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During my mathematics research, I've come across the mathematician Tammo tom Dieck. I have never come across the family name affix "tom", neither Wiktionary nor light googling give me anything conclusive, and it is also not listed on Wikipedia's list of family affixes. Is anyone familiar with this?

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    Interesting! Do you know the names of his parents? Apparently he was born in Sao Paolo, portal.dnb.de/… and his family name is sometimes written as Tom-Dieck
    – Alex B.
    Aug 28, 2022 at 16:07
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    The names of his parents are not given, but his (German) wiki page identifies a bunch of different relatives, which all seem to come from Germany. I have also now come across a whole page on the German wikipedia page designated to the last name "tom Dieck": de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Dieck In particular, it claims that the name is related to the German "zum Teich", or "to the pond". No particular sources for that claim, however, but very interesting. Aug 28, 2022 at 16:34
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    Careful. Personal nomenclature and kinship designations are a black hole; every name has a voluminous history.
    – jlawler
    Aug 28, 2022 at 19:21
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    I see, now it makes sense, Low German tom Diek = High German zum Teich, niederdeutsche-literatur.de/dwn/… and niederdeutsche-literatur.de/dwn/…
    – Alex B.
    Aug 28, 2022 at 20:48

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Dutch tom is clearly cognate to High German zum which is a contraction of zu dem "to the". The German preposition zu can be used both in a static sense ("at") and in a directional sense ("to"). In German nobility families, sometimes a distinction was maintained between von "from" some place and zu "at" some place, and sometimes even von und zu "from and at" some place (usually a castle or a fortified town). The zu indicates that a family was still living at the eponymous place at the time when the name was fixed.

Note: The static sense of zu is somewhat archaic in Modern High German, but still existent, e.g., in Universität zu Köln (official name of the Cologne university).

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