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German: from Middle High German keiser ‘emperor’, from the Latin imperial title Caesar. This was the title borne by Holy Roman Emperors from Otto I (962) to Francis II (who relinquished the title in 1806). Later, it was borne by the monarch of Bismarck’s united Germany (1871–1918). It is very common as a German surname, originating partly as an occupational name for a servant in the Emperor’s household, partly as a nickname for someone who behaved in an imperious manner, and partly from a house sign.