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?

  • Does that original 'uder' sound like 'udder' or 'oooder'?
    – Alypius
    Apr 29, 2013 at 23:52
  • 1
    @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, 2013 at 4:40
  • @Mike Yes, you have the sounds correct with "ooder" Nov 24, 2017 at 13:21
  • For starters, there was no standardized or unitary German language or orthography; indeed, one of the literary and linguistic merits of his bible translation is the eventual unification and standardization of German, as we know it today. For instance, one of the variants of Amerigo Vespucci's name is Alberigo; the M/B alternation is similar to that of the English Jacob/James, and is due to both being labial consonants; something similar holds for d/t and d/dh, the latter consonant(s) being the spirant version(s) of the former.
    – user46876
    Nov 14, 2021 at 4:14

4 Answers 4


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.


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.

  • Did it mean that 500 years ago?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 22, 2021 at 23:22

"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 Eleutherios...free, liberal, freeing, delivering" (Eckert, O.J., Luther and the Reformation, p16) http://www.wlsessays.net/files/EckertReformation.pdf

'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


Martin Luther could hardly go through life as Martin Luder, as "Luder" is German (and Danish) for "slut, bitch, whore". What makes you think this had anything to do with audability?! It is just amazing that his father used a name with such a meaning. Check for yourself:


  • Did it mean that 500 years ago?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 22, 2021 at 23:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .