In English it is called Common Tern, in Spanish charrán común and in Italian Sterna comune, a "common / frequent" tern, a sign that people in the past almost to be able to see the species as a breeding bird. Along the rivers it was the most common tern.
In Dutch, the species is called Visdief, meaning fish thief. The French name Sterne pierregarin is derived from three words: sterne for tern, pierre for stone soil or gravel and garin comes from the Old French and means "defends its ground". In summary, this results in "Gravel-defending Tern" and describes behaviour that we could experience ourselves. Common Terns can attack people who come too close to the nests. Simple forms are shrill cries and fake attacks, more violent forms of faeces splash and beating by bill on the visitors' heads.
The German name Flussseeschwalbe indicates the breeding site on rivers (Fluss).