The Plep Name

Sometimes I get asked about the last name of “Plep”. In case any other Pleps out there are searching for more info on our somewhat uncommon and slightly unusual-sounding surname, here’s some additional info.

Origin of Plep
The name comes from Germany and/or East Prussia (Ostpreußen). (At least, that’s where my ancestors come from – and where RootsWeb shows the name originates.) Interestingly, RootsWeb shows some related names (which all connect to the same geographical area) and gives the approximate years the names came into being.

If we were to trace the name Plep back to it’s furthest point of origin (assuming this data is complete and accurate), we see it begins with the name “Plew” around the year 1428 – in Germany. You can see this in the table below (reproduced from Ancestry’s RootsWeb):

Surname From To Migration Comment Submitter
Plebe 1572 now OPRU,DEU pplew
Pleen 1590 now OPRU,DEU pplew
Plehn 1630 now OPRU,DEU pplew
Plehwe 1572 now OPRU,DEU pplew
Plep 1750 now OPRU,DEU pplew
Plew —- —- world not very intensive! pplew
Plew 1428 now DEU pplew
Plewe 1572 now OPRU,DEU pplew
Plew 1572 now OPRU,DEU pplew
Plewe 1572 now OPRU,DEU pplew
von Plehwe 1572 now OPRU,DEU pplew

Some more information on the Plep name and related names can be found at the website of Patrick Plew (who I have to assume is the same as pplew on Ancestry.com).  He provides an overview of all these names here.

His site is in German, but for those of us who don’t speak it, there’s always Google Translate.

To quote him (using Google Translate), “At the current level can be determined that all persons living in Germany named Plew, Plewe, Plehve, of Plehve, pleb, plebe, Plöw, Plöwe, Plef, Pleff also Plop and Plobe and probably Plep and Plepp have the same origin”. Patrick has evidently done some extensive research into his family name, and while I can’t verify that all the above last names are indeed related – I do think he’s probably correct. Names – even among close relatives – can vary slightly due to various circumstances. (For example, if you’re an American Plep, you probably know that Plaep and Plep are in the same family.)

Meaning of the Name

Interestingly (again, according to Google’s translation tool) the name and its variants seem to have different meanings that relate to agriculture and farming. This makes sense due to the fact that my great-grandparents and their kinfolk who emigrated to the U.S. did in fact practice farming – and last names usually relate to the owner’s line of work.

If you are an English speaker, you might recognize some of them based on how they look or sound. The names “Plöw” and “Plew” look and sound similar to our English word “plough”. But translating Plew to English from Polish renders the meaning of “chaff” (as in the chaff from wheat). Why do I translate from Polish, you might ask? Judging from the history of East Prussia and it’s proximity to Poland, it’s safe to assume there was ample influence on both language and culture from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and other Baltic states on the Germans who resided in the region.

I would love to know more about the name, so if anyone reading this has any additional clues as to what the name means in English, please leave a comment or contact me. Thanks!

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