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Summer Glau Ethnicity and Name Origin

POSTED BY chrisdvanne ON Feb 22, 2013 / 8 COMMENTS

Many Summer Glau fans or people seeing her on screen wonder what is Summer's ethnicity and/or where does her last name 'Glau' come from. I can understand that her fans are curious where Miss Glau, with her wonderfully unique combination of traits both physical and mental, draws her heritage from so that we might better understand her. This Blogpost will give you a few answers and you may even learn a thing or two.
Don't miss the clip i made especially for this Blogpost at the end of the page.

Summer Glau photoshoot - CLD Style House dress 2010

Photo by Joan Allen

Hawaii Five-0 star Grace Park mentioned Summer Glau's ethnicity in a recent interview:
Summer Glau guest-starred in last week’s episode of Hawaii Five-0. What was it like to work with her?
She was really cool. We were joking that her name was Summer G. Lau and she was actually of Asian heritage – that’s what Daniel [Dae Kim] kept saying. I didn’t know that her ancestry actually is Irish and German.
Summer Glau herself said that she was of Scottish - Irish and German origin. She has no Asian origins as some people think.
What we learn from Summer Glau's ancestry is as follows:
  • Summer’s father is of German, English, and 1/8th Swiss descent.
  • Summer’s mother is of English, Scottish, and Welsh descent.
And now a few words on Summer's last name:
"Glau" not only sounds German but is actually of German origin, as stated by Summer Glau herself and proven by Summer's father origins.
But "Glau" is definitively not the modern German word for "glow" (possible translations for glow are : Glühen, Leuchten or Glut), as most people think.
The following gives interesting hints:
According to etymological dictionary websites it is an old German word that once meant or is the root of "klug" - which means clever/astute.
"Clow" Family Name Meaning:
English: variant of Clough. English: metonymic occupational name for a nailer, from Old French clou ‘nail’. Compare Clower.Possibly an Americanized spelling of German Klau, a habitational name for someone from Klau near Aachen or Clauen in Lower Saxony, or Glau, a nickname for an astute person, from Old High German, Low German glou, glau ‘circumspect’.
I somehow doubt Summer even knows this. Yet i must say that Aachen is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, whereas Summer's German ancestors are from another region in Germany.

CLD Style House dress 2010

Photo by Joan Allen


A dedicated fan, who also happens to be German, namely Kai has been doing his own research on the subject with old German book-of-names and history books in the city archive; he spontaneously proposed to share them with us when I informed him I intented to write on the subject. The following summary should not mask the amount of work Kai provided to reach its findings.
 Kai found out much of the name "Glau" and its actual meaning. Here's a short version of his research with the most important facts, as he send them to us:
The name Glau
I [Kai] once saw Summer in an interview where she mentioned that her surname "Glau" is the german word for "glow".
I am german and I never heard this word before, but it was interesting to find out if there's a connection of "Glau" and "glow".
I went to the city archives of my hometown where's a library of very old books. I found some books about the history of the german language.
There was an interesting book, anno 1752, that mentions the word "glau".
It's a germanistic word that was used colloquial in nearly all parts of Germany and Austria. It was already obsoleted in 1752.
The superlatives of "glau" are "glauer" and "am glauesten". For example like "bright", "brighter", "the brightest".
Today's words for "glau" in the german language are:
hell (bright)
heiter (cheerful)
glühen (to glow)
glühendes Licht (glowing light)
leuchten (to shine)
glänzen (to gleam)
funkeln (to gleam, to glitter, to flash)
gleißen (to glare)
It also means a bright mind:
klug (wise, intelligent, clever)
schlau (clever)
The word "glau" was used in the middle ages until the late 18th century.
For example Martin Luther [a German monk, priest, professor of theology and ‘father’ of the Protestant Reformation, who lived from 1483-1546] used this word in his translation of the bible from latin into german in the 16th century.
It was a long and hard research to find this out  because the books are written in old German letters and in an old german language which is not in use anymore.
The word “Glau” had more than one meaning back then. “Glow” was only one of them. Summer was right. It's just an old German language and not used anymore. It was more a mixture of a kind of "glowing bright intelligent mind". People with that surname must have been very intelligent in the past. You may know that surnames were created of peoples profession or abillities. That's the point.
Thanks for your detailed explanations, Kai! Either way ”Glau” is a lovely and unique name smiley
And now a few trivias:
1) This one one is provided by Kai:
Did you know that there is a town in Brandenburg near Berlin that's called "Glau"? A connection with Summer’s last name is doubtful but it’s still interesting.
Here's a picture of the "Glau" firefighters building.
The "Glau" firefighters building
Source: Stadt Trebbin  (Sorry, only german.)
2) How do you pronounce Summer Glau's last name?
New fans may not know how to say her last name correctly; watch this short clip to lean how to do it:


I hope this Blogpost has given you useful informations and helped you dispel some of the false ideas expressed about Summer Glau's origins.

To be fair, Summer Glau's ethnicity doesn't matter; at the end of the day, she's still the same actress. Be German or Spanish doesn't make any impact on talent or appeal and Summer Glau is loaded with both.

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Total comments: 8

  Message #1 | ogy86 | 2013 Feb 22, 14:48 GMT

Summer has a very unique look, but I never thought that she might be Asian and actually I don't understand how anyone can say that, because she does not look like Asian. She simply has just an interesting facial features... But it was interesting to learn more about the origin of the word "Glau". So thanks wiki and Kai.

And yes, no matter what her origin is, she will always remain our beautiful and talented Summer cool

  Message #2 | chrisdvanne | 2013 Feb 22, 14:50 GMT

I am the only one who thinks that Summer pronounced her name differently on the 'Inside the Box' BTS clip at 0:39 of the video?

  Message #3 | KevinInEngland | 2013 Feb 22, 15:01 GMT

Chris, I think it is possible that through the generations, the pronunciation would have altered to be as closely matching the English version of the word.
In comparison, we know you prononounce Paree for the word Paris,
whereas we say Paris.
I'm sure it might possibly have been different in Germany. Only Kai can tell us this. He should know?

  Message #4 | chrisdvanne | 2013 Feb 22, 15:05 GMT

@ ogy86 & KevinInEngland

And yet we see it online very often, whereas it has no legitimacy, hence the mention here smile

  Message #5 | chrisdvanne | 2013 Feb 22, 15:10 GMT

Since i know German, i know how the word "Glau" is pronounced in actual German but i doubt many people have an idea on how it could have been pronounced 400 years ago.
And you know, Germany has many different regions and each has its own local language (and yes, Kai would be more qualified to speak about that smile )

  Message #6 | KevinInEngland | 2013 Feb 22, 14:56 GMT

I agree with you ogy86, she does not look Asian to me either and I do not think it likely that her father or grandfather would be susceptible to putting on lots of weight. I am trying to be sympathetic here because I know it is a problem.
On the positive side, i know that if there was a famine, I would be one of the first to die.

  Message #7 | Sammy9578 | 2013 Feb 22, 16:10 GMT

Glau is exactly pronounced that way in German as Summer does it.
Also back in the middle ages it shouldn't have been pronounced diffferently. I just have to add that it is pronounced that way only in "standard (or high) german", the plain german language.
In many dialects of German it would be pronounced differently.
The only german-speaking region without strong dialects is the one where I live (western part of Northrhine-Westphalia).
Also US-Citizens would pronounce it differently. They would rather speak it like "glow", which is not that wrong because german and english are languages of the same origins. 

But nevertheless I guess dialects didn't make it over the pond through the years.

Great article by the way! Well done!

  Message #8 | ogy86 | 2013 Feb 22, 16:36 GMT

People with that surname must have been very intelligent in the past./// I see that Summer has a suitable name :-)

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