Scandinavian names have been slow to enter the American stockpot of names. Maybe it’s because they’re not as romantic as the Italians, as genial as the Irish, as energetic as the Russians, or as instantly chic as the French.
But there are a lot of great, neglected Swedish, Norwegian and Danish names to be discovered, and those of internationally known Scandinavian celebrities have provided a pathway in. Here are the names of some such notables, both past and present, which are both appealing and accessible– and definitely worth considering.
Astrid—the prolific Swedish author Astrid Lindgren is best known as the creator of Pippi Longstocking. Her royal Scandinavian name has been neglected here in favor of the more familiar Ingrid, but is just as attractive.
August–August Strindberg was not only a major Swedish playwright (Miss Julie his most famous play), but also a novelist, poet and painter. August is by far the most popular month name for boys, and has been chosen by several celebs, including Mariska Hargitay and Jeanne Tripplehorn
Bibi-—Swedish actress Bibi Andersson, born Berit Elisabeth, is best known for her roles in the films of Ingmar Bergman. Bibi—also spelled Bebe—is a spunky-nickname cousin of Gigi, Coco, Kiki, Lulu, et al.
Britt – Britt Eklund was a Bond Girl in the 1974 The Man with the Golden Gun. Britt is a contracted form of Birgit, but be aware that it does come with the strong possibility of being confused with Bret/Brett—or as a shortening of Brittany.
Bjorn—Swedish tennis ace Björn Borg is considered one of the greatest players of all time. His first name (pronounced be-yorn), the Scandinavian form of Bernard, is familiar to parents via the popular Baby Bjorn child-carriers.
Claes—American-born Pop Art sculptor Claes (pronounced Klahs) Oldenburg, is the son of a Swedish diplomat. Though it looks good on paper, the spelling of Claes might be confusing to a non-Swede, making Claus a safer spelling.
Greta—Garbo, the iconic and legendary Swedish star, whose cinematic career spanned from the silent era into talkies, is known for her enigmatic aura. Her first name, a short form of the Scandinavian/German Margarethe, still carries a faintly exotic air, and, at Number 684, remains an intriguing, underused option.
Ingrid—Luminous Swedish star Ingrid Bergman was a triple Academy Award winner, best known for her haunting presence in the classic film Casablanca. Ingrid has been a fully integrated immigrant since 1940, when Bergman first became known here. An attractive, recommended choice, as is the similar Sigrid.
Kai—Kai Winding was a popular Danish-born jazz trombonist and composer, whose multi-cultural (Hawaiian, Japanese, Native American) name has been climbing steadily, now at an all-time high of Number 202. Other cultural cred: Kai’s leading role in The Snow Queen, appearances in several video games, and as the son of Jennifer Connelly.
Lars—Dynamic Danish-born drummer Lars Ulrich was a founding member of the iconic heavy metal band Metallica. This Scandinavian form of Laurence is so foreign but familiar, simple yet rich, that we wonder why more parents aren’t warming to it. Lars is currently a Top 25 name in both Belgium and the Netherlands in addition to being an enduring classic in Scandinavia.
Leif—Leif Ericson was the Norse explorer who beat Columbus by reaching North America in the early eleventh century. Pronounced LAFE in its natural habitat, it is more likely to have the naturey LEAF sound here.
Liv–Norwegian Ingmar Bergman actress Liv Ullmann was the inspiration behind the naming of American actress Liv Tyler. Again, it is pronounced LEEV in Scandinavia, LIV here. Just the kind of short, strong female name that is growing in popularity, it was used by Julianne Moore for her daughter.
Nils—Half-Swedish rock musician Nils Lofgren has been a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Like Lars, Nils (NEELS), the Swedish form of Nicholas, is an oldster name in its native habitat, but would sound fresh here.
Noomi—This more open, cheerier form of Naomi arrived here via the actress who played Lisbeth Salander in the original Scandinavian film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace. She has a sister named Saerún and a husband named Ola.
Sonja –Sonja Henie was an Olympic figure skating champion who came to Hollywood and became a glamorized movie star in the late 1930’s and 1940’s. This spelling turns the already exotic Sonya/Sonia even more so.
Stellan–Born John Stellan, the Swedish actor known as Stellan Skarsgård, recognized for appearances in such blockbusters as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Avengers, and who inspired the baby name of Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany’s son, is the father of eight children, including Valter, Ossian, Eija and Kolbjörn. Equally usable is the first name of philosopher Søren Kirkegard, which could be seen as an update of Loren. And no, I say as the mother of a Chloe, you don’t have to use the accent.
Stieg—Another Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reference: Stieg Larsson was the creator of the series novels. Stieg is actually a nickname based on his firsts–Karl Stig-Erland –but we could see it being picked up on as an independent choice. Stig, on the other hand, is a very common Scandinavian name.
Vendela—The gorgeous Norwegian-Swedish model uses this as her single-owner name, but some others seeking an unusual V-name might want to consider it.
Viggo—This vigorous Scandinavian name was introduced to American audiences by actor Viggo Mortensen, who inherited it from his father. It’s now in the Top 30 in Sweden and has definite potential as an exotic o-ending name here. The Taylor Hansons chose it for their fourth child.
Viveca— Celebrated Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors, born Elsa Viveca was one of several notables bearing this pretty, feminine V-name in a variety of spellings, including the Swedish-born wife of Will Ferrell and the non-Scandinavian Vivica A. Fox.
Would you/have you considered a Scandinavian name for your child?