Obviously their enlarged mandibles have been the most popular naming factor.
They can simply be called Hoornbeest, Rohác obecný or Chwilen cornig; however most names go a bit further and specify the horned animal, which can be quite revealing.
Names linked to deer are the commonest because their antlers are branched like the beetles. See Szarvasbogár, Hertkever, etc. However some names are more specific, thus we have, for instance, Stag beetle and Hirschkäfer, which suggest the coat colour.
Then, we can also have deer plus their flying habits: Vliegend hert and Cerf volant, for instance.
Other animals turn up in regions where deer aren't that common. Therefore in the Iberian peninsula we have cows and goats. For example, in Vacaloura and Cabra-loura we could also have a link to the coat colour like in stag beetle.
Elk is the choice in Estonia and interestingly we have ox, Ekoxe, or bull, Tammihärkä, Sweden and Finland. Notice that they are associated with oak as well. It is worth pointing out that this link with their favourite tree - oak - is found throughout Scandinavia, Germany, and England. See Ekoxe, Eghjort, Eikhjort, Eichochs, and Oak-ox.
Indeed Lucanus cervus is primarily a woodland species - see Waldkáfer - and during their larval stage they need to feed for many years on dead wood, preferably oak, and to this day they are still found associated with old forest remains. See Acton.
The old name Schröter certainly refers to the state that larvae leave the wood that they have been feeding in; for more about their feeding habits read Paul Hendriks's observations [PDF, 0.9MB]. Again, notice that Schröter comes not only associated with horned animals - Hirschschröter and Hornschröter - but with fire as well. Names like Feuerschröter to Börner stem from very old superstitions perhaps based on the fact that they are attracted to lights and in those days this meant people's fires.
Other names like Koenijper, Horse pincher and Pferdeklemmer are very hard to believe. Clearly people must have worried about being pinched and were carried away by their imagination, see Scharrebijter and Escanyapolls. From there to other witchcraft associations is only a small step, see Billywitch and Teufelspferd.
Moreover people also noticed that the beetles liked flying in warm stormy weather and in the Middle Ages they were associated with the god of lightning, see Thunder beetle and Donnerpuppe.
Perhaps the wealth of very old German names, most of them no longer used, is a very good indicator of the species past abundance in that region. It would be interesting to find out if the same vocabulary loss has occurred, in other languages, in tandem with the beetle's decline.
If you happen to know some more old vernacular names please do not hesitate in contacting me.
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