In German, von is a preposition which approximately means of or from.
When it is used as a part of a German family name, it is usually a nobiliary particle, like the French, Galician, Spanish and Portuguese de. At certain times and places, it has been illegal for anyone who was not a member of the nobility to use von before the family name. However, in the Middle Ages, the von particle was still a common part of names and was widely used also by commoners; thus, "Hans von Duisburg" meant Hans from Duisburg. The Dutch van, which is a cognate of von but does not indicate nobility, can be said to have preserved this earlier meaning.
Famous quotes containing the word Von:
“A man is murdered a mile away. And do you know what killed him? My name. The very name of Frankenstein burst his heart. And now the happy little villagers are clamoring for my blood.”
—Willis Cooper, and Rowland V. Lee. Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone)