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I was surprised to find out ‘Luther’ is not Martin Luther’s original surname but ‘Luder’ is. The Greek word έλεύθερος that was the origin of his Latin name was Eleutherius. You can see ‘uder’ does not quite sound as good as ‘uther’. You can hear the sound of the Greek word here: click on the speaker sign to listen

I have read that in the fall of 1517 he changed his name. So what would make Luther get so fussy about his name so that he wanted it to match the original Greek more audibly?

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Does that original 'uder' sound like 'udder' or 'oooder'? – Alypius Apr 29 '13 at 23:52
@Alypius - I think 'ooder' but am not sure. Actually for a brief period he went from Luder to the Latin version Elutherius and then just Luther. The change definitely had a relationship to the sense of identity he found apropos in the Greek meaning of the word. – Mike Apr 30 '13 at 4:40
up vote 9 down vote accepted

According to a book by James Nestingen,

On Luther's "Gospel discovery," his "tower experience," I agree with Nestingen (and Lohse) that it probably coincided with his name change from Luder the Luther, "a small change based on the Greek word for freedom, elutherius. I see the similarity as too exceptional simply to explain Luther's name change as merely a respelling from Low/Middle German to High German.

The reason for choosing a word related to "freedom" has to do with the freedom offered by the Gospel.

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Perhaps because the German word "Luder" is really not a nice word. It refers to a female that is very obstinate at best and is frequently associated with very questionable morals and behaviors. You can try google translate but the result are probably not suitable for repeating on this site.

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"Luther shared many of the feelings and opinions of the humanists concerning the ignorance, pride, andfolly of this decadent scholastic system so intimately entwined with the superstitions, errors, and corruption hehad to face. For that reason he at one time was greatly impressed by humanism — so much that he changed his German name Luder to the Greek, liberal, freeing, delivering" (Eckert, O.J., Luther and the Reformation, p16)

'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' - John 8:31-32

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