middle High German word "schāfære," meaning shepherd or sheep-herder. This surname likely developed as an occupational name for people involved in herding or tending to sheep during medieval times. The name SCHAFER reflects the significance of sheep-rearing and pastoral activities in German history and suggests a connection to the countryside and agricultural traditions of the region.

Countries of origin for the last name Schafer

The last name Schaefer has its roots in Germanic culture and is derived from the occupational term “Schäfer,” which means shepherd in German. It can be traced back to the medieval period when surnames were first adopted.

The German word “Schäfer” itself is believed to have originated from the Middle High German word “schāffer,” which also means shepherd.

The surname Schaefer is quite common in Germany and other German-speaking countries, where it ranks among the top surnames.

Throughout history, sheep farming and shepherding played a significant role in agriculture, and people with the surname Schaefer likely found themselves involved in these occupations.

The popularity of this surname suggests that many families were engaged in sheep farming, which was a vital economic activity during the Middle Ages and beyond.

It is interesting to note that variations of the name Schaefer can be found in different regions, with similar-sounding surnames like Schafer, Schaffer, Schäffer, Schäffler, and others. These variations arose due to regional dialects and local pronunciations.

The surname Schaefer has migrated to various parts of the world due to emigration from German-speaking countries. It can now be found in several countries, including the United States, where it ranks 3,251st in terms of frequency.

In the United States, Schaefer is most commonly found in states with significant German-American populations, such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. German immigrants who arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries likely brought the name with them.

People with the surname Schaefer have made notable contributions in various fields, including academia, arts, politics, and business. While researching specific individuals with this surname can reveal fascinating stories and achievements, this analysis focuses solely on the etymology and historical significance of the Schaefer surname.

Despite our comprehensive understanding of the Schaefer surname based on available historical and etymological sources, there is always the possibility of uncovering new insights or undiscovered connections in the future. The study of surnames is an evolving field, and further research may shed additional light on the origins and meaning of the name Schaefer.

Interesting facts about the last name Schafer

  • The surname Schäfer is of German origin and is derived from the word “Schaf” which means sheep in German.
  • Historically, the Schäfer surname was often used to denote occupation and was given to individuals who worked as shepherds or had a connection to sheep farming.
  • As a surname, Schäfer is quite common in Germany and other German-speaking countries.
  • The variant spellings of the name include Schafer, Schaefer, Schaffer, Shaffer, and Shepard.
  • Many individuals with the Schäfer surname have migrated to other countries over the years, including the United States, resulting in a significant presence in various regions around the world.
  • The Schäfer surname can also be found among Jewish communities, particularly Ashkenazi Jews, who adopted German surnames during the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Some notable individuals in history with the Schäfer surname include German politician Heinz Schäfer, German footballer Andreas Schäfer, and German painter Hermann Schäfer.
  • The meaning behind the Schäfer surname reflects the historical significance of sheep farming in Germany and the important role shepherds played in rural communities.
  • Genealogical research into the Schäfer surname often reveals interesting connections to rural and agricultural communities, deepening our understanding of family history and local traditions.
  • With various individuals and families bearing the Schäfer surname, it is a testament to the diversity and complexity of human history and the ability of surnames to connect us to our ancestral past.

Name Rank


There are around 24543 people with the last name Schafer in the US

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