Klinger Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Klinger Surname Meaning

Klinger or Klingler is a Germanic surname found in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland primarily. It is most likely occupational in origin, describing someone who made and sold blades or swords. The root here is klinge meaning “metal blade” or “sword,” deriving probably from klingen meaning “to ring or clatter.” 

Klinger can also be Jewish. Some have suggested that the name here might describe a junk dealer, from the German klunker meaning “junk.” Klinger could alternatively be a purely ornamental name without any specific meaning.

Klinger Surname Resources on The Internet

Klinger and Klingler Surname Ancestry

  • from SW Germany and from Jewish emigrants
  • to America and England

The German Klingers came from SW Germany. Hugo de Klingere of Breisgau in present-day Baden-Wurttemberg was recorded around the year 1200. The name extended into southern Hesse.

The Klinger Legend was said to have happened in the Distelhausen district of southern Hesse sometime in the 15th century. Klingers were recorded nearby at Pfaffen Beerfurth where they were swordsmiths and later mill owners.

Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger, born in Frankfurt, was a late 18th century dramatist and novelist. A contemporary of Goethe, his play Sturm und Drang gave name to the Sturm und Drang artistic epoch.

Klinger and Klingler numbers today are around 16,000 in Germany, 3-4,000 in Austria, and 1-2,000 in Switzerland. Klinger is more common in Germany and Austria, Klingler in Switzerland. One Klingler family in Switzerland dates from about the year 1500 in St. Gallen.

America. Early Klingers and Klinglers entered via Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania. Philip Klinger and his brother Alexander from Pfaffen Beerfurth left Germany on the Neptune and arrived in Philadelphia in 1751, Philip’s wife Anna dying during the crossing or shortly thereafter.  They settled initially in Reading, Pennsylvania where Alexander, a carpenter, remained. Some later Klingers here adopted the Clinger spelling. 

Sometime in the 1770’s Philip and his second wife Eva migrated with other German pioneers to frontier land in the Mohantango mountains. They made their home in what came to be known as Klingerstown. Klingers have remained as farmers and mill owners. The Klinger Lumber Company operates there today.

Meanwhile Theobald Klingler from Weingarten in Germany, close by the border with Switzerland, had arrived in Philadelphia on the Friendship in 1738. He settled in Heidelberg township, Berks county. His son John, sometimes Clingler, fought in the Revolutionary War and moved to Clermont county, Ohio. Later Klinglers were to be found in Kentucky and Indiana.

The German immigrant Karl Christoff Klinger had settled in Fredericksburg, Lebanon county. His son Henry migrated to Hocking county, Ohio in the early 1800’s. David Klinger, born there in 1846, moved to western Kansas. Christian Klinger, a shoemaker, and his wife Judith came to Pennsylvania around 1817. They eventually settled in Wooster, Ohio.

Later Arrivals.  Georg Heinrich Klinger departed Hesse for America in 1830 and married and settled down in Illinois. In 1852 they uprooted themselves to Texas, first to Austin and then to Llano City where the spelling changed to Clinger. Their descendants have held regular reunions.

August Klinger arrived in Wisconsin from Prussia in the 1880’s.  His son William, born there, became one of the leading builders of NW Iowa.

England.  The Klingers were Jewish immigrants in London from Poland in the 1910’s. Their son Michael Klinger started off in London’s East End markets and became a film producer.

Klinger Surname Miscellany

The Klinger Legend.  In the district of Distelhausen along the Tauber river in southern Hesse you can see the chapel of Saint Wolfgang.  Outside there is a gravestone with the name of Johann Klinger.  In the inside is a stone picture of the Holy Mary with some damage at the neck.

The story goes that in the Middle Ages the farmer Johann Klinger was ploughing his field near the river Tauber.  His horse was sick and it was hard work.  There was a big stone lying on his field in his path and he threw it into the river.

The next morning as he was starting again to plough, there came curiously the same stone in the same old place again.  He threw it a second time into the river.  But as he came on the third day to work on that field, the stone was there again at the same location.

He got a strange feeling before he threw the stone a third time. He turned the stone over and was very astonished to find a picture showing Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph and Saint Wolfgang.  He sank on his knees, praised the Lord and requested health for his horse as well.  After he had finished his horse was healed.  He thanked the Lord by building the chapel for Saint Wolfgang and placing the stone on the inside.

As to the damage to Mary’s neck, some oldies have told another story.In the 15th century the plague had killed half the people of Distelhausen.  Those still living swore to build a chapel for Saint Wolfgang if he would save them.  A short time after the promise was made the plague went away.  The people built the chapel and made every year on October 31 a procession in honor of Saint Wolfgang.

One day a bad man came into the chapel and not to pray. He saw the stone picture, cursed and beat the picture with his sword.  Only the damage which you can see today happened.  So he tried to beat harder to cut the head of Mary.  But he killed himself with that stroke.  Since that time there sometimes appears in clear moon nights a rider on a white horse in the fields carrying his head in his hands.

Klingerstown, Pennsylvania.  The villages of Klingerstown and Erdman are centered around the Klingerstown Gap in the Mahantongo Mountain range of Dauphin and Schuylkill counties, Pennsylvania.  The gap is historically referred to as the ancient gateway at Klingerstown and is known as Spread Eagle.

An Indian had carved a spread eagle on a giant sycamore tree. According to tradition the tree stood near the center of Klingerstown.  This sycamore tree was blown down in a windstorm in the early 1870’s.

It was said that Indian travelers on the Tulpehocken Path would frequent Philip Klinger’s residence at Klingerstown for trading purposes.  They would knock on the back door of the log house with their animal skins to enter this early trading post.

In 2007 there was a community day service at what was once called Klinger’s church in Erdman, where six area churches participated in commemorating the Revolutionary War patriots who were buried there.  Philip Klinger who had fought in this war received a new memorial marker.

A Theobald Klingler Line.  Theobald Klingler came to America on the Friendship in 1738 and settled in Heidelberg township, Berks county in Pennsylvania.  One line to the 20th century ran as follows:

  • Theobald Klingler (born 1714) m. Maria Catherina Golbert
  • – John Klingler (1738-1789) m. Anna Maria Duegener
  • — Adam Klingler (1759-1843 in Ohio) m. Margaretha Brown
  • — Adam Klingler (1794-1876) m. Elizabeth Fiedler
  • —- David Klingler (1824-1875) m. Sarah Brocius
  • —– Molangthon Klingler (1848-1937).

Reader Feedback – Klingers from Hazelton, Pennsylvania.  My mother was born in Drums near Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Her maiden name was Klinger. Does anyone know where the Klingers from the Hazelton area come from? There are many settled in that area.

Robert Horne (bobandalisonplusboys4cef@gmail.com).

David Klinger, Kansas Pioneer.  Born in Ohio in 1846, David Klinger married and headed west, first to Missouri and then in 1887 to Ashland in western Kansas where he bought land to farm.

His first work was to break sod and plant a crop.  But that crop was almost a total failure.  The year 1887 was probably one of the driest ever experienced in this part of Kansas. This year put him almost on the rocks of bankruptcy and he had to resort to some other occupation to make a living.  In the fall of 1887 he began buying up poultry, butter and eggs and hauling them to market at Camp Supply where he sold his goods to the soldiers of the post.

Later he began experimenting with wheat.  He sowed wheat for several seasons and brought two good crops to the harvesting point.  But then they were almost totally destroyed by hail.  Finally he lost the seed that he had planted and this discouraged him from wheat growing.  He then concentrated his attention more and more on cattle and this became his profitable business.

After the hard times had passed he began increasing his land area and bought until he had acquired 1,800 acres.  He was able to retire comfortably in 1912.

Reader Feedback – Eliza Klinger in Ohio?  My 3rd great grandmother’s name was Eliza V. Klinger.  She was born March 15, 1827 in Ohio {not sure what township} and she married my 3rd great grandfather Samuel Webb Orwig on March 5, 1846 in Sandusky, Erie, Ohio and moved around a few times.  We have no idea who the parents or family is to Eliza.  Is there any way that you can help me on this issue?

Thanks, Dawn Orwig. (dawnorwig33@gmail.com)

Michael Klinger, London-born Film Producer.  Born in 1920, the son of an immigrant Polish tailor, Michael Klinger first worked on the market in London’s East End before investing in the 1950’s in two Soho strip clubs, the Nell Gwynn and the Gargoyle.  By 1960, with a fellow Jewish entrepreneur Tony Tenser, he had started the Compton Cinema Club which would titillate his audiences by showing salacious imported films.

However, finding it difficult to obtain enough of these films, Klinger and Tenser started making their own low-budget films. They then financed Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-sac (1966), both directed by Roman Polanski. After their association ended, Klinger produced Get Carter (1971) starring Michael Caine and Gold (1974) with Roger Moore in the lead.  Michael’s son Tony has also been a film producer.

Klinger Names

  • Philip Klinger was a pioneer settler in the Mahantongo mountains of western Pennsylvania in the 1770’s. 
  • Michael Klinger, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants in London, became a successful British film producer and distributor.

Klinger Numbers Today

  • 300 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 5,500 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 600 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Klinger and Like Surnames 

The first wave of German immigration into America came in the early 1700’s from the Rhine Palatine and Switzerland.  They were fleeing religious persecution at home.  Most ended up in Pennsylvania, bringing their Mennonite church with them.  Some went to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York.  Their Germanic names often changed under English rule to English-style names.  Thus Fischer became Fisher, Schneider Snyder, Hubner Hoover and so forth.

The reasons for immigration were different in the 19th century – in search of a better life, sometimes to avoid the draft.  They came from all German states and went not just to Pennsylvania but all over as the middle and west of the country was opening up.  And they brought German skills with them, notably beer-making.

Here are some of the notable German surnames in America that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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