Norse Names for Newbjorns

If you look at the Top 1000 (actually 2000) baby names on the latest Social Security list, you’ll find a rich mix of names with English and Irish and Latin and African roots, but only the sparsest sprinkling of names from the Scandinavian cultures.  Aside from Eric and Erica–the only Norse names that have ever really caught on in this country–you have to look pretty far down the list to find a handful of others–Kai, Axel, Annika, Gunnar, Ingrid, Soren–some of them representing just a few hundred babies.

Which means that there’s a whole constellation of names waiting to be discovered–including Norse mythological names.  Granted, not all of them would appeal to the American ear, some of them displaying their ungainly Germanic roots (Wigburg, anyone?), others offering pronunciation challenges (similar to that posed by Matt Lauer’s son’s Dutch name Thijs, pronounced Tice), or containing too many accents, or being just generally awkward, like Ansgar or Ragnild.  That said, there are still many gems to be uncovered.

Though there are some names or variations found only in either Norway or Sweden or Denmark (Finland is a whole other story), the majority–many of them, such as Gunnar, coming from ancient Norse legend–can be found throughout Scandinavia.  Strict traditional patterns of nomenclature–the first son being named for his paternal grandfather, etc–and laws restricting name choices have kept the supply pretty limited, but of late these have relaxed somewhat, and non-traditional names have been working their way in.

When it comes to the most popular names, there is some overlap among the three countries.  In 2006-07, the top names in Sweden were William, Lukas and Elias, and Wilma, Maja and Ella; in Norway they were Jonas, Mathias and Magnus, and Thea, Emma and Julie; while in Denmark the top three were Lucas, Mikkel and Magnus, and Sofie, Laura, and Freja. Here are some other choices to consider; those starred are current favorites.

GIRLS

ASTRID

BARBRO

CLADY (klah-DEE)

DAGNY

*EBBA

JENSINE/JENSINA

*LINNEA

MAREN/MARET/MARIT

PETRA

*SIGNY/SIGNE

SVEA

ULLA (OO-la)

BOYS

BJORN

*FILIP

IVAR

JENS

KLEMENS

LARS

LEIF

ODIN

STEEN/STIAN

SVEN

TOR/THOR

VIGGO

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11 Responses to “Norse Names for Newbjorns”

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PlainJane Says:

December 5th, 2008 at 2:14 am

I love Scandinavian names. I have siblings named Maren and Soren. Soren is a bit perturbed (jokingly) that his name is becoming too popular.

Now, to convince my husband to use a Scandinavian name!

anne Says:

December 5th, 2008 at 9:41 pm

what, no Britta? It’s my favorite Scandinavian name by far! Just love it.

jen Says:

December 6th, 2008 at 2:47 am

Soren was our #1 choice for a while, but we stupidly let people know, and everyone hated it! It’s a great name, but not for this one, I guess! Britta is nice, but everyone is going to associate that name with the water filters, unfortunately.

Rachel Says:

December 10th, 2008 at 5:57 pm

One of my favorite nordic girls’ names is Maiken.

Annika Says:

January 9th, 2009 at 7:13 pm

I’m from Germany and I got to say that scandinavian names started it’s popularity here about 30-40 years ago and in a way still continue (now with other names like Bjarne, Matti, Mika and so on). Anyway I was just going to say that bede myself (Annika is a swedish variation of Anna), I have three cousins names Thorsten, Sven and Jens (I’m not sure about the last one beiing scandinavian, but whatever) and a cousin named Maren. Futhermore, among my friends there is a Lars and a Björn. Anyway, I think there are a lot of scandinavian names to discover; you only need to read some Astrid Lindgren (“Pippi Longstocking” books for inspiration.

linda Says:

January 11th, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Yes, Annika, fyi, Jens is Scandinavian, primarily Danish.

norskie Says:

March 18th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Jens is no more Danish than it is Norwegian. Petter (pet•ter) is going to be popular now, after the Olympics.

Erica Says:

May 9th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I love Svea but my Swedish husband says it’s an old lady’s name(in Sweden). I must somehow convince him that they are coming back into style. I also like Evea.(Ee-vay-uh)

Fiona Says:

July 23rd, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Freja/Freya

My 6 yr old girls is called Freja – Blonde haired and blue eyed lol Very pretty name

Norse Mythology Names: Thor, Odin, Freya & Co. – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

May 16th, 2011 at 12:57 am

[…] winning critical acclaim and drawing in crowds.  Could the movie inspire parents to look north to Norse mythology names for baby name […]

Haili73 Says:

September 26th, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I had a neighbor named Britta- I always liked it. I also named a princess in a story Jensina, Jennie for short, but I haven’t seen it anywhere.
She had a twin sister named Contenza, or Connie. I thought I was naming Connie after a musical term but turns out I accidentally combined Cadenza (the Italian musical word for solo) and Contessa (the Italian word for countess) Contenza=Royal Solo. And she’s a princess. Ha!

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