This German surname of GERKE was from a Germanic personal name derived from the element GERI, meaning 'spear'. It was also a nickname for a fickle, changeable and passionate person. The name has numerous variant spellings which include GEHRIG, GERIN, GERON, GERECKE, GEHRICKE, GEHRKE, GEHMANN and JARHR to name but a few. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. A notable member of the name was Lou Henry Louis GEHRIG (1903-41) the American baseball player, born in New York. Known as the 'Iron-Horse' for his remarkable endurance, he played a record number of 2,130 consecutive major-league games for the New York Yankees. He was voted Most Valuable Player, four times. The story of his life was told in the film 'Pride of the Yankees' (1942) with Gary Cooper in the title role. Surnames are divided into four categories, from occupations, nicknames, baptismal and locational. All the main types of these are found in German-speaking areas, and names derived from occupations and from nicknames are particularly common. A number of these are Jewish. Patronymic surnames are derived from vernacular Germanic given names, often honouring Christian saints. Regional and ethnic names are also common. The German preposition 'von (from) or 'of', used with habitation names, is taken as a mark of aristocracy, and usually denoted proprietorship of the village or estate from where they came. Some members of the nobility affected the form VON UND ZU with their titles. In eastern Germany there was a heavy influence both from and on neighbouring Slavonic languages. Many Prussian surnames are of Slavonic origin.
The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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