German: status name from Middle High German grāve, grābe, which was used as a title denoting various more or less aristocratic dignitaries and officials. In later times it became established as a title of nobility equivalent to the Romance count. The vocabulary word also denoted a variety of different minor local functionaries in different parts of Germany. In the Grand Duchy of Hesse, for example, it was used for the holder of the comparatively humble office of village headman. Compare Mayer, Schultz, and Vogt. The surname could have originated from any of these senses or be an occupational name for a servant or retainer of a count, or a nickname for someone who gave himself airs and graces.