Difference Between Von and Van (With Table)

Earlier, people gave great importance to their names and surnames as compared to today. Ancient names had deeper meanings associated with them and followed certain rules of naming. The rules were different everywhere and varied from place to place.

The names had prefixes and suffixes and they added a proper meaning to them. As the caste system very commonly prevailed at that time, people were distinguished from each other based on their names and surnames. No two religions had a resemblance in terms of surnames. Also, the types of names given to people in every religion were different.

The adoption of the names was based on religious origins. Germans, Romans, French, Dutch, Italians and every other community have a set of names and surnames of their own. For example De, Le, La, Du are French prefixes, while A, Da, Del, Di are Italian.

Likewise, Von and Van are two prefixes for surnames used by different regions of people, meaning of or from. The surnames with which such prefixes are associated have a relation to their fathers and forefathers, their characteristics, origins as well as professions.

Von has a German origin. It was used by people on their surnames, mainly in noble families of German countries. The prefix was a way to depict status and stand in society. With time, von also started to be used by commoners. Not only Germans but also Austrians and Russians used it.

Van, on the contrary, has a Dutch origin. It was used mostly by the commoners and prevailed everywhere irrespective of the status. People with small houses to big mansions used it. Van can be used in two ways. One is the common prefix on surnames and the other is when it is showcased as a noun while converting names of one region to another.

Von vs Van

The difference between Von and Van is that Von is the prefix used on surnames in German, Austrian and Russian countries, whereas, Van is the prefix used on surnames in Dutch and Vietnamese and also, for converting the names to English names.

Comparison Table Between Von and Van

Parameter of ComparisonVonVan
OriginVon is a prefix that has a German origin. Van is a prefix that has a Dutch origin.
RegionIt is used on surnames in German, Austrian and Russian countries.While it is used in Dutch countries and Vietnam.
Deals withIt mainly deals with noble and high-class families. Whereas it deals with commoners as well as reputed families.
PurposeIt is mainly used to depict status in society. It is used commonly, with no such specific purpose.
NounIt is only used as a prefix. While it can be used as a prefix and also, as a noun.
FormIt is able to take other forms like von der. Even it is able to take other forms like van der.

What is Von?

During the ancient era, names and surnames had fixed and intense meanings. The names given were derived from certain origins that they were associated to. Some people had names adopted from their ancestors, while some were named according to any particular trait.

German names have specific sets of prefixes attached to their names and surnames. Most of their names either have a professional origin or a geographical one. Women, as a tradition, adopt the names and surnames of their husbands. People are also given nicknames.

Surnames basically originated during the Middle Ages. Since then, surnames come attached with prefixes or suffixes. In German countries, Von is a prefix used to depict status in noble families. Later on, it was also used by commoners. As the prefix has a German origin, other regions like Austria and Russia, which have German composition also make use of the prefix von.

Von has other forms like von der. Such forms are used with names of a specific community or category of people. Germans have a certain way of naming their bilingual and monolingual individuals. Since von had a reputed history, it was at first associated only with the monolingual category.

What is Van?

The types and styles of names vary from place to place from the very start. Some regions have names given to people based on their geographical origins, while some are named after their ancestors or a specific characteristic or profession. The total number of names consisted of the naming of an individual also differs.

Dutch names can come with more than one names and a surname. The names are gender-specific. Unlike Germans, Dutch do not have nicknames, rather the first name given to a person is used as his or her nickname. Earlier, Dutch names also had a relation with Germanic names over a period.

Several prefixes are made to be used on surnames of Dutch names. One such prefix is Van, which is often used on Dutch surnames predominantly. Common people as well as noble families, everyone has access to it. Vietnamese, having a connection with the Dutch also make use of the prefix van.

Just like von, van also has other forms like van der. In addition to this, van can also be used as a noun in names while converting them into English names. Dutch has a resemblance with the French naming patterns when it comes to bilingual naming. They have little or no deviation from their French counterparts.

Main Differences Between Von and Van

  1. Von has a German origin, while Van has a Dutch origin.
  2. Von is used in German, Austrian and Russian countries, Van is used in Dutch countries and Vietnam.
  3. Von deals with noble families, Van deals with commoners too.
  4. Von depicted status in society but Van had no such purpose.
  5. Van could be used in two ways, unlike Von.
  6. Von and Van have other forms like von der and van der, respectively.


Von and Van are prefixes that come from different origins. One is associated with Germans, while another is associated with the Dutch. Both these prefixes have been used over and over again since the ancient era. They add a unique meaning to the names.


  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition/article/abs/object-and-action-naming-in-russian-and-germanspeaking-monolingual-and-bilingual-children/5FB6626BF944820E9EC5F4E9B85946F2
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0749596X05000240
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