German: from Middle High German kolbe in various meanings. The main sense is ‘mace’ or ‘cudgel’, which was both a weapon and part of an official's insignia, in some cases the insignia of a jester. It may also be a house name: there is also record of a house named ‘zum Kolben’ in Strasbourg. In Silesia the term denoted a shock of hair or a shorn head. Any of these senses could have given rise to the surname.