How Do You Pronounce Schaetzel ?

A map showing where the name Schaetzel appears in the United States.

Schaetzel is pronounced Shetzel and sounds like pretzel.

I know this might sound like a silly thing to do a blog essay on, but I'm doing it. Mainly because people have been mispronouncing my last name all of my life, my father's life, and his father's life, etc. I've only been to one place in America where the people usually get it right, and that was along the Missouri River near St. Louis. This area was settled by German immigrants long ago, and there is still a strong German identity there today. So when people see my name written, they usually get it right on the first try. I know there are many more places like this in America too. I just haven't been there yet. Every other place I've been, the people usually get it wrong, and sometimes it's really wrong. So I've decided to write this short essay on my blog, which I know the search engines will index, and henceforth, whenever somebody does an Internet search on how to pronounce Schaetzel, this essay will come up.

Obviously, Schaetzel is a German name. It comes from the Rhineland area, and my family in particular originally came from a little village called Guntersblum, which is just north of Worms. They were winemakers, or vinters, and some of them are still doing it there today. Schaetzel vineyards and wineries in Germany have been running for the last 650 years.

This is how you actually spell our last name in its original German form: Schätzel. The umlaut ä makes an 'eh' sound, as in egg or exit. So our last name is properly pronounced as: Sh-EHT-zel and sounds a lot like the English word pretzel. Since English does not have an umlaut, our immigrant forefathers to North America added an 'e' after the 'a' in an attempt to produce the same sound. This works well in German, since ae and ä make the same sound in German, but not so well in English. They didn't speak English when they arrived, so they didn't know.

When we named our son Michael, I made particular note to spell it in the traditional way, to double accent the ae sound as 'eh.' Thus the ae in his last name is pronounced exactly like the ae in his first name. This was my way of trying to idiot proof his name in English. Anyone looking at it carefully should be able to figure it out - Michael Schaetzel. The ae is obviously pronounced as 'eh' which is the same for the first and last name. I hope he appreciates this someday.

The name literally translated into English is 'little treasure' but that's not what it means. The German meaning is 'lover' or 'sweetheart' and it's a term of endearment. Germans sometimes call each other schätzel as a show of romantic or family affection in the same way Brits say 'love' or Americans say 'honey' or 'sweetheart.'

So, now you know.


Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of '' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.

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