Category: Scandinavian baby names
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.
Being a Swedish Sarah (the #1 name the year I was born), I grew up in a sea of Saras and Sarahs, with a bunch of peers named Emma, Hanna, Sofia, Julia and Josefin as well as Johan, Daniel, Joakim and Mikael. Not so different when compared to those with an Anglo-Saxon background, I guess! And, indeed, Sweden has become increasingly globalized when it comes to baby names.
The 2011 Top 10 for girls and boys year 2011 were:
Even if you haven’t hit the multiplex lately, you’ve probably heard that the hammer-wielding Thor is winning critical acclaim and drawing in crowds. Could the movie inspire parents to look north to Norse mythology names for baby name inspiration?
After all, we’ve borrowed from Greek and Roman mythology for generations. From classics like Diana to current favorites like Luna, there’s no shortage of appealing options. Pierce Brosnan has a son called Paris, and Chris Noth named his firstborn Orion.
Norse mythology names are not as well known, and many of them are awkward in English. (Frigg would be downright cruel, no matter how noble the figure.) Most of the list below comes from the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, two compilations dating to the thirteenth century, but including much older oral traditions.
Whether you’re a fan of the comic or looking for a name that celebrates your Scandinavian heritage, there are some interesting possibilities to be found.
Astrilde – Invented in the sixteenth century invention as a Norse equivalent of Cupid, she’s not part of the original pantheon, but appears in plenty of poems.
Atla – A minor water goddess.
Edda – Several theories explain why Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson chose to name his collection the Prose Edda. One of the most popular theories is that it comes from a Latin phrase meaning “I compose.” The Edda Awards are Reykjavik’s answer to the Oscars.
Nameberry guest blogger Andrea, whom many of you may know for her intelligent and thoughtful advice on our message boards, and who most recently blogged for us on royal baby names, now focuses her attention closer to home, with this report on naming trends in the midwest.
On a recent Saturday somewhere in North Dakota, an athletic field was filled with fledgling 4-year-old soccer players, learning how to kick the ball and congratulate teammates when they did (or didn’t) make a goal. Behind them were their proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and volunteer coaches, all hollering at once:
“Maddox, where’s your soccer ball?” “Yay, Logan. Yay, Logan!” “Hustle, Camden, hustle!” “Chloe, take a time out.” “Go, Ethan!” After awhile the hard “C’s” and “an” ending names started to blend together. I could imagine next year’s preschool or kindergarten teacher mixing some of them up the way their soccer coach occasionally did.
The names of the kids on my nephew’s soccer team are a good example of some of the naming trends in North Dakota and elsewhere in the Midwest, which tend towards newer-sounding surnames, names with a western feel, and names that sound a lot like other names that are already popular. The differences seem more distinctive with boys than they do with names for girls. Many of the names are also common everywhere in the United States, but it seems like some of them are adopted here before they hit the southern or eastern U.S. William, at the top of the charts in much of the South, is far less common in North Dakota, where 60 little Ethans were born last year compared with 26 little Williams. Ryan, popular in the eastern U.S., was most popular in North Dakota well over a decade ago and has now lost steam. Likewise, Jayden and variants have been popular here for over a decade and some of the North Dakota Jaydens have started college. Now, even as the name hits the top of the charts in New York City, North Dakota parents seem bored with Jayden and have moved on to Brayden, ranked at No. 7; Aiden, ranked at No. 9, Caden, which probably doesn’t rank higher mainly because there are so many spelling variants, all listed separately on the popularity chart, and Hayden. Jayden itself is No. 51. All are used for girls occasionally as well as boys. Then there are the sound-alikes like Zayden, Tayden, Trayden, Grayden and others.
There are also distinctive trends that sometimes don’t show up on the top 100 charts. There are more Swedish or Norwegian names here, thanks to the Scandinavian-Americans who settled in the Midwest a century ago. Greta appears on the top 100 list for Minnesota in 2009 and is not as often used anywhere else in the country. Over the years I’ve interviewed young boys named Ole, Nels, Jens, Odin, Thor, Kjell, Christ, Haakon and Soren and young girls named Solveig, Signe, Dagny, Siri, Marit, Ingrid and Kaari. Some traditional Sioux, Chippewa or Three Affiliated Tribes parents give children native language names, like Spotted Eagle or Chaske or Mato or Chenoa.
Western-sounding names for boys like Brody and Wyatt also seem more popular in the Midwest than in some other parts of the country. I’ve seen more than one birth announcement for a little Rowdy or Maverick or Colt. It’s fun sometimes to see how often the roster of bull riders or barrel racers at a summer rodeo actually sound like they belong on a ranch roping cattle. The child sometimes grows up to fit the name. I know that when one of my former colleagues named his son Cooper two years ago, he commented that it’s the kind of name he could imagine being called out by a basketball announcer 15 years from now when his son runs into a gym in front of a cheering crowd. “Go, COOPER! COO-PER! COO-PER!” was echoing in his ears. Cooper, which is also coincidentally my newest nephew’s name, ranked at No. 27 in North Dakota last year. Nationally it was ranked No. 84. In a state where nearly every small town kid plays multiple sports, there are probably a lot of parents dreaming of cheering crowds!
Feeling that geographical names have become kind of ho-hum? It’s true that many people have tired of Paris and some of the over-visited names from the American West like Cheyenne, Sierra, Dakota and Dallas. But that’s no reason to write off the whole category—we can renew our passports and look a bit farther afield for some fresher, more interesting and exotic choices from the global atlas.
ELANORA –This name of an Australian suburb is used as a girls’ name in that country
IBIZA (ih-BEETH-a)—Another interesting island name, though a little bit lispy
ISCHIA (IS-key-a)—An Isla-like Italian island name
LILLE – (LEELE) –We’ve seen the growing popularity of double-L names, now here’s a French city with three of them
LIXA –An old Portuguese city with a modern-sounding name
LULEÅ — A city on the northern coast of Sweden; birthplace of the founder of the Nordstrom department store chain
LUZA – A Russian town on the Luza river—but too much like loser?