Icelandic Names


This is indeed long overdue.

Iceland is an Island nation that sits in the North Atlantic, settled by Vikings in the 900s, the modern day inhabitants speak a language most closely related to Old Norse.

Though related to the other Northern Germanic languages, Icelandic has changed the least, since it still retains many of the verb and noun inflections that have been lost in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.

The Icelandic naming system can also be traced back to the Viking period, in that they still use patronymic and matronymic surnames, which are not passed down to future generations.

For example a Jón whose father’s name is Eiður would be known as Jón Eiðursson, but if Jón has a sister named Björk, then she would be known as Björk Eiðursdóttir.

The surname of the child changes with each generation, depending on the first name of the father. If a male, a possessive s is added to the father’s first name along with the suffix of -son. If a female, a possessive s is added to the father’s first name along with the suffix-dóttir to create the daughter’s surname.

Since surnames are so literally informal, most everyone in Iceland is on a first name basis. You would not address someone as Mrs. Eiðursdóttir or as Mr. Eiðursson, even an important official would be properly addressed by their first name. If one searches through the Icelandic telephone book, one would notice that the names are alphabeticized by their first name and not their surname.

As for first name usage, the Icelander’s have strict naming laws and rules.

The government has an actual name committee that can reject the usage of first names. A name that has not had a history of usage in Iceland must first be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee. The approval of any certain given name all depends on how well it can be grammatically conjugated in the Icelandic tongue. Each year, new approved names are officially listed while the rejected names may be accessed by the general public, along with the reasons for their rejection.

The Icelanders have many colourful names that are considered quite legitimate and that have been used for centuries. Up until recently, names from Viking Mythology or names pulled from nature were, more often that not, the norm.

As of 2008, the top 10 given names for babies are as follows:

Jón

Daníel

Aron

Viktor

Alexander

Arnar

Guðmundur

Gabríel

Kristján

Tómas

In recent years, there has actually been a stronger preference for Biblical names for boys, with the exception of Arnar and Guðmundur.

The top 10 Female names given to babies are as follows:

Sara

Anna

Emilía

Katrín

Eva

María

Guðrún

Kristín

Margrét

Júlía

Among females, names that are currently the trend on mainland Europe are also quite popular in Iceland.

If you are searching for a legitimate yet unique name, the list of Iceland’s approved names have many to offer the expectant parent. Below is a list created for the Anglo-phone parent who may have Icelandic heritage or is just looking for a very different name.


Icelandic Alternatives to Common/Popular Anglo-phone Names

Instead of Harper                                        Harpa


Instead of Hailey/Holly                               Halla/Halley


Instead of Isabella                                      Ísmey


Instead of Kaitlyn/Katherine/Kate            Katla


Instead of Madison                                    Maídís

Icelandic Names Compatible with English

Branddís
Brynja
Dalla
Dísa
Embla
Esja
(ES-yah)
Finney
Geira
(rhymes with Keira)
Haddý
Hildur (HIL-der)
Ísey
Jódís
Júníana
Kalla
Listalín
Líney
Malla
Mekkin
Ragney
Randalín

Male

Ari
Baldur
Brandur
Egill
Finnur
Hákon
Hallur
Óskar
Pétur
Styrmir
Teitur
Vestur
Vikar

Looking for a nature name but too shy to use something from your own language? Then the below list might just be what you are looking for:

Icelandic Nature/Word Names

Female

Bára (wave; billow. BOW-rah)
Drífa (snowdrift. DREE-vah)
Dúna (eiderdown. DOO-nah)
Erla (wagtail. AIR-lah)
Fífa (cotton grass. FEE-vah)
Fjóla (violet)
Gló (shine; glow; glitter.)
Gróa (spore)
Kría (artic tern; a type of bird. KREE-ah)
Lilja (lily. LIL-yah)
Lóa (Eurasian Golden Plover)
Mist (mist. MIST)
Njóla (night)
Sumarlína (summer. SUM-er-LEE-nah)
Sunna (sun. SUN-nah)

Male

Blær (wind; gust; gentle breeze. BLIRE, but perhaps can be used as an alternate form of Blair)
Fannar (snow)
Frosti (frost)
Gísli (ray of sunshine. GEES-li)
Ketill (kettle. KET-il)
Logi (flame; blaze)
Máni (moon. MOW-nee)
Már (seagull. MOWR)
Orri (blackgrouse; blackgame)
Reynir (rowan)
Snær (snow. SNIRE)
Steinn (rock. STAIN)
Sær (sea. SIRE)
Vikingur (viking. VIK-ing-er)

And finally, here are the Icelandic equivalents to some common English given names

Davíð (David)
Elísabet (Elizabeth)
Freyja (Freya)
Hanna (Hannah)
Hinrik (Henry)
Jón (John)
Kristín (Christina)
Kristján (Christian)
Mæja (Maia)
Noí (Noah)

Sources

  1. http://www.halfdan.is/vestur/nofn.htm
  2. http://www.behindthename.com/nmc/ice.php
  3. http://radio-blonde.stanford.edu/icelandic_names.html
  4. http://www.simnet.is/gardarj/family.htm
  5. http://www.iceland.is/people-and-society/People/Names/
  6. http://www.allscandinavia.com/icelandicnames.htm
  7. http://www.go-to-iceland.com/names.html
  8. http://www.nat.is/travelguideeng/icelandic_proper_names.htm
  9. http://www.icelandreview.com/icelandreview/daily_news/?cat_id=16539&ew_0_a_id=230637
  10. http://www.althingi.is/lagas/138a/1996045.html#G8
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