I have a friend with the uncommonly unusual last name of Niebbelink. Like my wife, her lineage is Dutch. Intrigued, I asked my friend whether “Niebbelink” was a place name or an occupation.
She didn’t know.
Niebbelink, sometimes spelled Nibelink, sometimes Groot Niebbeling and sometimes Klein Niebelink. The origin of the name is lost in the mists of time. Some authorities speculate that it derives from Norse mythology. The Niebelung were a tribe that lived in the dark and deep forest where they guarded a treasure.
The poem had an oral tradition dating to events as early as the 5th and 6th centuries. The written poem was lost in the 16th century and rediscovered in the 18th. In the 19th century, Richard Wagner wrote four operas, collectively known as Der Ring des Nibelungen, s story of Siegfried, the dragon-slayer, his murder, the theft of the treasure, and the revenge of Kriemhild, Siegfried’s wife.
German director Fritz Lang wrote and directed the silent classic, Der Niebelungen in 1924.
It is not to far from Niebelung to Nibbelink. The German suffix -ung denotes an action, spring from one place to another. In Dutch, the suffix -ink denoted someone from the clan of Nibel. This clan desingation was most commonly used in the two Dutch provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland, both of which are in the eastern regions of Holland bordering Germany.
“Groot” and “klein” are the two Dutch adjectives for large and small.
My friend proudly announced that she was a Groot Nibbelink, explaining that her grandfather was a tall man. While “groot” sometimes referred to the size of the individual, more often it referred to the size of the clan, thus, the greater and smaller clan of Nibbelinks.
Let us go one step further. Nibel is most likely from the German word “nebel” meaning: fog, mist, or haze, i.e, a place deep in the woods where the clan hid their treasure.
An alternate theory, the root word is “nebanan” meaning the tribe from “next door”.
Not quite as sexy is it?