Scharf (also Schärf) is a surname of German origin and Irish origin. is found throughout Germany as well as the United States and many other countries. The Irish version of the surname is found almost exclusively in Canada, Australia, and (Scharf's of Irish ancestry who never left) Ireland. In Ireland, the Scharf families were originally found to inhabit County Kerry and County Limerick. In modern day they are found in County Kilkenny County Carlow.
The Scharf families of Germanic origin can trace their ancestral home to Bavaria, which is in the Southeast of modern day Germany. As of today, the Germanic Scharf family is spread quite evenly over all of Germany. It is an "eke" name; i.e., it describes a physical attribute. In this case it means the original bearer was sharp-witted.
There are two explanations of how the Scharf family came to Ireland. The most common is that they are indigenous to Ireland and were part of the Ó Murchadha branch of the McMorrough Clan. After the breakdown of the McMorrough clan, they adopted the Ó Murchadha family name, which is in the Irish language. Ó Murchadha was usually translated into the surname Murphy but a select few families chose the O'Scarflain translation. The second theory of how the O'Scarflain family came to Ireland is that they are the ancestors of invading Vikings that eventually settled in Ireland, known as Norse Gaels. The Viking invasions of Ireland ended with many Viking staying in Ireland and becoming gaelicized. It is believed that one of the Invading Danish Viking carried the relatively common Nordic name of "Skarf". This would have eventually been anglicized into Scharf.
After Oliver Cromwell invaded and reconquered Ireland, Prejudicial laws were enacted by the British. The Statues of Kilkenny banned the (including names in Irish) Irish language in most of Leinster. With the O'Scarflain also living in Leinster they, as well as most Indigenous Irish, Anglicized their name to become even more English. O'Scarflain was anglicized to the names Scharf, Scarf, Scarriff, O'Scharf, and O'Scarriff.
Notable people with the name include:Aaron Scharf (1922–1993), American born British art historian
Adolf Schärf (1890–1965), Austrian politician of the Social Democratic Party
Caleb Scharf, American astronomer
Charles W. Scharf, American businessman, CEO, and board member
Dorothy Scharf (1942–2004), English philanthropist and art collector
Eddy Scharf (born 1953), German poker player
Erwin Schärf (1914-1994), Austrian politician
George Johann Scharf (1788–1860), German-born English painter, draughtsman and lithographer
George Scharf (1820–1895), British art critic, illustrator, and director of the National Portrait Gallery
Henry Scharf (1822–1887), English-born American illustrator, Shakespearean actor, and professor
John Thomas Scharf (1843–1898), American historian, author, journalist, and politician
Jürgen Scharf (born 1952), German politician
Kenny Scharf (born 1958), American painter
Kurt Scharf (1902–1990), German clergyman and bishop of the Evangelical Church in Germany
Ludwig Scharf (1864-1939), German lyricist and translator
Mark Scharf (born 1956), American playwright, actor and teacher
Mark Scharf (born 1963), American Photographer, Artist, Graphic Artist, magazine publisher
Michael Scharf (born 1963), American law professor, Director of the Summer Institute for Global Justice
Michael Scharf (poet) (born 1969), American poet and critic
Natasha Scharf, British author, disc jockey, presenter and journalist
Nick Scharf (1858–1937), American baseball player
Roman Scharf, Austrian businessman
Shlomo Scharf (born 1943), Israeli football player and manager
Stuart Scharf (c. 1941–2007), American composer, guitarist, and philosopher
Ted Scharf (born 1951), Canadian ice hockey player
Walter Scharf (1910–2003), American film composer
Werner Scharf (1905–1945), German actor
Wilfried Scharf (born 1955), Austrian zither player and professor
William Scharf (born 1927), American artist