Recorded in several forms including Geist, Geistmann, Geistbeck, Geisthirt and others, this is a German surname. It has at least four possible origins and meanings. The first is topographical, and derives from the word 'gest' meaning muddy or barren. As such it refers either to a marshy area and hence somebody who lived at a village or even a single farm which was situated by such a place, or as Geistbeck from a place of that name meaning 'muddy river'. The second is from the word 'geiss' meaning goat, and is a pre medieval occupational surname for a goatherd. The third is a robust nickname for a person who was considered by his peer group to be as stubborn as a goat, whilst the fourth is residential, and decscribed a person who lived at a house with the sign of a dove. House signs were the predecessors of house numbers, but did not always by any means have a particular meaning. However in this case the dove was used to indicate the Holy Spirit, and therefore a house with a dove would have suggested that the inhabitants were of a religious and godly nature. The first recording of the surname was probably that of Heinrich Geist of Koln (Cologne), in the charters of that city in the year 1159.
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