- This is one of the most famous of all surnames of Germanic origins. It is a nickname, and is recorded in some fifty spellings ranging from Klein, Kleyn, and Cline, to De Cleyne, Kleinermann, and Klejna, and with many compounds such as Kleinbaum and Kleinhandler. However spelt the origination is pre 7th century a.d., and the derivation is from the words klein or kleyne meaning "small". In ancient times before the introduction of surnames in about the 12th century, nicknames, particulary those of endearment were very popular. In this case the word was probably applied to the youngest member of a family, although it could also have applied to one of small stature or even the reverse! Pre-medieval humour was both robust and personalised, so "Klein" may on occasion have been a nickname for a large person! The surname is one of the first ever recorded anywhere, and early examples taken from the authentic German charters and registers of the period, confirm its popularity. These include Walthem der Kleine of Kassel in the year 1209, Kounrad Claineman of Oberschwaben in 1283, Conrad Klainer of Friedingen in 1424, and Johan Klainhain of Konstanz in 1469. The first known recording of the surname anywhere in the world is probably that of Herolt der Kleine from Wurzburg, Germany, in the charters of that city for the year 1185. Surnames throughout the world have continued to "develop" over the centuries. This often leads to spellings far from their original form.
Surnames reference. 2013.