Switzerland is a diverse country with many different cultures and languages. The Swiss confederation is comprised of 26 cantons, each with its own unique traditions. The cantons all have their own official language which is either German, French or Italian (although some cantons, like Fribourg, have more than one official language). Romansh is also a nationally recognised language, being one of the official languages of Graubunden.
Names vary between the German, French, Italian and Romansh speaking regions. Predictably, the most popular names in each region tend to reflect the language that is spoken, a trend that continues with the naming of newborns today.
Don’t worry if this all seems a bit much; we’ve put together this guide to help you keep track of all the names used in the different languages and regions in Switzerland. We’ve also included a list of general rules on naming children and changing your own name.
Names in Switzerland
Personal names in Switzerland typically follow the same common structure as other European countries in that they include a first and a last name. Extra names, like middle names and suffixes, change depending on the language and the region the person is from.
Swiss first names
Of Switzerland’s four official languages, German is the most widely spoken. So, it is no surprise that German names feature prominently in the top 10 most popular names and surnames. The 10 most popular first names in Switzerland are:
First names for boys
The most popular names for boys in Switzerland are:
First names for girls
The most popular girls’ names in Switzerland are:
Swiss last names
The 10 most common surnames in Switzerland are:
Changing your name in Switzerland
Changing your name in Switzerland is done through a process called Namensänderung. This process can only be completed if the applicant has an “important reason.” Applicants must send a written request to their civil register office, as well as provide their passport and (if applicable) their residence permit or divorce certificate. There is also a charge for submitting an application.
You can find your nearest civil register office on the official government website.
- Important reasons for changing one’s name include:
- If an error is made when recording a name on an official document.
- If someone wants to change their name after gaining citizenship or residence.
- If a foreign marriage has been recognised in Switzerland.
- If someone has undergone a gender transition.
Naming a baby in Switzerland
However, if a child is not born in a hospital or if the child was born outside their canton of residence, then the child has to be registered within three days of the birth with the civil register office of the local council (Gemeinde). This must be done by the mother or father, or by proxy; by giving written permission for someone else to register the birth.
Switzerland is fairly relaxed when it comes to naming children, but there are a few rules. The chosen first name must not “damage the interests of the child” and cannot be ambiguous or misleading. Any biblical names that are deemed evil are generally forbidden, as are brand names, objects (for instance, a Swiss musician, Christine Lauterburg, was once banned from naming her daughter “Lexikon”), place names and made-up names. Giving a boy a girl’s name is also not allowed, and vice-versa. All decisions are made by the civil register office, meaning that some cantons may be stricter than others.
Children will also be assigned a surname from one of their parents. This is often a choice but can also be determined by whether the parents are married or divorced.
German names in Switzerland
It is common for German names to consist of several first names. One of these names is a designated “call name” (known as a Rufname). A call name is usually underlined on official documents, as it can be the second or third given name.
- German surnames usually fall into one of four categories:
- Family names usually identify a family ancestor.
- Occupational names like Schmidt (Smith) refer to a specific job.
- Geographical names referring to a specific place; for instance Kissinger means someone from Kissingen.
- Names based on body features usually describe a certain trait; Klein means “small” or “short.”
The use of von is also common in German surnames. Originally this preposition was used to signify landownership and could be gifted to those who had achieved nobility. It is also used alongside geographical names.
First names in German-speaking Switzerland
Since the German-speaking population of Switzerland is so large, the most popular German first names in Switzerland are also the most popular names in Switzerland. Only the Italian “Marco” drops out of the most popular boys names, to be replaced by Stefan. For the girls, Nicole drops out and Andrea comes in.
Popular boys’ names
The most popular names for boys in Switzerland’s German-speaking region are:
Popular girls’ names
The most popular girl’s names in German-speaking Switzerland are:
German names for newborn boys and girls in Switzerland
The Federal Statistical Office of Switzerland records the names given to newborns every year.
Popular German names for baby boys
As of 2020, the most popular name for newborn baby boys in Switzerland’s German-speaking region are:
Popular German names for baby girls
The most popular names for newborn girls are:
French names in Switzerland
French names usually consist of one, two, or more first names. Similar to German names, one of these names is a designated call name and is used primarily in daily life. French surnames are usually structured the same as German surnames, falling into similar categories and using de- or du- instead of von.
First names in French-speaking Switzerland
The most popular names in the French-speaking region of Switzerland see a departure from more Germanic names. They are replaced with traditional-sounding French names like Jean, Pierre, and Michel for the boys, and Marie and Isabelle for the girls.
Popular French names for boys
The most common names for boys in French-speaking Switzerland are:
Popular French names for girls
The most popular French names for girls in Switzerland are:
French names for boys and girls in Switzerland
When it comes to naming babies in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, there has been a trend of using more modern, international-sounding names, such as Alice, Chloe, and Nathan.
Popular French names for baby boys
The most popular French names for newborn boys in Switzerland are:
Popular French names for baby girls
The most popular French names for newborn girls in Switzerland are:
Italian names in Switzerland
Italian names commonly feature several given names that represent family and often saints and locations. Italian surnames generally fall into the same four categories mentioned above. They also commonly feature suffixes that represent different meanings(a name ending in -i, like Medici, denotes a family name, whilst -ello / illo / etto / ino give a diminutive meaning to the name).
Italian first names
The most popular names in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland differ significantly from the popular French and German names. Traditional Italian names feature extensively throughout the list of most popular names, for both girls and boys.
Popular Italian boys’ names
The 10 most popular names for boys in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland are:
Popular Italian girls’ names
Italian names for boys and girls in Switzerland
Many of the names featured in the most popular names for newborns in Switzerland are also found in the newborn lists for both the German and French-speaking regions. This suggests that names in Switzerland are becoming less regionalised, probably due to a rise in popularity of certain international names like Liam, Daniel and Nathan.
Popular Italian names for baby boys
The most popular names for newborn boys in Italian-speaking Switzerland are:
Popular Italian names for baby girls
The most popular Italian names for newborn girls in Switzerland are:
Romansh is a Romance language that is predominantly spoken in the canton of Graubunden. As of 2019, 40.074 people in Switzerland speak Romansh, centralised around several villages and towns in the Swiss mountains.
Popular Romansh names
A few popular names in the Romansh language are also common with the most popular French, German and Italian names. However, there are also a few unique names that make the list.
Popular Romansh names for boys
The 10 most popular Romansh names for boys are:
Popular Romansh names for girls
The 10 most popular Romansh names for girls are:
Romansh baby names
The most popular names for newborns in Romansh-speaking Switzerland are unique in that most of them don’t feature at all in any of the above lists. Due to a smaller population, there were only eight unique boys names and five girls names in Romansh in 2020.
Most common Romansh baby boy names
The most popular names for baby boys in the Romansh-speaking region of Switzerland are:
Most common Romansh baby girl names
The most popular names for newborn girls in the Romansh-speaking region of Switzerland are:
Find out more about baby names in Switzerland
For a full comprehensive list of all the baby names used in Switzerland you can check out the official government website.