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German Placeholders: Names Posted by on Jun 19, 2019 in Language

Guten Tag! We briefly touched on German placeholders in this post, about the words Krimskrams (stuff, junk) and Dingsbums (thingy, thingymajig). Now we’re going to look at lots more placeholders in German, starting with German names.

A placeholder is a generic word you use in place of a real word. This might be because you can’t think of the actual word or phrase you’re looking for, or because you aren’t talking about anything or anyone specific. One common example in English is the name John Doe to describe an unknown male. So who is the German equivalent to John Doe? Read on to find out.


German Placeholders: Names

Max Mustermann/Erika Mustermann

Max and Erika are two common, German Platzhalternamen (‘placeholder names’ – also sometimes called die Notnamen – ‘emergency names’). These are the names you see on official identity document examples, such as on a German ID card (der Personalausweis). Max Mustermann and Erika Mustermann are the German John Doe and Jane Doe.

Otto Normalverbraucher/Lieschen Müller

Otto Normalverbraucher is your ‘Average Joe’ in German. Otto is a common first name in German, while Normalverbraucher translates to ‘normal consumer’ or ‘average consumer’. Lieschen Müller is the female equivalent. Both her first and second name are common in Germany. They represent the average German citizen (der Durchschnittsbürger).

Image via Pixabay

Hans und Franz/Hinz und Kunz

Hans und Franz – also sometimes Hinz und Kunz, short for Heinrich und Konrad – is the German equivalent to Tom, Dick & Harry, meaning: everybody and anybody. ‘Wir sagen nichts– sonst kommt jeder Hans und Franz!’ ‘We won’t say anything- otherwise every Tom, Dick & Harry will come!’ Hans, Franz, Heinrich and Konrad are all common German names.

Klein Fritzchen

Klein Fritzchen is the name of a little boy that pops up in lots of rude German jokes (joke – der Witz). These are called die Fritzchenwitze (‘Little Fritz jokes’). The English equivalent is ‘Little Johnny’, and he too has ‘Little Johnny jokes’, which are also rude in nature.

Check back next week for more German placeholders!

Bis dann (until then)!

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor and am training to be a personal trainer.


  1. Adam:

    That was a lot of fun to read. Wonder what the placeholder names are in Spanish, Italian, and French.

  2. Christine:

    This is really interesting!

    • Constanze:

      @Christine I thought so, too! Thanks, Christine

  3. Thorsten:

    Fun fact: The name Otto Normalverbraucher comes from the movie “Berliner Ballade” from 1948 where Gerd Fröbe (aka Mr. Goldfinger) plays a man with this name. The name was taken from the food ration card of that time, where a “Normalverbraucher” got the ordinary ration

    • Constanze:

      @Thorsten Very interesting, Thorsten, and thanks for adding that extra bit of info! 🙂