TRADITIONAL SCANDINAVIAN NAMES & THEIR MEANING

Are you curious to learn more about traditional Scandinavian names & their meaning? Or maybe on the search for a unique name for your baby? Then this article is for you! Here you will find a list of girl and boy names that have stood the test of time and still feels appropriate to use today.

Browse through names found across Scandinavian, and you will notice a lot of them stem from Norse mythology and the Viking era. Traditional names are now becoming trendy again in the Nordic region and beyond, so I hope these can inspire you.

So, let’s dive into my selection of traditional Scandinavian names & their meaning:

GIRL NAMES:

ASTRID | This old Scandinavian name means ‘divinely beautiful.’ Astrid comes from the Old Norse word Ástríðr which is made up of two words; áss which means ‘God’ and fríðr which means ‘beautiful’.

ASLAUG | Aslaug is a Norwegian female name. It derived from the Old Norse prefix áss, same as the name above, meaning ‘God’ and laug meaning ‘betrothed woman’. So you can say it means ‘woman engaged to god’ or ‘devoted to God’.

EMBLA | In Norse mythology, Embla is the equivalent of the Bible’s Eve – one of the first two humans (her husband was named Ask.) The meaning is uncertain but it could come from the word elm tree which is a a tree that has broad leaves which it loses in winter.

FREJA | The meaning of this popular Scandinavian name of Swedish origin is ‘lady’ or a ‘noble woman’. Well-known from Norse mythology, the Goddess Freja was a beautiful, blue-eyed woman and sister of Freyr, who rode a boar with golden bristles. She was symbolised as the deity of love, beauty, and fertility.

SAGA | Originally from Sweden, this short and sweet name means ‘fairytale’ or ‘story’. The name Saga comes from Norse mythology where it is the name of the goddess of poetry, storytelling, and history. The name means ‘she who sees everything’.

SIGRID | This Scandinavian name comes from the Old Norse Sigríðr, and is composed of the elements sigr ‘victory’ and fríðr ‘beautiful’. So one would say it means ‘fair victory’ or ‘beautiful victory’.

SOLVEIG | A name of Old Norse origin most common in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. It has derived from the elements sól (sun) and veig (power / strength). Solveig means ‘strong house’ or ‘path of the sun’.

INGRID | A popular name with Old Norse origin meaning beautiful Goddess’. Derived from Ing who was the Norse God of peace and fertility combined with fríðr which means ‘beautiful’. The name is common throughout Scandinavia, with the highest frequency in Norway.

LIV | A Nordic name derived from the Old Norse hlíf, meaning ‘shelter’ or ‘protection’. In modern Scandinavian language the word ‘liv’ means ‘life’.

LYKKE | This is a Danish word you might have already heard before, and it means ‘happiness’ and ‘good fortune’. It is a popular name with positive connotations in the Scandinavian language.

ÅSE | From the Old Norse Ása, meaning ‘God’. A Norwegian name which cognate with the Swedish name Åsa. Also comes from the word ås which is a ‘ridge’ (a chain of mountains or hills).

BOY NAMES:

AKSEL | The name Aksel is a name of Norwegian origin used predominantly throughout Scandinavia. It  means ‘the father of peace’ and is sometimes also written Axel.

ARNE | Arne is a common name in Scandinavia. It originates from the Old Norse name Árni which in turn is derived from the Old Norse Ǫrn meaning eagle.

BJORN | This is a name associated with a strong animal – the name Bjorn is of Swedish origin meaning ‘bear’ and is considered one of the most recognisable Scandinavian names because of its popularity. The name which has Old Norse origin can also be written Björn & Bjørn.

EINAR | Einar is another strong name, it means ‘one warrior’, ‘one who fights alone’ or ‘battle leader’ deriving from the Old Norse name Einarr. The elements of the name are ein ‘one, alone’ and arr ‘warrior’. It is connected with the concept of the einherjar; the warriors who died in battle and ascended to Valhalla in Norse mythology. 

ERIK | The name Erik is a name of Scandinavian origin, short but powerful. It’s an Old Norse name derived from the Norse word Eirikr which means ‘eternal ruler’ or ‘ever powerful’. In fact, Erik was the name of several Scandinavian kings centuries ago.

HARALD | Comes from the the Old Norse name Haraldr. Harald means ‘leader of the army’ including the two words arr (army) and valdr (power / ruler / leader).

IVAR | From Old Norse Ívarr, composed of two elements: ýr (yew tree, bow) plus hariar (warrior). This name means ‘archer’ or ‘bow warrior’. Another variant of the name is Iver.

LEIF | Leif derives from the Old Norse name Leifr meaning ‘heir’ or ‘descendant’. Although common across all the Nordic countries, you will find different variations of the name; Leiv (Norway), Lejf (Denmark), Leifur) Iceland and Leivur (Farao Islands).

OLAF | A Scandinavian name of Old Norse origin which can also be written Olav. The meaning is ‘ancestor’s relic’. Over the years there have been many kings in Scandinavia named Olaf, so it has become an important historic name.

SVEN | Of Norse origin, the name Sven associated with youth, and means ‘young man’ or ‘young warrior’. This was a popular name of kings from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Derived from the Old Norse name Sveinn, it can also be written Svend in Danish and Svein in Norwegian.

THOR | This is the powerful name of the Norse God of thunder, and the word Þórr means (you guessed it) ‘thunder’! Associated with strength as well as the protection of mankind, hallowing, and fertility, Thórr-based names flourished during the Viking Age. Tor is a popular variation.

Do you have a name from this list? Or have you chosen any of these beautiful names for your child? I would love to know as it is always exciting to see these Nordic names used outside of Scandinavia and learn the reason why people chose them.

A little note: I started writing this post at the end of my pregnancy while reading up on names to decide what to call my son, and we decided to go for one of these classic Scandinavian names for him. Living in Italy and with him being half Norwegian and half Italian, I want there to be a link to his Nordic heritage but I also love the idea of him having a unique name here. If you follow me on social media you will know what name we have chosen, it is on this list above ;) Now, after he turned 6 months old (wow time flies) I finally managed to finish this article and will be posting more regular here on the blog, so stay tuned!

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2 Responses

  1. Il compagno della mia amica Eli Tanya si chiama Thurbjorn e sono, ovviamente entrambi norvegesi. Di quale parte della Norvegia sei originaria? Loro abitano a Fredrikstad a sud dell’Oslofjord.

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