My father, William Sunlin, often joked that our last name was the result of his grandfather’s work as a missionary in China, and he had received the name of Sunlin while there.
Okay, he made that up. But it was a product – I think – of being out of touch with our roots, due to an obscure family name and small pool of relatives.
The truth is that Sunlin, or Sünlin, is an old German name. I propose to share with you the history of this family name as I uncover more and more.
OHG. –lin: sünlin ‘little son’, schtflin; in the modern –lein (scherflein &c.) and in the Swabian –le the effect of the I is obliterated, but in Swiss –li (büebli, füessli &c.) it is still a living force.
-Selected Writings of Otto Jespersen (Routledge Revivals); Otto Jespersen. Routledge, Mar 17, 2010