Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Johann

Johann is the German form of John. Both the English John and the German Johann are linguistic variations of the Latin “Iohannes”, the Greek “Iōannēs” and, its ultimate source, the Hebrew “Yochanan” – all of which translate to “Yahweh (God) is gracious” or “God is generous”. The name John does appear in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) as one of King David’s mighty men. However, John owes most of his enduring popularity and widespread usage to two prominent New Testament figures: John the Baptist and John the Apostle. As a masculine given name, John (Johann, etc) came into usage throughout Europe after the Crusades (a series of religious wars between the 11th and 13th centuries). Many Christian knights and peasants throughout Western Europe made their way east to the Holy Lands in order to restore Christian access to the sacred city of Jerusalem and to liberate the Eastern Christians from invading and occupying Turkish Sunni Muslims. When these so-called pilgrim-warriors returned home from their crusades reinvigorated by their faith, they brought the Biblical name John back with them. From that point on, there was no stopping the popularity of this name throughout Western Europe – and every language had their own version of the name: Sean (Irish), Ian (Scottish), Giovanni (Italian), Jean (French), Juan (Spanish), Johann (German), Jan (Dutch), and Ivan (Russian) – just to name a few. The “John” name has been borne by 23 Roman Catholic popes, eight Byzantium Emperors, scores of saints, many kings and several U.S. Presidents. In all of its many forms in various languages, John – or, in this case, Johann – has remained a perennial favorite, perhaps the most successful masculine name ever in the Western World. Many illustrious German men can claim the name Johann: from the 15th century inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenburg, to the 18th and 19th century composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Strauss, respectively. Not to mention Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the 18/19th century German writer known best for his tragic play “Faust” (1808).

All About the Baby Name – Johann



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We would have expected to see Johann appear on the U.S. male naming charts in the late 19th century when German immigration to the United States was at its peak. But it didn’t. In fact, Johann just appeared on America’s Top 1000 list for the first time in 2010. Not only that, but it’s a low ranking name. Johan (with one “n”) is much more popular – this is the version used among Low Germans, Scandinavians and the Dutch. Johann with two “n”s remains alive and well in Germany and Liechtenstein. Johann is a great choice for parents who like traditional, time-honored names and want to celebrate their German heritage. Even if you aren’t German, Johann is a more cosmopolitan choice with European sensibility. We also love the pronunciation: Yo Yo Yo-han!

Quick Facts













God is gracious










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Johann

Literary Characters


We cannot find any significant literary characters by the name of Johann

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Johann

Popular Songs


We cannot find any popular or well-known songs with the name of Johann

Famous People


Johann Sebastian Bach (German composer)
Johannes Gutenburg (German inventor of the printing press)
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (German writer)
Johann Strauss (Austrian composer)
Johann David Wyss (author)
Johann Friedrich Gmelin (German naturalist/botanist)
Johann van Beethoven (father of Ludwig van Beethoven)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Johann

Historic Figures


Johann von Goethe was one of the giants of literature, having produced poetry, novels, memoirs, scientific treatises, an autobiography and plays, the most famous of which was Faust. He is considered to be Germany’s most revered writer. Born in Frankfurt to an upper middle class family, Goethe studied and practiced law for a time, but was much more drawn to the literary life. In 1774, his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther established his reputation, and enjoyed a spell as one of the first “best-sellers”. He and his good friend Frederick Schiller founded the “Weimar Classicism” movement, which had a tremendous influence on the nineteenth century, and his masterpiece, Faust, written over a period of fifty years, is a seminal piece in the history of literature. A giant he may be, but here’s a nice piece of trivia – he is the great, great grandfather of “Key Largo” singer, Bertie Higgins – now that’s one for the books!

Johann Strauss II was the son of Johann Strauss Senior, and like his father, was an Austrian composer of hugely popular waltzes, polkas and quadrilles, as well as several operettas. During his career, he was known as “The Waltz King”, and gave his famous father a run for his money, leaving us such contemporary standards as “The Blue Danube” and “Tales from the Vienna Woods”, as well as the popular operetta, “Die Fledermaus”. Father and son sparred over the years, but when the Elder died, the Younger combined their orchestras and embarked upon many successful tours, including to the United States. Young Strauss also managed to outlive his father by almost thirty years.

Johann Strauss I was the Austrian composer of beautifully melodic Viennese waltzes, played in three-quarter time, as well as several polkas, all of which are enjoyed as much today as in his era. Johann’s origins did not promise such success – his mother died when he was seven, his father when the boy was 12; his guardian placed him in a bookbinding apprenticeship, which he actually completed. At the same time, however, he was studying music and managed to secure an orchestral position. Johann Strauss was also the father of Johann Strauss II (and several other musical sons), who was his chief rival for a while. While married, Strauss Senior carried on a long affair with another woman, siring several children with her. When his wife became aware of this she divorced him and threw herself into furthering Strauss Junior’s career. Ironically, it was one of those illegitimate children who inadvertently caused Strauss Senior’s early death by exposing him to scarlet fever. Ah, but the music is glorious!

Johann Sebastian Bach is the German born composer and performer of Baroque classical music, the author of such masterpieces as “Mass in B Minor”, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” and the “Brandenburg Concertos”. It was almost impossible for Johann Sebastian Bach not to be a musician – he descended from a long generational line of such. He was a beautiful singer in his youth (until the dreaded voice change), and played the violin, harpsichord and organ, as well as composing. Early positions as church organist brought him into conflict with the clergy over his independent streak and his tendency to do things his own way. More successfully, he served as court composer to both Prince Leopold and August III. Bach was very popular as a performing organist, but it took until the 19th century for his formidable genius as a composer to be recognized. Today, he is classed with the “three Bs” (Beethoven and Brahms) as being the acknowledged giants of the field. Almost as prolific a progenitor as a composer, Bach fathered twenty (!) children between his two wives.

Johann Gutenberg is no less than the man who revolutionized the world through the introduction of the printing press to Europe, hence, the availability of learning to all people. His use of movable type, ink and a printing press quite simply changed the world. Of the man personally, little is known – after all, no one was printing up biographies yet. Much of our knowledge of him comes from court records, wherein he is either suing (for a broken promise of marriage, no less), or being sued, or inheriting his father’s estate. He appears to have continued in his father’s trade, gold-smithing, before concentrating on the printing work. Largely unsung and financially unsuccessful in his lifetime, this giant of modernity is widely acknowledged today. His masterpiece was the Gutenberg Bible, two copies of which (of about 48 known copies, complete and incomplete) reside in the British Library. Should you be interested in purchasing a complete copy, please be prepared to fork over about $35 million.