Variations and Range of the Name 

The surname Schnorrenberg is a typical name of the Rhineland and even today is narrowly limited to this region.

The (historical) occurrence of the name 'Schnorrenberg' is limited to the area approximately defined by the Belgian border, the Mosel River, the Rhine River, the cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Mönchengladbach, and the border of Holland.

Major concentrations are to be found in the Eifel Mountains, with other occurrences  along the length of the Erft River.  The appearances of the name in the large cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf appear to be traceable to migrations of families to the cities.  One must assume, therefore, that the name cannot be traced back to one specific family, but rather that the name arose independently in several places. 

The spelling 'Schnorrenberger' is customary south of the Mosel, most prominently in Hesse down to Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, and also partly in Switzerland.   An area of alternating use of  Schnorrenberg (North) and Schnorrenberger  (South) could not be established, at least not in any frequency worth mentioning.  In Switzerland, the spelling "Schnurrenberger" is significantly more common (historically) than "Schnorrenberger."  There seems to be an obvious North-to-South alteration of the spelling of the name from  Schnorrenberg to Schnorrenberger to Schnurrenberger. 

In respect to the spelling of the name in the Rhine region, other variations of the spellings mentioned are rare:

  • Before the 16th century the name was usually 'Snorrenberg'  (for example, in Nemmenich and Vynen).  The  'Sch' was not developed until later, which is not an untypical change in spelling.

  • Until the end of the 17th century therefore, in addition to the most common spelling,  one frequently finds also 'Schnorrenbergh',  'Schnorrenbergs', and occasionally also 'Schnurrenberg.'

  • From the end of the 18th century to the present, the name has been widely normalized to the  spelling  'Schnorrenberg'

The variations can be summarized in the following schematic model:

  • S(ch)no/ur(r)enberg(h)/(s)/(er)

Other family names in Germany with "Schnor-"

  • Schnor(r)

  • Schnorbach

  • Schnorberger

  • Schnorbus

  • Schnore

  • Schnor(p)feil

  • Schnoring

  • Schnormeier

LINGUISTIC EXPLANATION

To elucidate the origins of the name Schnorrenberg, one must first deal with the meaning of the concept of "Schnorren".

The "German Dictionary of Names1" has these entries: 

Berg: named for places of residence on a mountain, and therefore numerous in southern and western  areas of Germany. 

Schnorr (see also Schnurr-Schnudt, Schnuth, Schnute (in Northern Germany) means "snout"  (Schnauze).  Also designated as Schnurre/Schnorre in 2.  

Schnurr(e) (with 'u') also means beggar, tramp  = jester or buffoon (see also schnurrig = funny, droll, odd); similarly Schnorr (Schnorrer) with 'o' meaning cadger or tramp. 

The following are historical mentionings of the name, some incomplete.

Rüdiger Snurre (man's name) 1298, near Mergenthal;  Hainlin Schnurrer (man's name) 1404 near Stuttgart;  Joh. Snorre (man's name) 1304, Ro  (place name beginning Ro) [could be several places];  Snorrebein (surname) 1350 , Brsl. (abbreviated place name),  1415 Lg. (abbreviated place name)

The entries in3 continue the possibilities:

Schnurrbusch, Schnorrbusch 1415  Snornpusch, 1485,  Schnurrebusch.  Assumption, compound  name composed of the Middle High German word "snurrer"  meaning to track or hunt animals by means of snorting or sniffing them out"  (said of hunting dogs) plus the word 'busch'  (shrubbery, thicket, copse, woods for a hunter).  

Based on the explanations in Kluge 2, one can rule out that 'schnorren' in the sense of begging is the origin of the name Schnorrenberg, since this use of the word from the German-Jewish idiom (or Yiddish) does not appear before 1771 (Goethe).  The name Schnorrenberg is much older than that.

The combination of Schnorre for snout in connection with the meaning of 'snurren' to indicate following the trail of wild animals could be a promising lead.  A 'Schnorrenberg' would then originally designate a hunting area in which later some sort of settlement arose.  This settlement would then take its name from the hunting area, which, in turn, as was very common, would become also the source of the name for the people residing there.

That is just a theory.  The problems with this theory are as follows: "snurren" or similar  forms used to mean 'following the tracks of wild animals'  has its origins in the Middle Ages, and probably a name did not develop from this as a surname until the late Middle Ages.   However, the place name 'Schnorrenberg' presumably dates back to the early Middle Ages.    

GEOGRAPHICAL EXPLANATION

The name Schnorrenberg suggests a geographical designation.  The first assumption  might therefore be that the name Schnorrenberg describes elevations in the landscape, from which later names would arise for settlements on or near this mountain.  In the formation of surnames, many times the name of the place of origin of the family was used.  In the area where the name Schnorrenberg appears, there are these known examples:    [Click on the town name for further information.]

Brühl Hellenthal Hürth Königswinter
Kreuzau Leverkusen Vynen Zülpich

In "Place Names  in the Region of Euskirchen" by Gerhard Mürkens, Euskirchen, 1958, we find this entry:

4  Names of Elevations and Valleys

The simple word "Berg" was often used as a place name and often specifically for the oldest settlements of Merovingian and Karolingian times.   We find a 'Berg' near Floisdorf in the region of Schleiden as early as 699 as [villa montis] [mountain residence] = "country estate, later the Village of Berg."  The towns of Frauenberg and Niederberg established by the church, as well as Lüftelberg and Walberberg in the area of Bonn, were originally settlements "on the mountain."  In the case of Frauenberg, the name 'frouwen', referring to the Mother of God, as patron saint of the church, was not added to the name "berg" until the 13th century.  In the old book Liber valoris, the name of this place is given as "mountain of the blessed Maria" (= beatae Mariae).  Combining the old name with the new designation, Adamus Brauns (man's name) (L;54?), as a member of the Euskirchen Brotherhood of Priests, called himself "Pastor Montis (of the mountain) in Frauenberg".   Niederberg on the Rotbach (place name), formerly a property belonging to the head of the clergy in Cologne, was still called simply "on the mountain" before 1300 in the Liber valoris.   However, the name was later changed in the 15th century to "On the Low Mountain", to distinguish this place from other places of the same name, which gave rise to the present day name of Niederberg (Kaufmann 166).

.... The small settlement Schnorrenberg on the Rotbach near Nemmenich was named for a bird, as was the village of Schneppenheim.  Schnorrenberg stands for Schnarrenberg, and the determinating word is "the thrush or the missel-thrush".  Schnorrenberg is therefore a "(Missel)-Thrush Mountain".  Schnarre, as a name for birds corresponds to the onomatopoetic Middle High German word snarren = burring, rasping, warbling, chattering, corresponding to the [umd], Middle Netherlandic words snarren, snorren (Wiegand (author), German Dictionary).   A hill which in earlier times would have been covered with underbrush, more likely then than today, was therefore a place where one could often hear a certain kind of thrush with its characteristic rasping, burring call.  According to Kaspers,  Schnorrenberg belongs to those similarly onomatopoetic names, which underwent a change of root vowel from snurren to snarren; with snurren in Middle High German, meaning "where the wind soughs (sighs)", as it appears in Flurnamen (note: which is a registry of individual ownership of parcels of farming land after a large estate is broken up).  According to Kaspers, the name Schnorrenberg is derived from "on the soughing or sighing mountain".

The Schnorrenbergs of Nemmenich are mentioned also in the following document:

Further place names with "Schnorr-"  are to be found in:

  • Burbach:
  • There was a fortress was named Snorrenburg on the Römer (name of a hill) in Ostkern (place name), destroyed in 1367 - a restaurant still goes by this name in 2001.

  • Dammbach:
  • There is a Schnorrenhöhe (Schnorren-Heights)

  • Münster:
  • There is a Schnorrenburg (fortress)

  • There is a street named Schnorrenfeld -name derives from a castle. 

  • Stolberg/Rheinland:
  • There is a Schnorrenfeld (a field or open area), so called because it once belonged to the rulers of Schnorrenfeld.

as well as the place names (with postal codes)  
  • 55497     Schnorbach
  • 69488     Schnorrenbach
  • 24407     Schnorum
  • 79809     Schnörrigen
  • 51545     Schnörringen
  • 24975     Snorrum
THEORIES ABOUT THE DERIVATION OF THE NAMES
The theories about the meaning of the name Schnorrenberg can be summarized as follows:
  • Designation of a hunting area on a mountain = the equivalent of "Jagdberg"  (perhaps a singular or unusual meaning of Schnorrenberg)  

  • Mountain with a population of Missel-thrushes, therefore "Schnarrdrosselberg" (used in this geographical way in Hellenthal and Zülpich)

  • Where the wind soughs  "(on the) soughing mountain", thus "rushing, windy mountain"  (used in this way in Hellenthal and Zülpich)

All conceivable explanations allow that more than a few places are named Schnorren-berg and that the family name Schnorrenberg, therefore, might have arisen independently in various places.   For this reason, one will probably not be able to trace the name Schnorrenberg back to one single source. 

Sources

1  Bahlow, Hans:  German Dictionary of Names, (no place of publication given), 1985.

2   Kluge, Friedrich: Etymological Dictionary of the German Language, Berlin, 1975. 

3   Nauman, Horst;  The Big Book of Family Names - Age, Origin, Meaning, (no place of publication given), 1999?4   Mürkens, Gerhard:  Place Names in the Region of Euskirchen, (chapter on Elevations and Valleys), Euskirchen, 1958.