The Dillman Surname

Origins of the Dillman Surname

The Dillman surname tends to stem from German speaking countries or regions, including present day Germany, Switzerland, France (Alsace), Russia (Volga Germans). While immigrants to the United States and Canada have most often settled on “Dillman”, original surnames were more diverse and include Dillmann, Dihlmann, Dielmann, Diehlmann, Dhyllmann, Tillmann, Tielmann, Tilghmann. Even within some families, the surnames were spelled differently. In one case, Dillmann became Dielmann when a new minister confused a small written letter “l” with an “e” and vice versa. In another case, the Dillman surname was transformed to Stillman (Canada 1776).

Surnames were adopted in different areas at different times for a variety of reasons. In Germany this generally began in the 1400s. German surnames most often derive from given names, occupational designations, bodily attributes or geographical names. As with many surnames, there are several possible origins of the name Dillmann. In our DNA project, we have seen that there are at least 12 distinct Dillmann (or variant) families. Each family probably adopted their surname at different times for different reasons.

According to the “Duden Familiennamen” by Rosa and Volker Kohlheim, a compilation of German Surnames and their origins, there are 3 primary sources for the Dillmann surname:

    1. a person living near the Dill River (the Dill River is in the present day state of Hesse in Germany and flows to the Lahn River and thence into the Rhine). Towns along the Dill River are named Offdilln, Dillbrecht, Dillenburg, Fellerdilln, Dillheim until it flows into the Lahn in the town of Wetzlar near Dilluferstrasse). Based on phone book entries, this area has the highest concentration of Dillmanns today in Germany;
    2. a person who makes deals – a plank of sawn wood. The old High German word for plank was dili or thill. (This is interesting as it is possible see how both Tillmann and Dillmann could have the same origin);
    3. a person who cultivates or sells the herb dill;

Another possibility is that Dillmann could be a locative surname. A German genealogist has suggested a fourth possible origin in that one of the first Dillmanns may have:

  1. taken their name from a local manor house or town. Hence, Dillmannshof near Lake Constance may have been the source of the Dillmann surname for people living in southern Germany and Switzerland.

Where The Dillman Surname Can Be Found

Now that we have seen various possibilities for how the Dillmann/Dillman surname came about, it is equally interesting to take a look at where current holders of the surname live and how this distribution has changed over time. What is surprising to find is that as of early 2010, there are more people with the Dillman surname in the United States than those with the Dillmann surname in Germany. Holders of the Dillman name in the United States total roughly 7600 while all Dillmann variants in Germany total approximately 5620. The link below will open up an MS Word document written in the spring of 2010 detailing the distribution of the Dillman and variant surnames.

Distribution of the Dillman Surname Document

Dillman Crests

The following are crests that have been identified as belonging to the Dillman family. While some may not have been proven to be authentic grants, they are presented here for completeness:


Dihlmann Coat of Arms 1490








The above coat of arms has not been identified, but was granted to the Dihlmann family in what is present day Germany.

Michael Dihlmann Coat of Arms – Wurmberg, Germany

Dihlmann Crest - Erich


The above crest appeared in “Familienregister Dihlmann/Dillmann (1536-1986)” by Erich Dihlmann of Pforzheim, Germany. Erich had undertaken a search in 1952 of the records of the German Central Office for Heraldry in Stuttgart, for a “Dihlmann” coat of arms for the descendants of Michael Dihlmann of Wurmberg. Although several other Dillmann and variant names were found, no coat of arms for the Michael Dihlmann family was located. Therefore, in 1953, Erich designed and submitted to the Central Office for Heraldry the above coat of arms which was registered as number 8835/53 in Volume 16 of “Arms of Leading families of Federal Republic of Germany” and appeared in print in 1959. In 1972, the coat of arms was still listed in the “General Register of Coat of Arms of Leading Families”, Volume 1, page 19.

The coat of arms is described as:

In silver, a principal pole on a blue shield topped by a suspended silver crest in the form of a rafter shank head (Sparrenkopfschaftes). Above is a piercing helmet with blue-silver topping between a closed flying silver crest. This crest indicates both Latin “T” (principal shield pole) and the rune with the phonetic value of “t” as per the original spelling of the first known holder of the surname.

Crests form a parallel phenomenon to the arms, but they are much older than these. They can be traced back to prehistoric times and have remained the rights of all Germanic peoples (500-800 AD.) being an ancient well-known custom.

According to the law, the right to bear a coat of arms is a personal right, protected by law. As a guide the use of the arms described above, all descendants of Michael Thilman, who lived in 1536 in Wurmberg, are entitled to use the arms. The family crest is inherited with the family name.

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