John Fred William Riepe & Anna Wilhelmina [Luetger] Riepe Joseph Creighton Riepe, Sr. Bertha Fredericka [Riepe] Lord Ruby Fern Riepe & Otis Wendell Riepe Sophia [Peine] Riepe Josephine Catherine [Riepe] Ernst  

German Names, Nicknames, and Origins

German Naming Customs
German Names, Nicknames & Origins
Riepe Surname






Centuries ago our ancestors did not have surnames.  Communities often consisted of just a few people and surnames were not needed to identify individuals.  As villages and towns grew, surnames developed as a means to differentiate one "Heinrich" from another.  Early on, the easiest way to identify a person was for him to assume a second name which usually was associated with some aspect of his life.  This descriptive surname was most often derived from one of the following:

  his occupation 

  a physical characteristic (black hair, short, fat)

  topographical/geographical features (river, woods, meadow)

  the place or area in which he lived or worked (this could be a village, or as specific as a building such as a church or school)

One of the most commonly used categories was that of the place or area in which the person lived or worked.  Initially, topographical features were descriptive enough - a Heinrich who lived near the woods might take a surname of the German word for woods or forest, while a Heinrich who lived next to a river might use the word for river, or the actual name of a nearby river, as a surname.  Eventually, though, the need arose for even more specific descriptions of places, so some people began using the name of the region or the town or village in which they lived. 

Riepe, Ostfriesland, northwest Germany

In Ostfriesland, northwest Germany, there is the village of Riepe.  Though we have no specific evidence, it is most likely that some of our Riepe ancestors lived in the village of Riepe and thus, took this as a surname.  As people began to migrate to other neighboring districts and areas in their homeland, their origins were easily identified by their surnames.  Many of the Riepes who immigrated to America came from areas of Prussia south of Riepe, but it is highly probable that their ancestors could be traced back to the village of Riepe.

Teijo Doornkamp, a current resident of Peize, near Groningen, Holland, has kindly provided the following information on Riepe:

Meaning of name: sidewalk (your guess is a good as mine on this one! Was Riepe along side a walk or pathway?  Perhaps to get to Riepe, one had to walk to the side [east/west] of another village?)    
Ostfriesland Pronunciation: "Reep-uh" (in Ostfriesland and other parts of northern Germany, the "uh" is pronounced as we pronounce the "a" in Bertha, cola, trivia, etc. )

In other parts of Germany and Austria, the last "e" is often pronounced "eh", as in "get", or "ee" as in "feed".  In the U.S., there are two known pronunciations:

                            "Riepe-ee"  and  "Reep"

Just as nicknames and other name variations arise from given names, surnames also have variations.  In German surnames, the suffix of "er" or "ner" also denote that the person lived in a particular area, had a certain occupation, etc.  Thus, "Riepe" and "Rieper" mean the same thing.  Note that, in English - being a German-rooted language - we find similar names and terms - e.g., Painter, New Yorker.

Maps of Riepe




Photos of the village of Riepe in Germany

The village of Riepe



Copyright © 2000-2011 Anne S. Riepe.  All rights reserved.
Last modified:  Saturday, January 15, 2011 06:17 PM