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:
“Superstition belongs to the essence of mankind and takes refuge, when one thinks one has suppressed it completely, in the strangest nooks and crannies; once it is safely ensconced there, it suddenly reappears.”
—Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (17491832)