Swedish Baby Names: What’s stylish in Stockholm?

Swedish Baby Names: What’s stylish in Stockholm?

Guest blogger and Sweden native Sarah–known to us Berries as Svea–  gives us some insight on the trends behind the list of most popular Swedish baby names.

Being a Swedish Sarah (the #1 name the year I was born), I grew up in a sea of Saras and Sarahs, with a bunch of peers named Emma, Hanna, Sofia, Julia and Josefin as well as Johan, Daniel, Joakim and Mikael. Not so different when compared to those with an Anglo-Saxon background, I guess! And, indeed, Sweden has become increasingly globalized when it comes to baby names.

The 2011 Top 10 for girls and boys year 2011 were:

1. Alice — William

2. MajaLucas

3. Julia  — Oscar

4. ElsaHugo

5. Linnéa — Elias

6 . EllaOliver

7 . EbbaLiam

8 . MollyAlexander

9 . Wilma — Viktor

10.  Emma– – Emil

Not surprisingly, the names on this list represent some of our current trends. First of all, there are the Swedish ‘core classics’ –among the most used names through the centuries, such as Johan, Lars, Olof, Nils, Erik, Anders and Per/Pär for boys, and Maria, Anna, Elisabet, Margareta, Eva, Kristina and Birgitta for girls (though most people with these names grew up a long time ago!). Obviously, many of these names are Swedish versions of Hebrew/Greek/ names, as well as names imported from other places: Nils is short for Nicholas, Birgitta is one of the Swedish versions of Brigid, etc.

One of the hot trends we’ve seen in Sweden is using vintage names and names from the Viking Era/Middle Ages. Examples of these for boys are Arvid, Einar, Gunnar, Inge, Magne, Vidar, and Viggo; equivalents for girls are Astrid, Embla, Hedvig, Ingrid, Signe, Sigrid, and Tyra; examples of more vintage names are Agnes, Alva, Britta, Ebba, Hedda, Saga, and Svea (my screen alias!).

We have also seen an increased use of Anglo-Saxon names like Kevin, Noel, Liam, and Jack; Melissa, Nicole, and Vanessa. There is also a long-running trend of two-syllable names ending in ‘o’ for boys, like Hugo, Leo, Milo, Mio and Neo (yes, after the character in Matrix), and names ending with ‘in’, like Alvin, Melvin, Elvin etc.  For girls, there’s a trend towards word names (often nature ones): Iris, Malva, Tuva, and Linnéa, while other word names are Engla (actually an old name meaning angel, but  perceived as a newly invented name; the original word is ‘ängel’), Tindra (to sparkle), and Vilda (the wild one).

Compound names for girls are on the rise, often ending in -li or -lo, such as Freja-Li and Saga-Lo. Smoosh names are also trendy, e.g. Novalie, which evolved from Nova-Li. I’ve even seen a girl called NataLee, as a version of Nathalie, which leads us to the next trend: Yoneek names, for both boys and girls.

These include altered versions of the highly popular Kevin (a continuing result of the success of the Backstreet Boys): Cevin or Kewin (the first version isn’t even correct in Swedish, while the second one is authentically Swedish). This illustrates another ongoing trend: interchanging the letter V for W: Wiggo, Wilda, Alwa, or adding a random, silent h somewhere in the name, like Melissah, Mhy (originally spelled My), Noha, and Isabellah. Nickname names are also popular: Olle (short for Olof), Pelle (short for Per), and Ville (short for Vilhelm) for boys, as well as Nellie, Minna, and Annie for girls.

You can see these trends reflected in the following list of the fastest climbing names on the Swedish top lists:

1. ToveFrank

2 . MinnaElvin

3 . Novalie — Milo

4.  EllieHarry

5.  JuniCharlie

6.  LiviaLove

7.  MajkenEddie

8 . LeiaJulian

9.  MariaValter

10. TildeElton

A note on Scandinavian mythological names. Odin, which is #730 on the US list, was given as a first name to only ten Swedish boys last year, but remember that Sweden is a small country with  only nine million inhabitants.  Except for the obvious Odin/Oden and Thor/Tor, we have Brage, Forsete, Magne, Njord, and Heimdall for boys. For girls, in addition to Freja/Freya we have Idun, Siv and Frigg as goddesses. An alternative to Freya might be the similar but highly unusual Fenja.

And finally, I’d like to add some names that I believe could work well in an Anglo-Saxon context, or at least be intriguing guilty pleasures! Not all the names are of Swedish origin, but they are all well used here. (Some you might recognize from my suggesting them in the Nameberry  forums.)

Here’s the list, a mix of old and new, on trend or as old and clunky as it gets:






















Viking  (yes, this is a name! It’s been used since the nineteenth century. It’s pronounced VEE-king in Swedish).

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I’ll gladly respond  to any questions you may have. Thank you!

Sarah–aka Svea–is currently studying to be a  civil engineer, and among her other interests are urban studies, literature–and since she discovered Nameberry two years ago–names!

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.