The name has long been considered a Danish form of the Biblical Absalom (father of peace), the usage of Absalom as a cognate of Axel was first used by the bishop Absalom Hvide (1128-1201), it has been suggested that Absalom was merely the closest sounding Christian equivalent to the Old Norse Áskell (god cauldron; god helmet), which was the Bishop’s true name, and that Axel and Absalom were considered one and the same thereafter. Other sources suggest that it is related to an old Germanic source meaning “shoulder” which would signify strength.
The name is in prevalent usage throughout Scandinavia and is used in German and Spanish-speaking countries and is occasionally used in the United States and France. It was the 16th most popular name for boys in Sweden in 2007. In France, it was the 27th most popular name for boys in 2006. In the United States it ranks in at # 272 as of 2008.
The designated name-day in Denmark and the Faroe Islands is October 30.
Other forms of the name include:
- Aksel (Danish, Faroese, Norwegian, Yiddish)
- Axelen/Axeln/Axilan/Axlan (Danish)
- Aksal (Faroese)
- Akseli (Finnish)
- Áksel (Saami)
- Acke (Swedish diminutive form)
Feminine forms include
- Axeline (Danish)
- Axelle (French)
- Akseliane/Akseline (Norwegian)
- Axelia/Axelina (Swedish)