Swedish Baby Names: What’s stylish in Stockholm?
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:
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:
3 . Novalie — Milo
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!
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on August 2nd, 2012 at 12:41 am
Great post! The Swedes really do have great style. I like peaking at their top list so I’ll know what’s about to hit it big here (they seem to be ahead of the trends here by a few years) – Matilda, Vera, Edith are top 50. Side note, I had a super hot Swedish grad proff in college (part time aerobics instructor) named Johan (sigh).
on August 2nd, 2012 at 2:20 am
Great post, thanks Sarah/Svea!
on August 2nd, 2012 at 2:44 am
Scandinavian names are kind of trending here in Germany. Love to read Fenja, my sisters name in a post! I really like Tove (pronounced “TOH-veh”) for a girl.
on August 2nd, 2012 at 2:48 am
I just love the names Viggo and Tove. It’s a sibset I would consider…
on August 2nd, 2012 at 6:17 am
Thanks for the great post, Svea! It’s so wonderful to get your insights on Swedish names from inside the culture — impossible for a non-native! I feel enlightened….
on August 2nd, 2012 at 6:45 am
Im reading the Trylle trilogy right now and the Prince/King is named Tove! I love the name Sven, always have. Seems like a cooler version of Steven, so I have called my friend Steve Sven since 5th grade (1995 for you people)
on August 2nd, 2012 at 6:54 am
I have loved Tove for years (I’m a big Moomins fan!) Is Tova another spelling of this? I think English speakers would be able to say Tova but would struggle with Tove, so I’ve always thought I’d name my future daughter Tova, but I’d hate for it to be a “youneek” name! Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
on August 2nd, 2012 at 6:55 am
Thank you so much for the kind words, Pam!:)
on August 2nd, 2012 at 7:58 am
I work for a Swedish company. The two managers I mostly report to have children named Alice and Lucas which are the No. 1 girls and No. 2 boys on this list and also Charlie.
I am surprised just how English the boys names sound in comparison to the girls and wonder why there is such a large difference in that regard and how that happened over time.
on August 2nd, 2012 at 8:59 am
I love these names! Great post!
on August 2nd, 2012 at 9:21 am
on August 2nd, 2012 at 9:38 am
When I saw the headline, I thought “I hope svea comments!” And here you are the author! 🙂
Love Tove, Tindra, Linnea, Engla, Ingela. Interesting to see Melissa climbing the Swedish charts as well.
How do you pronounce Maja?
on August 2nd, 2012 at 12:46 pm
Oh, thank you R_J! 🙂 In Swedish, J equals the English Y. You simply say ‘Maya’.
I think there are many great name that would work in English, and vice versa. I really like Melissa and it’s nice to see it used here as well. Liselotte is an example of the other way around, I just realized the other day what a great alternative it is to such names as Charlotte and Anneliese (so now I’m promoting it big time ;))
on August 2nd, 2012 at 2:10 pm
I am a huge lover of Swedish names, so thank you for this post Svea!!!
on August 2nd, 2012 at 2:26 pm
@orangeroll, Tova, a lot of times, is considered a Jewish name since it is literally from the word Tov meaning good. Don’t be surprised if people are shocked you’re not orthodox with a little Tova. Very lovely.
on August 2nd, 2012 at 3:33 pm
@orangeroll: yes, Tova is a version of Tove. 🙂
on August 2nd, 2012 at 11:36 pm
Is Soren a common name or is it more Danish? i love it for our second son but I get mixed opinions when I tell people. If it’s used in Sweden, what is the general opinion of it? THanks.
on August 5th, 2012 at 1:53 pm
I about died when I logged on and saw this cute little boy. Eeh, he’s adorable!
on August 14th, 2012 at 3:06 am
I like the name Emma and William
on October 3rd, 2012 at 6:39 pm
I am the mother of a Viggo. Although most websites and books say it means ‘war’ or ‘battle’, and is a Norse name; I think the reason Swedish people like the name is because Vigge means thunderbolt. And he is as fast and explosive as a thunderbolt so we picked the right name for him. 🙂
on October 8th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
Interesting how different the top names are in Denmark and Sweden.
The 2010 Top 10 for girls and boys year 2011 in Dk would be
1. Emma – William
2. Isabella – Oliver
3. Laura – Noah
4. Ida – Emil
5. Clara – Victor
6. Sofie – Frederik
7. Mathilde – Magnus
8. Freja – Mathias
9. Anna – Mikkel
10. Sofia – Lucas
More can be found here
on October 30th, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Very interesting information!
I don’t mean to be overly nitpicky, but the use of the term “Anglo-Saxon” throughout this post seems a little off…
on September 24th, 2016 at 8:12 pm
Suppose I was a writer, and was writing a Swedish character for a primarily western audience, and I elected to call that character “Svea”.
Since it pretty much means “Swede”, would a Swedish audience look that that character’s name an roll their eyes?
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