Aaro & Eeva: The Vowel-Rich Names of Finland
When we think of Scandinavian names, what usually comes to mind are the familiar and accessible ones that have been imported from Norway, Denmark and Sweden, like Eric and Ingrid and Lars and Dagmar. But Finnish names, while still Scandinavian, are a world unto themselves, loaded with double vowels (and sometimes consonants) and tricky accents and pronunciations. Yet though this nomenclature includes clunkers like Hongatar and Kiputytto, there are many others that have a unique and quirky charm all their own. I remember that when we were researching the foreign variations of names for The Baby Name Bible, I always kind of looked forward to seeing what the Finnish take would be on a classic–like Viljo for William, Maiju for Mary.
One reason for the sparse representation of Finnish names here is the small number of Finnish-Americans in the US. There are currently about 700,000 people of that ethnicity, which is only 0.2% of the population. Nor have many celebrities publicized Finnish names–there has never been a Finnish movie star equivalent of Ingrid Bergman, for example–the only Finnish names people might recognize are Esa-Pekka Salonen, the contemporary classical conductor, or perhaps father-and-son architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen.
Another element that sets these names apart comes from the fact that the Finnish language is very different from that of the other Scandinavian countries, with their Norse roots; Finnish has more in common with Hungarian, Estonian, Turkish and the languages spoken in the Asian part of Russia. But–for you vowel lovers– double vowels are its most distinctive feature. Pronunciation can be a little tricky, but here are some simple rules: A is pronounced as in arm, E as in egg, I as in it, O as in on, U as in pull, J=Y, and W=V.
So, while the current most popular names in Finland are quite international in flavor–Maria, Olivia, Sofia, Amanda, Matilda, and Julia are all in the Top 10–here are some more traiditional choices that would be usable but still highly distinctive here:
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on January 6th, 2009 at 11:58 am
How would you pronounce Anneli? It has a certain fresh appeal but I’m uncertain as to where to place the syllabic emphasis.
on January 6th, 2009 at 12:12 pm
Very interesting post! My maternal grandmother came to the U.S. from Finland as a little girl. My parents gave me a Finnish name to honor that — Anya. It should be spelled Anja, but they decided that was a little too much for an American kid to deal with. Even with the spelling Anya, I constantly correct people on pronunciation (though I still love my name!)
on January 6th, 2009 at 9:00 pm
I like Eeva, Kiira, Liisi for girls and Aaro, Jaako, and Niilo for boys.
Also, feel free to check out http://paigespage.wordpress.com/
on January 7th, 2009 at 7:14 am
Anneli is pronounced Ahn-ne-ly. Finnish words/names always have the emphasis on the first syllable, and double letters are always pronounced (like in Italian and Japanese). I think it’s really cute!
on January 7th, 2009 at 7:18 am
Oh, and Kiputytto and Hongatar aren’t names, or at least not here in Finland!
on January 7th, 2009 at 12:10 pm
I found those two names in a usually reliable reference book, but perhaps these are old names not used in contemporary times?
on January 7th, 2009 at 3:20 pm
Hongatar means something to the effect of ‘maiden of the oak tree’ and Kiputyttö is something like ‘maiden of pain,’ literally ‘pain girl.’ I think they are mythological figures rather than old-fashioned names, which a google search seems to confirm!
on January 7th, 2009 at 3:41 pm
Thanks, Michele. Maybe it’s not surprising that ‘pain girl’ didn’t survive.
on January 10th, 2009 at 11:57 am
These are interesting lists! thanks for sharing! I was suprised Eeva was pronounced EH-vuh, rather than EEE-vuh. My name is Eva, pronounced EEE-vuh. And everyone calls me EH-vuh. It’s so annoying. It would be quite ironic if my name was Eeva, and everyone called me EEE-vuh instead of EH-vuh.
Boston Girl Said
on June 17th, 2009 at 1:01 am
I just found this blog and my interest perked right up (I love Scandinavian/Nordic names). For almost 27 years I’ve had a wonderful pen pal there named Jaana.
In some of my writing I also created a Finnish family with the names Teppo (I think this is the equivalent of Stephen), Mielikki (which my friend Jaana remarked once is nowadays most often given to cows!), Kerttu (=Gertrude), Ilta, Antti (=Andrew), the above-mentioned Niilo (=Neil/Neal) and Liisa.
I’ve been so influenced by some Scandinavian pronunciations that every time I see the name Eva, I ALWAYS pronounce it “Eh-va” in my mind. Now it sounds funny to me when pronounced “Ee-va”!
Boston Girl Said
on June 17th, 2009 at 1:04 am
Oh yes, I almost forgot. I also had a Swedish pen pal named Anneli. The usual Swedish version seems to be Annelie (and I had another Swedish pen pal with that name, for that matter).
Just about guaranteed, if you give your baby a Finnish name, he/she will be unique in his/her future classes!
on March 9th, 2010 at 5:14 pm
nameberry.com, how do you do it?
Tuulia Valo Said
on April 15th, 2010 at 4:04 pm
Finnish names are so beautiful. I also created a family full of Finnish names. They are Astrid (this isn’t Finnish, but Astrid was supposed to be American), Henrikki (the Finnish form of Henry), Tapio (No idea what it means, but it’s from the Kalevala), and Tuuli (wind).
A mystery story I did in eighth grade had Aamu (morning), Ilta (evening, she and Aamu were twins), Suometar (Finland-something), Talvikki (winter), Tapio (again), Eerikki (Finnish form of Erik), Mikko (Michael), and Ainua (a form of Aino/a that I made up). I got mad at my teacher whenever he mispronounced them 🙂 I also love the names Meri, Aika, and Aalto.
on April 26th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
We have a family friend, originally from Finland who’s name is Sirpa. I have always thought it was such a beautiful name. My Grandmother came to Canada from Finland so I have always kept this name in the back of my mind as a potential baby name for my child one day.
Sawubona and Kunjani: Welcome to the Magic Kingdom…of Swaziland « AfricAnnum Said
on May 21st, 2012 at 8:48 am
[…] we drove to the Finnish Embassy, not to ask them why their names have so many vowels, but to peruse the art gallery and gift shop within. Then, we went back to Malandela’s, or more […]
on January 11th, 2015 at 7:17 am
Ooh, I love these! Understandably, since I have a Finnish name which is on this list. 🙂
But Finland is not in Scandinavia. It is a Nordic country, but not a Scandinavian one.
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