The Name Kazmaier - Meaning and Origin


Oxford University Press' 'Dictionary of American Family Names' claims the name Kazmaier is a German, Dutch and Polish variant of the Slavic surname Kazimir meaning ‘destroyer of peace’. This is not correct.

Neither in the Netherlands nor in Poland the name Kazmaier is to be found at all whereas in Germany's Bavaria and Austria the name is quite common.

Where does the name come from ?


The name Kazmaier in its ancient spelling Katzmair appears the first time in written documents in the 13th century in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.

Martin Katzmair was born about 1286 in Munich and he died about 1336 in Munich. With him the Kazmair's influence in Munich begins to be documented. From 10.02.1318 Martin appears as a member of the council in Munich and in 1319 he was mentioned as "Pfleger des Salzes" (lit. 'guardian of the salt'). From about 1329 he was the chamberlain of the city and on 24.08.1334 he acts as a member of the inner council while on 25.02.1335 he is mentioned being in the sworn council in Munich. His descendants shall be part of Munich's ruling council for the next 200 years until with Niklas Katzmair in 1523 the last Katzmair "Monacensis" dies.

Most probably the name originates from today's Bavarian or Austrian region. In today's Austria about 10% of all surnames are a variation of "Maier" from the Latin "maiores villae". The Austrian surnames Meier, Gruber, Huber, Lehner, Hofer and their variations all go back to medieval vassalages and the land, farms or estates and the size and administration of those in medieval times and to the given fiefs from the territorial lords.

So does the name Kazmaier. The name Kazmaier is most certainly derived from an estate or a grange which most probably was something like a baronial granary ("Kasten") and it can be guessed that the first bearer of the name was the administrator ("Maier") of that and therefore became known, in the time when family surnames were quite unusual, as the Kastmaier or Kastnmaier. It is likely that this granary or farm was a so called "Maierhof" or "Mayerhof" (from Latin: maiores villae), a farm, estate, grange or building which was occupied or had been occupied by the administrator (the "Maier") of a noble or ecclesiastical estate, belonging to the "Hofkastenamt", collecting and administrating the revenue of the territorial lord.

In later times when the family was trying to create a family crest of arms the search for a character in their coat of arms may have appeared difficult. To symbolise a granary on the crest may have not been favourable and therefore the cat was incorporated and therefor as well the name changed. The German words "Katze" and "Kastn" sound similar but it was much easier to symbolise a cat than a granary. All this must obviously have been happened clearly before 1300 as the Katzmair in Munich already were carrying a cat in their crest of arms in 1286.

"Canting arms" or in France "armes parlantes" are heraldic bearings that represent the bearer's name in a visual pun or rebus. For example Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, also referred to as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, carries a coat of arms picturing bows and lions, symbolising the families Bowes and Lyon. Many more examples are to be found in any book of Heraldry (e.g. the Cockburns have three cocks, Cambridge's crest shows a bridge over the river Cam, etc.)

In Heraldry, when the visual representation is not straightforward but as complex as a rebus this is called a rebus coat of arms. In Germany this is referred to as a so called wrongly speaking coat of arms. The cat in the Katzmair's coat of arms developed exactly in that way.

The Kazmaier's of Grabenstetten's coat of arms, 1702.

Balthasar Katzmayr's coat of arms, 1605.

Although I am not denying that the name could be of Slavic origin as there are variations in the centuries before 1300 and the area where the name probably originates from is Bavaria's east but there is absolutely no document to be found proving any relationship with the Slavic name Kazimir nor any is there any genealogic relationship  proven for any Katzmair ancestors coming from an area east of Bavaria.