Jewish (Ashkenazic) and German: habitational name from the city of Berlin, capital of Germany. This city takes its name from a West Slavic word meaning ‘river rake’, a scaffold of beams built over a river to prevent logs from jamming; the river in question is the Spree. Folk etymology, however, has put a bear into the arms of the city, as if the name were derived from Bärlin, a diminutive of Bär ‘bear’. The German name is also found in the Hamburg area, where it may be derived from the village of the same name, but uncertain origin, in Holstein. In some cases the Jewish name may be a patronymic from a pet form of the Yiddish personal name Ber (see Berenson).