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Icelandic Names

Icelandic names: The most popular names in Iceland

Today, we’re going to be exploring some of the history around Icelandic names, as well as giving you an insight into some of the most popular names in Iceland. 

Iceland is an enchanting place, full of beautiful mountains, and stunning natural sights.

If you’re keen to bring more Icelandic history into your life, then you could always try investing in a cozy Icelandic sweater, or maybe book a trip to check out the Northern Lights

Alternatively, if you have some Icelandic blood in your veins, and you want to reconnect with your roots when a new member of your family arrives, you might be keen to learn more about Icelandic names. 

An Icelandic name can be a fantastic testament to your heritage if you’re looking forward to the arrival of a new baby. You could even use some of these common Icelandic names for your furry family members too. 

So, let’s begin…

Icelandic names: A history of Icelandic naming

One of the things which makes Icelandic names so special, is the strict laws the country has around using certain titles. Parents need to meet very particular rules around grammar, gender, and meaning to ensure they’re giving their child an appropriate name. 

You literally can’t name your child something in Iceland if it might cause them embarrassment later. 

If you didn’t think the rules around Icelandic naming were serious, it might surprise you to learn the country has its own naming committee. Established in 1991, this is the group of people in Iceland who can approve or deny the entry of new titles into Icelandic use. 

The naming committee in Iceland may be one of the reasons why there are only a few thousand purely Icelandic names approved in the country. Many of the most popular Icelandic name are from Christian decent because Iceland is a highly Christian nation. 

However, you might also find a few names which reference Iceland’s beautiful scenery in the approved lists too.

Quick facts about names in Iceland

Before we cover some of our favorite Icelandic names for men and women, let’s explore a few more facts about the naming process in Iceland. For instance, did you know every name in Iceland has to have a distinct meaning? 

Icelanders are also less likely to use names suitable for both males and females. Only around 3 approved names are established as “unisex”. 

Interestingly, when two people in Iceland share the name, there’s a special title for this. Two women carrying the same name are known as nöfnur, whereas two men carrying the same name are nafnar. 

If two women share the same name from start to finish (including middle and last names), they’re called alnöfnur, and the male version is alnafar. 

Unlike many people around the world, Icelandic locals generally don’t change their last names when they get married. Icelandic last names stay the same throughout your life, which makes things a bit easier if someone decides to get divorced.

Icelandic Names

Common Icelandic girl names

Icelandic people believe names hold a lot of power. For instance, it used to be common for a family to give a name to a child sickly at birth to ensure their long-term health. A common name for a boy might be Ófeigur, which means immortal. 

There’s also a tradition in Iceland for women to name their child after the people they see in their dreams when they’re pregnant. 

Even if you don’t follow all the traditions common among Icelandic names, you’re sure to find a title which means a lot to you and your family. There are so many beautiful names to choose from, let’s start by looking at some of the most common options for little girls.

1. Guðrún

It might seem like we’re starting with a pretty random Icelandic girl name, but this is actually one of the most frequently given female names in the country. The title comes from Old Norse, and it means “God’s secret lore”.

2. Alda

Alda is very similar to Anna among Icelandic names, which is also very common in the country. Alda is a word coming directly from the Icelandic language, and it means “wave”. It’s a great choice if you want to remember the waves on the shores of Iceland. 

3. Björk

You’ll notice a lot of the common Icelandic names mentioned here contain letters from the distinct Icelandic alphabet. The name Björk appears frequently in Iceland, it means “birch”, referencing the most common native tree in Iceland. 

4. Dagny 

Dagny is an attractive Icelandic girls’ name, and one which appears often throughout Scandinavia too. This title comes from Old Norse, and it means “new day”. The title is often spelled with a unique ‘y’ in Iceland: Dagný. 

5. Kristín

A popular name in Iceland, and an excellent choice if you’re looking for a title which translates well around the world, Kristín is the Icelandic version of Kristin, and it comes from Old Norse. The name apparently means “noble and bright”. 

6. Sigríður

Another extremely popular name, sometimes shortened to Sigrid, Sigríður comes from Old Norse and Germanic roots. The title means both powerful silence and peaceful victor. In 2004, this was the third most common girl’s name behind Anna and Gudrun. 

7. Margrét

Ideal if you like the name Margaret, but want something a little more unique, Margrét means “pearl”, and it’s a highly popular Nordic name. This title appears frequently in Iceland, as well as in the Faroese islands, and Norway. 

8. Helga

One of the few topmost common Icelandic names which doesn’t use the unique alphabet, Helga is an easy-to-spell and memorable title. The name comes from Old Norse, and it means “blessed” or “holy”, pulling attention back to Iceland’s Christian roots. 

9. Sigrún

Another popular Icelandic name starting with the “Sig” sound, Sigrún is a female Icelandic name meaning “victory rune”. According to the old tales of Norse mythology, Sigrún was a name of one of the powerful Valkyrie. 

10. Ingibjorg

Probably a slightly tougher name to spell than some of the other options here, Ingibjorg is a popular Old Norse and Icelandic name. The title refers to the Germanic fertility god Ing and means the “help of Ing”. 

11. María

One of the more simplistic popular female Icelandic names, María is just the Icelandic version of the name Maria, and it can easily be shortened to Mary. The title comes from Mirjam, which meant “the sea” or “bitter”. 

12. Jóhanna

This is a beautiful and lyrical sounding name from Iceland, officially approved by the naming committee. The name comes from Johanna, and it means “God is gracious”. You can shorten Jóhanna to Hanna, or Jo. 

13. Elfa

There’s something oddly magical about Iceland, so it makes sense a popular Icelandic name would be Elfa. This beautiful Old Norse name means “Elf”, and it’s a great reference to some of the older myths and legends of Iceland. 

14. Frida

Common throughout the Scandinavian region, Frida is a beautiful Nordic name which means “beloved” or “greatly loved”. It can also reference “beauty”. In Iceland, the name is usually spelled Fríða and it appears this way in the Faroese Islands too. 

15. Olga

Both Old Norse and Scandinavian in meaning, Olga appears all across the Nordic countries. Common among Icelandic girls, Olga is a memorable title meaning both blessed and holy as well as fortunate and successful. 

Icelandic Names

Icelandic boys’ names: More top Icelandic names

Just like their female counterparts, boys throughout Iceland have some fantastic names. Many of these titles use the unique Icelandic alphabet, similar to Icelandic girl names. 

Though you might have heard of some of these names in the past, most have a special twist to them to ensure they’re unforgettable.

1. Jón

John, or Jon is among the most common names in the world. In Iceland and the Nordic countries, it’s typical to spell the title Jón, with the special “o”. The name Jon is sometimes shortened from Jonathan, which is actually an entirely different name from John in the bible. 

Jon means “God is gracious”.

2. Sigurdur

Easily among the most popular Icelandic boys’ names, Sigurdur is an unusual, but impressive sounding moniker. Most Icelanders shorten this title to Siggy for young boys. It’s common to use the spelling Sigurður. Sigurdur means victory. 

3. Guðmundur

Another well-known name in Iceland which hasn’t grown in commonality around the world. Guðmundur comes from Old Norse, and means “under God’s protection”, or “protected by God”. This is a great name for a child destined to stand out. 

4. Ármann

A special Icelandic name with a lot of Scandinavian appeal, Ármann isn’t as odd sounding as some of the alternatives on this Icelandic name list. It’s the Icelandic version of Herman and comes from Old Norse. Ármann means a “steward”. 

5. Håkon

Quite a traditional name throughout Scandinavia, Håkon appears most often in Norway and Iceland, but it’s also a great name for the Danish too. This title, with a range of different spellings to choose from, means “first born son”. 

6. Gunnar

A brilliant title with a masculine essence to it, Gunnar comes from Old Norse, and the title “Gunnarr” which used to refer to a fighter or soldier. Vikings used to have a saving about “Gunnar” which translated into calling someone a brave and bold warrior

7. Ingi

Quite a cute name compared to some of the ones we’ve mentioned on this Icelandic naming list, Ingi comes from Proto-Norse. The title is a diminutive of “Yngvi”, which means the “defender of Freyr” or “Freyr’s warrior.”

8. Ólafur

Olaf is rapidly emerging as a more common name throughout the world thanks to the Frozen movies. The title Ólafur is a slightly longer Icelandic version, which comes from Old Norse. The name means “the relic of the ancestors”. 

9. Einar

You might hear the name Einar travelling around various parts of Scandinavia. Like most of the popular Icelandic names, Einar comes from Old Norse, and it translates to “one alone”, or “alone in battle”. Alternative spellings include Ejnar, and Einari. 

10. Kristján

If you love the name Christian, but want something with more Icelandic origins, this is the title from you. The name Kristján is common in Iceland, Slovakia and Estonia. This title comes from the Latin Christianus, which meant “follower of Christ”. 

11. Jonas

A beautiful name gaining popularity all over the globe, Jonas, or Jónas as the Icelandic prefer to spell it, is a Nordic version of Jonah. The title comes from Greek origins overall, and tends to mean “sign”, or “dove”. Greeks believed birds were symbols from the gods. 

12. Pétur

Here’s another great Icelandic name choice if you don’t want to stray too far away from common names in your country. Pétur is the Icelandic and Nordic version of Peter, and it translates to mean “stone” or “rock”.

13. Magnús

A popular Icelandic name which you may have noticed elsewhere around the globe, Magnús is the slightly more exotic version of Magnus. The name “Magnus” is Latin in origin, and it means “The greatest”. This was also the name of a Norwegian king. 

14. Stefán

An Icelandic version of the Greek title, Stephanos, which is also common in England, reduced to “Stephan” or “Stephen”. This frequently given name in Iceland means the someone with “a crown”, or a person with wealth. 

15. Jóhann

We’ve already mentioned one alternative to John, and an alternative name to Jonah. Here’s another great example of a title coming from the same origins in Iceland. Johann is a male given name which means “God is merciful”. 

Icelandic Names

Top Icelandic last names

To fully appreciate the wonders of Icelandic naming, we need to look beyond Iceland names for girls and boys. This is why we’re including some Icelandic last names in this list of Icelandic names, so you can see how families pass down titles. 

Surnames in Iceland, much like elsewhere in the Scandinavian region, tend to follow the patronymic trend. This means the title uses the father’s first name, plus the suffix of -son (son), or -dottir (daughter). 

As we noted above, Icelanders tend to keep the name they were born with when they get married, although it is possible for a resident to choose to change their name if they prefer. 

The people of Iceland also tend to refer to each other by first name alone, regardless of social position. This is intended to be an equalizing practice. 

One interesting fact about Icelandic last names, is very few of the locals have a family name. It’s very difficult to keep track of your lineage in Iceland because of this. 

Additionally, the name of a father can only be passed from a father to a son. This meant if a father had no sons and only daughters, the name would die with him. 

Common Icelandic surnames include:

1. Arnason or Arnadottir

Icelandic last names use the “dottir” suffix for girls, and the “son” option for boys. As expected, this name means either the son or daughter of Arna, respectively.

2. Ásgeirsdóttir or Ásgeirsson

Again, this is an example of a title in Iceland which refers to either the daughter, or the son with the first name, Ásgeirs.

3. Einarsson or Einarsdóttir

Interestingly, this title means two things. As with the patronymic trend, it usually means either the son or daughter of Einars. However, the same name can also mean “a great warrior”. 

4. Jóhannsson or Jóhandottir

Taken from the highly popular Icelandic title, Jóhan, this patronymic name refers to the son or daughter of Johan, respectively. 

5. Ragnarsdóttir or Ragnarsson

This name means either the daughter or son of Ragnar. In Iceland, the name “Ragnar” relates to the warrior of God in Norse mythology. 

It’s very unlikely for anyone in Iceland to have a last name not related to the father or male ancestor who came before them. The most common way for someone to end up with a name which doesn’t include the -son or -dottir suffix is through migration. 

Many names like “Beck”, which means river, have gradually transitioned into Iceland over time, brought through by Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian expats. 

For instance, a well-known title in Iceland is Kemp, which apparently is a name you can trace all the way back to the 1800s, when a man called Ludvig Conrad Frederick Kemp moved to Iceland from Germany. 

Exploring Icelandic names

Icelandic names are some of the most unusual titles throughout Scandinavia. Whether you’re looking for an Icelandic girl name, or Icelandic boy name, you’ll find many unique sounds, as well as a variety of distinct spellings to choose from. 

Although you may find Icelandic names can be a little tougher to learn and spell for your relatives. 

Icelandic last names can also offer an interesting look into the unique structure of Iceland, and how naming laws have evolved over the years. Today, Iceland is one of the few countries in the world with a very small percentage of people using last names. 

To learn more about Icelandic naming, make sure you check out our other great lists. You can also discover names from Norway, Denmark and Sweden elsewhere on this website. 

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

Now read these:
Exploring common Icelandic surnames
Amazing Icelandic female names
Popular Icelandic boy names
Scandinavian names and their meanings
Viking and Norse names, and their origin
Your guide to Scandinavian people traits
Popular Scandinavian female names
Popular Scandinavian men’s names

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