Scandinavian Boy Names: A Hot New Trend


by Linda Rosenkrantz

Scandinavian boy names—except for Eric—have not had a great track record in the US. But change is definitely in the air.

Thanks to the confluence of some media celebrities and starbabies (Will Ferrell and his Swedish wife Vivica Paulin alone have three sons with Scandinavian names), literary sensations, etc, there’s some definite Nordic noise happening. Some of these Scandinavian boy names have already registered on the national list and some have only resonated with Nameberries so far. Here are some Nordic names to watch.



ANDERS—Currently #785 nationally and 266 on Nameberry, this classic Scandinavian version of Andrew has been rising since 2010, along with patronymic Anderson. Unnecessary trivia tidbit: In Denmark, Donald Duck’s name is Anders And.

AXEL— Now a Top 100 name in the US and 32 on NB, the Scandinavian variation of Absalom has a heavy metal vibe vs Axl Rose and is the name of the youngest of the Ferrell boys. A common name in video games, it is spelled Aksel in Denmark and Norway.

BJORN—Best known via tennis great Björn Borg (and, not incidentally, the Baby Bjorn carrier), Bjorn now ranks at #869 and 480 on Nameberry. It has also been a royal name in Sweden and a character in The Hobbit.

BO—This strong, all-purpose Norse nickname is now at #575 in the US and -oops—58 for dogs, including the Obama pet Portuguese Water Dog. Nonetheless, it has a lot of substance and swagger for a 2-letter name.

GUNNAR–#470. A key figure in Norse legend, this traditional Scandinavian fave is now making inroads here. Musician Gunnar Nelson is the son of Ricky and grandson of Ozzie and Harriet. In the US, less authentic spelling Gunner ranks even higher.

KAI—This multi-cultural name, found also in Hawaii, Germany, Japan and Wales, ranks at 113 in the US and rising. Jazz trombonist Kai Winding was born in Denmark; Kai is a character in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

LEIF—The name of explorer Leif Ericson, the first European to land in North America is #303 on Nameberry, and is still very popular throughout Scandinavia, where it’s pronounced either as lafe or life, not the most common US pronunciation of leaf, which gives it a nature vibe..

MAGNUS—Another choice of the Will Ferrell family, Magnus was also chosen by Elizabeth Banks. This powerful name dates back to Charlemagne’s Latin name ‘Carolus Magnus,” meaning great. Magnus has appeared in works from The Pickwick Papers to Matilda to Vampire Chronicles. A rapid riser, it’s now at #782 nationally, 105 on NB.

MATHIAS—Sitting comfortably in the 398th spot, Mathias is another rapid riser, an appealing possible namesake for an Uncle Matthew. Alternate spelling Matthias is close behind at #407. Mathias is #13 in Norway.

ODIN—One of the most promising Scandinavian names for boys, Odin is the top god in Norse mythology, presiding over art and wisdom—as well as a few less positive things. It’s currently #338 in the US, 40 in Norway. Could make a stylish international alternative to Top 25 Owen.

SOREN—This sensitive and gentle Danish name, long associated with philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, has struck a chord with modern parents, inspired by a number of literary characters, including a warrior in George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. Soren gets a lot of love on NB, where it ranks a high #25.

STELLAN—Another strong Scandinavian up-and-comer, first spotted on actor Stellan Skarsgard and then his namesake son of Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany. Stellan is up at #251 on NB and we expect it to move even higher.

THOR—This powerhouse of a name, star of Norse mythology, Marvel comics and superhero films is 390 on NB and will inevitably find wider fandom. TOR is another version.

VIGGO—Vigorous Viggo was introduced to the international namescape by Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen, who inherited it from his father. Serious babynamers Natalie and Taylor Hanson picked it in 2008 and Berries are falling for its lively o-ending charm, taking it to #301



EERO—An unusual and underused Finnish gem with a sci-fi vibe, inspired by architect Eero Saarinen.

IVAR—A royal Viking name that has just squeezed onto the NY Top 1000.

JENS—Scandinavian version of John (via Johannes)—one of many single-syllable s-ending possibilities.

LARS—A perfect sweet-spot exotic-lite name, easy to pronounce and spell. Recent bearers include Danish director Lars von Trier and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, plus the Ryan Gosling character in Lars and the Real Girl.

NELS and NILS—Two more classic Scandinavian boys derived from Nicholas; Nils familiar via rock guitarist Nils Lofgren.

OLAFEvery kid knows Olaf from Frozen and Lemony Snicket, but it also has a solid Norwegian regal history.

OSLO—A Norwegian place name recently discovered in the middle spot of a Berry birth announcement.  We like it!

STIEG—The late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, introduced his Swedish name to a wider world. Some related choices: STEEN, STIAN

SVEN—This quintessentially Swedish choice meaning youth is accessible and attractive. Another name kids might recognize from Frozen, where Sven happens to be a sympathetic reindeer.

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond Satran of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. In addition to contributing stories on trends and celebrity naming, she guides the editorial content and manages the Nameberry Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can follow her personally at (, Twitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books._

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz