Scholla: Distinctly Swiss

Distinctly Swiss

The compound word Pennsylvania German is merely a generic term used for want of a better word to describe the origins of millions of Americans in terms of their European antecedents. Actually, there were people from many portions of Europe and one of the largest groups came from the cantons of Switzerland in which Germans was the prevailing tongue at the time of their emigration.

Here are some names frequently found among us which have been traced directly to Switzerland:

Huber, or Hoover from the canton of Zurich.

Graybill, or Krehbiehl, from Lucerne.

Mylin, or Meylin – the root of the name is Meili.

The name Landis is carved on the famous monument of the Lion of Lucerne.

Kendig, or Kindig, from the vicinity of Berne.

Burkholder, Buckwalter, Burkhalter are distinctly Swiss. Mr. Albert S. Burkholder, of Reading has published a monograph showing the origins of his family name in Switzerland.

Neff, probably adapted from Knoepf; Groff, Grove, Graeff and Graf appear frequently in Switzerland as they do in Germany. They are variants of Graf, the German word for Count.

Zug, which has become Zook among the Amish, Reinhart, Keller, Myer, Etter and Herzog have all been traced to Swiss origins.

There are many others. We have merely presented a few as examples. There are some students of the dialect who can detect variation in the Pennsylvania Dutch tongue which reflect Swiss roots. For example the diminutive ending “li” in words such as “bubbeli, hummli,” etc. The more common forms of these diminutives are “bubble or hummel,” etc.

Switzerland. Source:
Switzerland. Source:

One thought on “Scholla: Distinctly Swiss

  1. According to research I’ve done and passed down through my family, Bernville was started by Stephanus Umbenhauer and he named it after Berne, Switzerland. My maiden name is Umbenhauer. There is a park in Bernville, a street and general area of the homestead is known. Great to hear there were many other familiar names from Switzerland. More info about this would be appreciated!

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