Name Origins
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

What does the 'van' in Ludwig van Beethoven's name mean?

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2009-11-24 21:07:34

The origin of "van" in Beethoven's name.

The 'van' in Beethoven's surname is similar to the Scottish use

of 'Mac' in their surnames, for example MacMillan. Here the

'Mac' means basically 'son/daughter of' and the 'van' in

Beethoven's name serves a similar purpose, although here it could

be taken to mean simply 'of' rather than 'son of', to indicate the

place Beethoven came from. The word 'Beethoven' (actually two

words) is Flemish for 'beetroot farms' or 'beet fields' (his

ancestors were Belgian beet farmers).

Sometimes Beethoven's name was mistakenly written or spoken as

'von' by others, and Beethoven was in no hurry to correct this

mistake, as 'von' indicated a person of noble/royal descent,

whereas 'van' betrayed his more humble origins. It is also

suggested that Beethoven's name is derived from the Dutch Betuwe,

which is part of the Dutch province of Gelderland. Before his

grandfather lived in Mechelen, Belgium, some scholars believe the

family lived in the Betuwe. Lots of people in the Netherlands and

Belgium have van in their name. It means nothing more than coming

from. When in the 1800s Lodewijk Napoleon ordered the Dutch to have

not only christian names but also a surname a lot of people took as

their last name the place they lived. Others were more original

like Springinhetveld (Jump in the meadow), Rotteveel (Rotting too

much) and so on... no jokes!


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