Freya

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Old Norse
Meaning “lady; mistress”
(FRAY-yah)

The name is derived from the proto-Germanic word, *frawjōn, which designates a woman of noble birth. The modern German word of Frau is a modern cognate. Many scholars argue whether Freya was originally the name of the goddess or a title used in reference to her; it has even been suggested that the goddess had an actual given that has been lost to history.

In Norse mythology, Freya was believed to be the most beautiful goddesses ever created. Scholars believe that Freya was essentially a fertility goddess who assisted in the growth of wildlife, agriculture and human reproduction; along with birth and life, she was also associated with death. In Norse legend, it was Freya who received half the slain warriors into her heavenly hall.

She is often times the subject of the poetic eddas along with her numerous epithets, which are as follows:

  • Vanadis (beautiful goddess)
  • Mardoll (sea bright)
  • Horn (flaxen)
  • Gefn (the giver)
  • Syr (sow) which illustrates Freya’s association with pigs and fertility.

Today the name has survived in modern Germanic lexicons; the English word Friday means “Freya’s day” likewise the same in German with Freitag; the Danish/Swedish/Norwegian Fredag and the Dutch Vrijdag.

There are a few plants named for the goddess, such as Freyja‘ Hair and Freyja’s Tears, and the chemical Vanadium is derived from her epithet, Vanadis.

Today, Freya, and its alternate forms are still very common throughout Scandinavia and she even appears in the British top 100. Her rankings are as follows:

  • # 8 (Freja, Denmark, 2010)
  • # 19 (England/Wales, 2010)
  • # 19 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 41 (Freja, Sweden, 2010)
  • # 53 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 61 (Ireland, 2010)

Other forms include:

  • Frea (Anglo-Saxon/Lombard)
  • Fröe (Danish: obscure form)
  • Freya (English/Modern German/Dutch)
  • Froya (Faroese)
  • Freija (Finnish)
  • Frya/Frija (Frisian)
  • Freja (German/Scandinavian)
  • Fráujo (Gothic)
  • Frėja (Lithuanian)
  • Frieja (Low Saxon)
  • Frøya (Norwegian)
  • Freyja (Old Norse/Icelandic)
  • Frīa/Frija (Old High German)
  • Frowa (Old High German)
  • Fröa (Swedish: very obscure form)
  • Fröja (Swedish: very obscure form)
The designated name-day in Sweden is January 23rd.

Malte

Gender: Masculine
Origin: German/Scandinavian
(MAHL-teh)

The name is derived from the Germanic name, Helmold, which is composed of the elements helm (helmut) and wald (ruler).

Malte‘s appearance was first recorded during the 1400s in Eastern Denmark and its popularity reached Sweden and Norway.

As of 2010, its Danish form of Malthe was the 15th most popular male name in Denmark, while Malte was the 56th most popular male name in Sweden, (2010).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Malte (German/Scandinavian)
  • Malti (Danish)
  • Molte (Danish)
  • Molti (Danish)

Dagmar

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Old Norse
Meaning: “day maiden; bright day.”

Dagmar is from the Old Norse elements dag meaning “day” and maer meaning “maid.” Some modern Danish folk etymology link the name to dag meaning day and meri meaning “bright.” It has also been linked to the old Slavonic name, Dragomir meaning “dear peace, beloved peace.”

The name was borne by Dagmar of Denmark (1186-1212), also known as Markéta of Bohemia, Princess Dagmar of Denmark (1890-1961), Maria Federovna, also known as Dagmar of Denmark (1847-1928), Empress Consort of Russia.

Dagmar is also used in Iceland, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Other forms of the name include:

  • Dagmara (Czech/Lithuanian/Polish/Slovak/Slovene)
  • Dakmari/Dakmar (Finnish)
  • Takmar/Takmari (Finnish)
  • Dagmár (Old Norse)
  • Dagmey (Old Norse)
  • Dagmor (Old Norse)
  • Dammei (Norwegian: dialectical form from Austlandt)
  • Dargmara (Vendish)

Diminutive forms are Dagmaruška, Dáša, Daška, Dašenka, Dašička (Czech), Dagmarka (Czech/Polish), Didi (Scandinavian), Dada and Dadka (Slovakian).

Designated name-days are:

May 24 (Germany), September 27 (Denmark, Norway and Sweden), November 26 (Estonia), December 12 (Poland), December 20 (Czech Republic),

Svante, Svätopluk, Svatopluk, Świętopełk

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Old Slavonic
Meaning: “mighty army; mighty regiment.”

An old Slavonic name most notably borne by a 9th-century Moravian prince, Svätopluk, (the Slovakian rendition), appears on the Slovakian name-day calender for November 15. Though today it is a very rare name in Slovakia, it did rank in as the 95th most popular male name, (in the form of Svatopluk), in it neighbor country, the Czech Republic, for 2006. In the Czech Republic, its designated name-day is February 23rd. Its Polish form of Świętopełk, is also extremely unusual today, though it does boast two name days, June 1 and September 25.Slovakian diminutives are, Sväto, Svaťo, Svätoš, Sväťo.

There is a popular folklore attributed to Svatopluk I of Moravia. When the king knew he was about to die, he gave each of his three sons a twig and had them break it, which was easy for all of them to do, but then Svatopluk asked his sons to break the twigs a second time, and this proved to be even more difficult. The king was trying to prove to his sons that it is difficult, yet necessary to keep a kingdom united.

Other forms of the name include:

  • Svend (Danish)
  • Vante (Finnish)
  • Sventopolcus/Sventopelcus (Late Latin)
  • Światopełek/Świętopałk/Świętopełek/Wszetopełk (Polish)
  • Svjatopolk/Svyatopólk (Russian/Ukrainian)
  • Svante/Svantepolk (Swedish/Norwegian/Danish: name-day in Sweden is December 5. Svante was the 97th most popular male name in Sweden for 2007)
  • Swante (Swedish)

Notable Czech bearers are:

  • Svatopluk I, Great Prince of Moravia (c. 894)
  • Svatopluk II, Prince of Nitra (c. 9-10 centuries)
  • Svatopluk of Bohemia (1107-1109)
  • Svatopluk Inneman, Czech director (1896-1945)
  • Svatopluk Benes, Czech actor (1918-2007)
  • Svatopluk Havelka, Czech composer (1925-2009)
  • Svatopluk Skopal, Czech actor (b.1952)

Famous Polish bearers include:

  • Prince Świętopełk of Poznań (979-992)
  • Świętopełk II the Great, Duke of Gdańsk Pomerania (1220-1266)
  • Świętopełk Karpiński, Polish poet and satirist (1909-1940)

It was also borne by one Kievan duke, Svyatopolk I of Kiev.

 

 

 

Axel

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Scandinavian
Meaning: debated

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)

Ursula

ursulaBritishMuseumGender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “little she-bear; she-cub; little female bear.”
Eng (ERS-uh-LAH)

The name is of Latin origin but is suggested that is may be a latinization of the old Germanic female name Yrsa meaning “bear” and was popularized by a medieval Christian saint said to be martyred in Cologne. Not much is known about the saint, other that she was martyred under Huns along with 11,000 other virgins, which is now believed to be a misprint from the written source of the legend. What is known for sure is that there was a basilica built in honour of a virgin Christian martyr in Cologne and from this arose several different legends referring to a St. Ursula and St. Cordula. According to the legend, St. Ursula was a British princess who was sent by her father to Germany to marry a prince, along with her, were sent 11,000 maidens, however,  her ship was taken off course due to a storm and instead ended up in France where she then decided to do a pan-European Christian pilgramage before meeting her future husband. She made a pilgramage to Rome where she tried to pursuade the pope to do a pilgramage with her and her 11,ooo companions. When she reached cologne she and her companions were massacred by the Huns.

The legend is based off of a 4th century inscription written in the Basilica which was built in the saint’s honour. It is believed that the 11,ooo handmaidens was confused with a female martyr named Undecimilia, Undecimila or Xemilia and that the abbreviation XI.M.V was misread as a number. The same saint has also been referred to under the names Pinnosa or Vinnosa. The name was quite prevalent in Great Britain before the Reformation and went out of usage afterwards. The name is also borne by Swiss actress Ursula Andress (b. 1936). It has also appeared in popular culture as the name of the evil sea-witch in Disney’s the Little Mermaid and as the name of the wife of Nigellus Phineas Black in the Harry Potter Series.

In Poland, the name is associated with a great piece of Polish Literature written by Jan Kochanowski. Known as Laments (Treny) 1580, they are a series of 19 elegies which talk about the author’s grief after the death of his two and half year old daughter Orszola (Urzula) which he refers to as the Slavic Sappho.

Other forms of the name are (divided alphabetically by nationality):

  • Orsula (Corsican)
  • Uršula (Croatian/Czech/Slovakian/Slovenian)
  • Yrsa (Danish/Faroese/Icelandic/Norwegian/Swedish)
  • Orsel (Dutch)
  • Ursule/Ursuline (French)
  • Ursula/Ursel (German/Dutch/Estonian/Finnish/Spanish: German diminutive forms are Ulla, Uli and Uschi)
  • Orsolya (Hungarian: or-SHOH-lah was the 56th most popular female name in Hungary in 2006)
  • Úrsúla (Icelandic)
  • Orsina/Orsola/Orsolina (Italian)
  • Ursa (Latin)
  • Urzula (Latvian)
  • Uršulė (Lithuanian)
  • Urszula/Orszola/Warszula (Polish: Latter two forms are older forms and are rarely used. Diminutive form is Ula and Urszulka. Older diminutive forms are Ulicha and Ulita)
  • Úrsula (Portuguese)
  • Ursetta/Ursina/Urschla (Romansch)
  • Urška (Slovenian: originally a diminutive now used as an independent given name, it was the 51st most popular female name in Slovenia in 2005)
  • Orscheli (Swiss-German: ORSH-lee)

There are a few male equivalents which include:

  • Orso/Orsino/Ursio/Ursino (Italian)
  • Urs (German)
  • Ursinus/Ursus (Latin)
  • Ursyn/Ursycjusz (Polish: very rare)
  • Ursin/Urosin (Romansch)

Gereon

800px-Kopf_Heiliger_Gereon_KölnGender: Masculine
Origin: Greek/German
Meaning: “old man.”
(GER-eh-on).

The name comes from the Greek Υερων (geron) meaning “old man.” The name has been in usage in Germany and Denmark, particularly in the region of Cologne, due to a 4th-century Roman saint martyred there. Known as the Golden Saint, it is alleged that he was a soldier of the Theban legions who was martyred under the Emperor Maximian. He is the patron saint against migrains. There is a large basilica dedicated to him in Cologne where it is said his relics are kept. Its designated name-day is October 10. Another German form is Gerion (GEH-ree-on), Dutch form is Jeroen and the Romansch forms are Geronas, Gironas and Jaronas.

Flemming

solitude-in-brugesGender: Masculine
Origin: Danish/Norwegian
Meaning: “from Flanders.”
(FLEM-ming).

He has a modern surname appeal but is actually derived from the Old Norse male name Flaemingr meaning “from Flanders.” In recent years, it has remained a staple in Denmark and is occasionally used in the other Scandinavia countries, though rather sparsely. Other forms of the name include Fleming and the Icelandic Flemmingur. Its designated name-day is October 16. The name is borne by Danish news journalist Flemming Rose (b. 1958) who sparked controversy in 2005 when he commissioned drawings of the prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Matthew

Matthew_Evangelist

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Hebrew
Meaning: “Gift from Yahweh.”

A bit dull and overused, he sits in the U.S  Top Ten. He is quite a hit in other English speaking countries as well. Just over the border in Canada, he comes in even higher at # 6. Down under in Australia, he comes in at # 16. While in Great Britain and Ireland he sits at # 24. Over in Bonnie Scotland # 9 and in the Republic of Northern Ireland he comes in at the highest at resting at # 2. Matthew may seem to be just the ordinary every day guy type of name, but the name itself has avery long and rich history. Matthew is the English form of the Latinization Mattheus a translation of the Greek Μαθαιος (Mathaios). Mathaios is a vulgar Greek transliteration of the Aramaic diminutive name Maty or Mattay מתי which is ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Matatyahu or Mattathias מתתיהו. Other Biblical forms of the name include Matanyahu מתניהו and Netanyahu נתניהו. Yehonatan, the original form of Jonathan, is an anagram Netanyahu. The name was introduced into the Western World through the veneration of  St. Matthew the Evangelist. He was one of the 12 Apostles of Christ and is credited by most Christian denominations as the author of the Gospel of Matthew. In the Western Churches, St. Matthew’s feast is held on September 21, while in the Eastern Calender it is set for November 16th. We cannot forget the different variations the name has spun off over the centuries. Including the following:

  • Mathyu (Arabic)
  • Mateu (Catalan)
  • Matiša (Croatian)
  • Matouš (Czech)
  • Mads (Danish): originally a diminutive form, now used as an independent name throughout Scandinavia
  • Matthieu (French): 98th most popular name in Belgium and 48th most popular name in France (2006)
  • Maitiú (Gaelic)
  • Matthäus (German)
  • Makaio (Hawaiian)
  • Máté (Hungarian): Máté was the 2nd most popular male name in Hungary of 2005
  • Matteo (Italian)
  • Matiss (Latvian)
  • Modris (Latvian)
  • Matas (Lithuanian)
  • Mats (Norwegian/Swedish): Orginally a diminutive form, now used as an independent given name
  • Mateusz (Polish)
  • Mateus (Portuguese)
  • Matej (Czech-Slovak/Slovenian/Croatian): In Slovenia, Matej was the 22nd most popular male name of 2005. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this name is used in reference to the Apostle Mathias who replaced Judas Iscariot and not in reference to the Apostle Matthew the Evangelist. In Croatia and Slovenia, Matej is used in reference to the latter.
  • Mateja (Serbian): In Slovenia Mateja is considered the feminine form of Matej
  • Matúš (Slovakian)-this form is used to refer to St. Matthew the Apostle
  • Matevz (Slovenian): 38th most popular name in Slovenia (2005)
  • Mateo (Spanish)-In the United States Mateo came in #251 in the popularity charts. In Spain he stands at #73 (2006). Chile at # 65 (2006) and France he comes in at # 67 (2006).
  • Matteus (Swedish/Norwegian)
  • Matfey (Russian)

You are probably wondering why I have not mentioned Mathias or Matthias. Though Mathias/Matthias are related etymologically to Matthew, I felt that they deserved a post all of their own. Therefore, stay tuned, and I will further discuss them in a future installment. An older English form of the name includes Mathew. Matt is the most popular diminutive form used in the English speaking world.

Sigrid, Siri

  • Gender: Feminine
  • Origin: Old Norse
  • Meaning: “beautiful victory”

SigridaStoradaThe name is composed of the Old Norse elements sigr meaning victory and fríðr meaning “beautiful; fair.”  The name appears in Danish and Swedish royalty. It is notably borne by the illusive Sigrid the Haughty, also known as Sigrid Storråda, a Slavic princess who married Svein Forkbeard, mother of Canute the Great and Harald II of Denmark. However, historians argue if she ever really existed or if the Medieval chroniclers actually mixed her up with Świętosława, the daughter of Mieszko I.  Świętosława later changed her name to Gunhild when she married the above mentioned Danish king.  She is mentioned quite a few times in the Sagas as Sigrid, hence the historical confusion. Another Scandinavian princess to bear this name was Sigrid Eiriksdotter Vasa of Sweden.Sigrid_Eriksdotter_VasaSigrid’s usage is also quite prevalent in German speaking countries. Other forms of the name include the Norwegian diminutive form: Siri. The usage of Siri in Norway has mostly switched over as an independent given name.  Other diminutives forms include Sigga, Siggan and Sickan. Sigrid’s designated name-day in both Sweden and Norway is September 15. In 2007, Siri ranked as the sixtieth most popular female name in Sweden and according to the Central Bureau of Norwegian Statistics, there were approximately 8,208 women who had Siri as their first name. The formal Sigrid ranked in at # 100 in Sweden’s top female names of 2007, while Sigrid came in higher in Norway, coming in at # 52. Non-Scandinavian alternatives include the Latvian, Polish and Estonian Sigrida.