Weiss means white. Weizen means wheat. Hefe means yeast. So then, "Hefeweizen" literally means "yeast-wheat," so named because of the massive percentage of wheat malt (at least 50% by German law, but generally around 70%) and the cloudy yeast that you swirl and pour into the beer, which gives it all those delicious phenolics. According to the German Beer Institute, "The oldest archeological proof of wheat-beer brewing in Germany dates from the Bronze Age. It comes from a 2,800-year old earthenware amphora that was discovered in 1934 in a tribal grave near the small village of Kasendorf, not far from Kulmbach in northern Bavaria. The amphora can now be seen in the Kulmbach Beer Museum. Scientists have determined that the residues in the amphora are from dark wheat beer." So we know that beers brewed with wheat are one of the oldest forms of libations. Our modern Hefeweizen was originally called (and some still are) a "weissbier" because early malting techniques made almost all beers relatively dark in appearance, while wheat malt did not darken like barley, so though the beer was a light golden, it was called a "white beer."