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Scandinavian Boy Names Hit the Sweet Spot

Scandinavian Boy Names Hit the Sweet Spot

Scandinavian boy names offer a rich pool of names that are deep-rooted but little-used and sometimes unknown in other parts of the world.

With a few exceptions, like Eric, names from the Nordic countries — focusing here on Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland — didn’t figure much in the American name landscape of the twentieth century.

But in the last decade, there has been a definite rise in the number of parents considering, and using, names like Leif, Soren and Odin for their sons.

We see it as part of the wider trend for all things Scandi in our homes and on our screens. We buy Swedish furniture, cultivate hygge, watch Nordic crime and viking dramas, admire Greta Thunberg. It’s not surprising parents want the same aesthetic in their baby names, too.

It’s also driven by celebrity parents like Will Ferrell and his Swedish wife Viveca Paulin, who have sons named Magnus, Mattias and Axel; and Taylor and Natalie Hanson’s son Viggo. All these names rose in the charts after they were born.

Whether you want to honor family heritage or just love Scandinavian culture, these are the best Scandi boy names you should know about. They include timeless classics, hot new risers, and unknown gems that deserve more love.

Classic Scandinavian Boy Names

There are some boy names that are so firmly embedded in English-speaking culture that it’s easy to forget they are (or can be) of Scandinavian origin. These are great options if you’re looking for something timeless, or even old-mannish, that doesn’t scream Scandi too loudly.

Carl — Simple and dignified, Carl and Karl are the most understated names in the Charles family. They were popular through most of the twentieth century and have dropped into style limbo now, but still have a timeless quality. The current King of Sweden is Carl XVI Gustaf.

Christian — A staple of the 1990s and 2000s that’s still fairly popular. Despite the obvious meaning, it’s become such a familiar part of the name landscape that it’s easy to forget its spiritual origins. Christian is the preferred spelling in Denmark (as in Hans Christian Andersen), while Kristian is more popular in Norway and Iceland.

Eric — The most successful Nordic imports of all, Eric and Erik were huge in the 1970s, and are now on the way to becoming modern classics. 

Harold — This has been a royal Scandinavian name from medieval times to Norway’s present King Harald, but is still in grandpa territory for English speakers. We think (hope!) a revival is just about to happen, led by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s son Harold, born in 2019.

Oscar — This stately yet cuddly name has been a steady fixture in the US charts, always in style but never wildly popular. The spelling Oskar has grown a lot in the last 20 years. In the UK, it’s a different story: Oscar has been in the England and Wales Top 10 since 2013.

Cool Scandi Boy Names

This is the new generation of Nordic boy names. All these names have risen in the US in recent years, so they feel fresh to adults and strike the right balance of blend-in/stand-out for children.

Anders — Scandinavian form of Andrew that fits perfectly with the trend for -S endings like Brooks and Wells.

Axel — A biblical name that’s acquired a rock’n’roll edge for English speakers. Also spelled Aksel and Axl.

Bjorn — Many people know this name — which means “bear” — from ABBA, tennis legend Bjorn Borg, and BabyBjörn products, but hardly anyone was using it until recently. It’s just started to climb up the Top 1000.

Bo — A strong, punchy unisex name with a cowboy vibe, and also one of the hottest nicknames for Bodhi, Bowie and more.

Gunnar — A timeless classic in Iceland, Gunnar and the anglicized spelling Gunner have both become mainstream in the States too.

Henrik — With an edgier sound than Henry, this Scandi classic has been in the US Top 1000 since 2014.

Kai — One of the most multicultural names around, the best-known Scandinavian Kai is the boy in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Snow Queen — the inspiration for Frozen.

Leif — A brisk, breezy name that calls to mind the viking-age voyager Leif Erikson, the first European to land in North America.

Magnus — Regal yet cuddly Magnus makes the Top 50 in Denmark, Norway and Iceland and the Nameberry Top 100.

Mathias — A fresh-sounding biblical boy name that’s especially popular in Norway and Denmark.

Odin — The Norse god of war and wisdom is in Norway’s Top 50 in Norway, and climbing for American parents looking for a strong mythological name — as is his fellow-god Thor.

Soren — Smooth, gentle, and rising fast both on the Nameberry chart and in real life.

Stellan — Even though the similarity is a coincidence, this name feels as tough as steel, and as stellar as the stars.

Viggo — An energetic choice brought to American attention first by Viggo Mortensen, then by naming aficionados Natalie and Taylor Hanson.

Rare Nordic Boy Names

All these names are popular in at least one Scandinavian country but little-used elsewhere — undeservedly, we think! That makes them great options if you’re looking for something unusual but cool and authentic.

Arvid — With the meaning “eagle tree”, this is one cool nature name.

Atli — Deceptively similar to Atlas, this is the Scandinavian form of Attila (yes, as in the Hun).

Gustav — A Swedish royal name, with the added bonus of Gus as a nickname.

Ivar — Viking royalty and still in the Swedish Top 100, we like both the sound and the archery-related meaning.

Lars — Another cool S ending that is complete in itself, but also a fun nickname for related names like Laurence and Larkin.

Nils — Fuss-free form of Nicholas, pared down to the essentials.

Nohr — With a similar sound to Noah, this is actually the Danish word for north… the ultimate Scandi-Kardashian crossover?

Olaf — One of the most traditional Nordic names, and one of the origins of Oliver. Surely the snowman can share his name with a few more boys?

Sander — Gentler than Xander, this diminutive of Alexander is an appealing standalone too. It’s rare but slowly rising in the US.

Sixten — Nothing to do with the number six, Sixten means “victory stone”. It is popular in Sweden but has only charted once in the States.

Svante — Sven meets Dante in this svelte diminutive, worn by Greta Thunberg’s dad and the Nobel-winning scientist Svante Arrhenius.

Torben — A simple, on-trend sound, the cool meaning “thunder bear”, and Tor and Ben as nickname possibilities: there’s so much potential in Torben.

Valdemar — A bold, dramatic statement of a Nordic name, which we thoroughly love (and so do Danish parents: it’s in the Top 10 there). If parents can name their sons the likes of Cassian and Jupiter, why not Valdemar?

Need more inspiration? See the most popular Scandinavian boy names in the charts for Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from the next high-rising names to how to choose a multilingual name, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. She has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and lives in England with her husband and toddler. You can follow everything she reads about names on Twitter or Scoop.it, or reach her at clare@nameberry.com