Norse Mythology Names: Thor, Odin, Freya & Co.

As Thor thundered onto multiplex movie screens last week, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel was inspired to check out the other gods in the Norse mythology pantheon.

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.

The movie is based on Marvel Comics’ superhero version of Thor, not the literary works.  It takes some liberties with the original storyline, like transporting the god to New Mexico.

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.

GIRLS

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.

Eir – A goddess of healing and medicine, her name means mercy; it’s pronounced ire.

Eisa – A daughter of trickster god Logi.  The first syllable sounds like ice.

Embla – The Norse equivalent of Eve, created from a tree along with her partner Ask.

Freya – The goddess of love and beauty, also spelled Freyja and Freja.  She’s been popular in England in recent years, but remains rare in the US.

Idunn – The goddess of spring guarded golden apples, capable of giving eternal youth to anyone who ate them.  Dunn rhymes with dune; the pronunciation of the first syllable varies from ih to ee.

Saga – A goddess often depicted drinking with Odin, she’s the source of the word saga – and could join Story and Fable on the playground.

Signe – A princess who meets a tragic end, and possibly an update to the fading Sidney.

Sunna – Strictly speaking the sun goddess would’ve been called Sol, but Sunna is her Old High German equivalent, and the more wearable form.

Verdandi – Along with her sisters Urd and Skuld, Verdandi was one of the Norns, goddesses charged with determining destiny, like the Greek Fates.

BOYS

Alvis – A dwarf who courted Thor’s daughter, until the god tricked him out of marriage.

Brokk – The English Brock comes from a word meaning badger, but Brokk was a dwarf who beat Loki at his own game, and forged Thor’s hammer in the process.

Gunnar – You could dismiss this as a hyper-masculine, too-aggressive choice but he is a legitimate mythological figure – with a hyper-masculine, too-aggressive meaning.  Gunnar is derived from the words for war and warrior.

Heimdall – This might not make for a great first name choice, but the character is fascinating.  He guards a burning rainbow bridge between our world and the realm of the gods, and his horn can be heard across all dimensions.

Hogun – Surname Hogan conjures up a bunch of television and pop culture references, but Hogun is one of the Warriors Three, Thor’s loyal back-up.  But like Astrilde, he’s an invention, this time by Marvel Comics.

Laufey – Originally a female character, Marvel Comics changed Loki’s mom to Loki’s dad, but kept the name.

Loki – The bad boy of Norse myth, he graduates to all-out villain and archnemesis of Thor in the movie.  But if Bodhi and Bode are stylish, mainstream options, maybe Loki isn’t so outrageous.

MagnusThor’s son was called Magni, meaning strong, but kings of Norway and Sweden have answered to Magnus for centuries.  Will Ferrell has a son called Magnus, and it is very popular in Scandinavia.

Njal – From an Icelandic saga based on a real ruler, Njal is better known to us as Neil.  The Vikings borrowed him from the same source – the Gaelic Niall.  Some sources give him a two-syllable pronunciation, but most suggest that he sounds more like nyahl.

Odin – The chief god, Odin probably owes his recent rise to parents seeking alternatives to Aidan and company, but Anthony Hopkins’ turn as the king of Valhalla could help.

Thor – The thunder god and latest hero of the box office, the god’s name would fit right in with Cash and Gage.

Tyr – It looks like a creative respelling of tire, but Tyr was Thor’s brother and a god of justice.  His name sounds more like tier.

Vidar – Another of Odin’s sons, a god of revenge.

 

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21 Responses to “Norse Mythology Names: Thor, Odin, Freya & Co.”

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aimvonb Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 7:37 am

My dog’s name is Magnus!

Lola Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 9:35 am

I find Freya (any spelling) as odd as Aphrodite on a girl. Blah! But Eisa’s gorgeous and I really like Idunn too. That comes out sounding really similar to Eden for me, but far more asthestically pleasing.
On the boys side, Magnus is the only one I love. Everytime He pulls outtTiberius, I throw Magnus out. 😀
My loopy cousin referred to his son as Thor in -utero, He’s Alexander/Lex in RL. I rather like Thor, but Ken says “I’m tho thor…” everytime it comes up in conversation. And Thor’s easily my favorite of the Marvel superheroes, right up there with Spidey.

And I’m still puzzling over Laufey’s changing. It doesn’t sound masculine at all! Why would Marvel *do* that?!?

Abby Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 11:46 am

And Magnus is sort of a stretch – not the most authentic option out there as gods go, but totally legit in terms of Scandinavian heritage choices.

Can’t figure out the Laufey thing myself, but I’m super into comics.

Thor is growing on me as a given name, even though it is wildly hypermasculine. I like it better than Slade.

linda Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 11:50 am

What do you think of Tor?

Angie Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 12:37 pm

My husband wanted to name our daughter Signe, but I shot it down because my parents’ dog was name Sydney. Now the dog is gone and kiddo number two is on the way…I’m sure it will come up again. I like it, but I’m afraid it will be another name that no one can spell or pronounce. Maybe it will become a tiny bit more popular??

S Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 1:36 pm

All these spellings looks kind of weird to me! In Swedish, Odin would (often) be spelled Oden, Thor- Tor, Idunn- Idun, Freya- Freja (Freyja looks really weird!), Eir- Eira and last but not least Loki would be spelled Loke (a name that is very popular in Sweden at #82 for boys, even though Loke is the ultimate bad guy! But the name sure has a nice sound to it).

My favourites would be Embla, Alvis and Disa (Disa is not the name of a goddess, but means goddess in old Norse or something. Very pretty!) Oden/Odin is a really awesome name as well! Also, related to Alvis, I have to mention one of my newest name crushes- Alvi! Soo sweet!

Kitty Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I know a little Gunnar – it took me a while to realize it’s negative connotations, and it’s actually really adorable on a little kid (although I can see it being a problem in later life).
I also love Loki. Do you think it could made a cute nn for something?

Isabel Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Lol, I saw Thor on Saturday. The cheesiness cracked me up.

Back to the names, I love Freya. I think it’s so pretty and weightless in a good way. I can definitely see Odin working.

Abby Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Kitty, I know how you feel about Loki. It actually sounds like the Polish word for curls, so my mother-in-law has called our curly-headed son Loki. But I’m at a loss as to what more conventional name would go on the birth certificate – Laurence, maybe? That seems like a stretch …

S, I really struggled with that – thanks for the additional spellings.

Embla really is on my new list of favorites!

Helen Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

angie–i agree about signe. spelling/pronunciation would be difficult and i can imagine a nickname of siggy. ugh! people would say sig-nuh when it’s really pronounced sing-nuh, no hard ‘g.’ it was my great-grandmother’s name and have considered putting it on my list if we had a girl in the future, but ultimately it’s off the list for the above mentioned reasons ;(

Abby Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I’m not sure about Signe. I hear the concerns, but we have Zoe and Chloe … an -e ending name for a girl isn’t so rare these days.

Leslie Owen Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 10:44 pm

My family’s Norwegian, and there are a number of saga names that you’ve not listed, such as Ketil, Gudrun, and Solveig. I love Solveig, and would have used it as a middle name for Martha (Marta) if I had had another girl. Thor (as in all Norse names) does not pronounce the h, folks. It’s Tor, Tordis (instead of Thordis), Torgil (instead of Thorgil)….Tore is a great name, too, but prn would be a probably in English. The English version of Freja is Fritha or Frith.

linzybindi Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 11:41 pm

I really love Magnus. This name has been on and off my list for a few years. Still not sure how I would feel about Maggie as a possible nickname.

My husband is Norwegian so I have looked up many of these names before. Nice eclectic list!

Valentina Says:

May 17th, 2011 at 9:51 am

I really like Verdandi, Sunna, Eisa, and Brokk (although two ‘k’s might be a bit much). One name I’ve come across that’s supposed to be a variation of Hel (Daughter of Loki and Goddess of Hel) is Hela, which is a bit more usable than Hel. But I love mythology names, and really enjoyed seeing this.

giants1990 Says:

May 17th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

If you can name a child Susan and call her Suki, does that mean you can name a child Lachlan and call him Loki (pronounced Low-Key)?

Sunday Summary: 5/22/11 | Appellation Mountain Says:

May 22nd, 2011 at 1:48 pm

[…] week’s Nameberry post was a Hollywood-inspired review of Norse mythology names.  My new favorite?  Definitely Embla.  This week’s post is inspired by none other than […]

Abby Says:

September 27th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

@giants1990 – Maybe!

amberglow Says:

December 4th, 2012 at 2:47 am

I’m in love with eisa *-*

Flames Says:

February 7th, 2014 at 11:24 am

Eisa is actually the daughter of the fire giant Logi – not Loki

jackal Says:

February 25th, 2014 at 4:01 pm

If you’re going for an Old Norse theme, as opposed to a modern Scandinavian theme, you should definitely look to Icelandic rather than Swedish, Norwegian or Danish for more legitimate spellings and pronunciations (or indeed Old Norse itself, although really there’s very little difference between Old Norse and Icelandic when it comes to these names). You definitely should pronounce Thor and Thor- names with a th sound and Signý with a hard g if you are inspired by the old mythology and legends rather than modern Scandinavia.

P.S. There is basically no chance you will be able to pronounce Njal (Njáll) correctly. It’s one syllable, sort of like Nyowtl.

Female Thor Is Freya | Welcome to Sengrady Says:

June 19th, 2015 at 3:53 am

[…] Norse Mythology Names: Thor, Odin, Freya & Co. – Baby … – Presenting a pantheon of powerful Thor-inspired names of Norse gods and goddesses–From Freya to Gunnar, Magnus to Odin. – baby names […]

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