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Norwegian surnames: Common Norwegian last names

If you’re interested in Norwegian surnames you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re going to discuss where some of the most common Norwegian last came from, as well as what these incredible last names might mean. Let’s begin…

Norway is one of the most incredible countries on the planet. Packed full of stunning sights to see, an amazing history, and a wonderful culture, this Scandinavian space attracts people from around the globe. 

The feeling you get when visiting Norway could be so profound, you decide you want to learn more about your Norwegian ancestors. 

If you know people from Norway, or you’re close to the Norwegian people in your family, you might have begun wondering about common Norwegian surnames. Just like any other country, Norway has a wide selection of interesting surnames to explore, some more common than others.

The origins of Norwegian last names

Let’s start by exploring where Norwegian last names first began. 

Surnames are very distinctive in Norway, as well as in various parts of Scandinavia. The kinds of titles you’ll find in the fjords of Norway are quite different to the surnames we have in the US, the UK, and elsewhere in the world. 

Like most countries, Norway surnames are often based on a selection of patterns. 

The most common kinds of surname in Norway are:

  • Occupational: This is a kind of Norwegian last name derived from a common job or the occupation of an ancestor. 
  • Patronymic: Many Scandinavian last names are patronymic, which means they’re passed from the father of the family. 
  • Toponymic: These Norwegian surnames are more likely to be ornamental and artistic, they refer to places and geographical locations. 

Similar to other countries in Scandinavia, the most common Norwegian surnames are usually patronymic. This means you add the suffix “sen” or “son of” to the first name of a male ancestor. For instance, the son of Hans would be called Hansen, and the son of Lars would be Larsen.

A little history on common Norwegian surnames

Tracing your history throughout Norway can be straightforward initially, until you get to the year 1923. During 1923, a new law was introduced stating families could only have a single surname. 

Before then, family names were often switched around interchangeably as people moved to different parts of Norway or took on certain careers. 

Many of the most common Norwegian surnames were comprised of geographical features describing where a person used to live. For instance, Bakke or Bakken was the last name referring to someone who lived on a hill. 

Berg or Berge would mean mountain or hill. Since multiple families could live in the same area, it was common to share the same Norwegian last name as your neighbor. 

Throughout most of Norway’s history, the most common surnames were those ending in the “-sen” or “-son” suffix, which means the “son of”, someone. This can make tracing your family roots quite difficult too, as common forenames meant a lot of people ended up sharing the same surname. 

The first official law on personal naming arrived in 1923, which dictated only surnames legally obtained through marriage or blood were usable. Additionally, surnames were given to a child from the father if the parents were married, or from the mother if they were not married. 

Further legislation around Norwegian surnames has been passed over the years. In 1964, the law changed to allow women to keep their surnames after getting married.

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Norwegian surnames: Common patronyms

Since the most popular Norwegian last names are generally the ones passed down by male ancestors, it seems fair to start our Norwegian surnames list here. Many of the names throughout Norway include the “son” or “sen” suffix. 

Indeed, statistics suggest a little over 22.4% of people in Norway have the patronymic last name. 

Common options include:

1. Hansen

Easily the most common last name in Norway, Hansen is a popular title which has gained a lot of attention around the world. Hansen just means “son of Hans”, and it’s a testament to how popular this Norwegian name has been through the years. 

2. Johansen

Hans was commonly a shortened version of “Johan” in the Scandinavian countries, particularly in Norway. It could also be a shortened version of Johannes. Johansen means the “son of” Johannes or Johan, which is the Norwegian alternative to John. 

3. Olsen

Rather than just referring to the son of “Ol”, Olsen refers to the son of Olaf or Olav, which are two quite common male names in Norway. Olsen is one of the top three surnames in Norway today, belonging to tens of thousands of residents. 

4. Larsen

Larsen is a very popular title all around Norway and the Scandinavian region. Stemming from the well-renowned title, Lars, Larsen simply means the son of Lars. Aside from in Norway, Larsen is particularly common in Denmark. 

5. Pedersen

Pedersen is a name which might sound a lot like the more common “Peterson” option in the western world. That’s because the name “Pedersen” is the Norwegian version of Peder. Pederson means the “son of Peder”. 

6. Nilsen

Nilsen is another common Norwegian surname which often appears in the top ten of the common last name charts. Nilsen means the “son of Nils” or “son of Niles”, depending on where you are in Norway. This name also appears often in Denmark. 

7. Andersen

You’ve probably heard the Norwegian surname Andersen before, though it’s sometimes spelled with an ‘o’ elsewhere in the world. Andersen, or Anderson means the son of “Anders”, but it can also refer to the son of Andrew. 

8. Kristiansen

Perhaps one of the more complex patronymic surnames in Norway, Kristiansen comes from the male name “Kristian” which is very popular throughout Norway, similar to Kristof. Kristiansen means the “son of Kristian”. 

9. Karlsen

Because Norway didn’t include the “C” in its alphabet for quite some time, it was common for popular C names to include a K instead. This is the case for “Karl” which comes from “Carl”. Karlsen means the son of Karl. 

10. Jensen

A familiar sounding name occurring frequently throughout Scandinavia, Jensen follows the same rules mentioned above regarding family patronymics. Jensen refers to someone who is the “son of Jens”. 

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Cool Norwegian last names (non-patronymic)

Now we’ve covered some of the most popular Norwegian last names from a patronymic perspective, it’s time to take a look at some meaningful surnames coming from different backgrounds. 

Although patronymic names are the most common in Norway, there are plenty of alternatives too, such as the following. 

1. Aaberg

The “berg” suffix appears frequently in Norwegian last names, particularly those based on geography. This location-focused last name means the “hill by the river”. It appears to refer to families which used to live in a location with a hill and river. 

2. Aakre

One of the more memorable surnames in Norway, Aakre is a testament to the agricultural history of the country. The toponymic name comes from the Old Norse word Akr which meant a plowed field. It sounds similar to “acre”. 

3. Berg

Though berg is commonly used as a suffix descriptor for other topographic names, it can also be a Norway surname on its own. The geographic name appears frequently throughout the full Scandinavian region, and it means “mountain”. 

4. Bang

This is quite a fun Norwegian last name, but not something we’d typically see in most parts of the world. This Old Norwegian word refers to a flat hill-top or an old terrace. It typically refers to people who used to live by a farm. 

5. Calland

Typically pulled from the word “Kalland” or “Kaland”, which referred to a farm, Calland is a title taken from Old Norse. The moniker refers to the Norse word Kalfaland, which defined a space home to a calf or cows. 

6. Dahl

Best known from its connection to the world-famous author, Dahl is a popular Norwegian last name, and a common one throughout Scandinavia. The title comes from the old Norse word Dalr, which meant the “valley”. 

7. Ege

Ege is quite an odd sounding name for people outside of the Nordic region. It’s a version of another common name, Eike, which refers to a village in the southwestern part of Norway. The name “Eike” means “oak grove”. 

8. Elden

This is fantastic Norwegian surname you’re bound to remember. The toponymic name is often taken from a river or a specific place, but it comes from the Old Norse word for fire, which was “eldr”. Definitely an interesting title.

9. Fiske

Fiske is a common Norwegian last name with an Old Norse meaning. The title comes from the Old Norse element “Fiskr” which means fish. There are also variations of this surname which reference fish and meadows at the same time. 

10. Greseth

This Norwegian last name sounds as though it should come from a storybook. The title comes from the names of some of the farmstead’s arounds Norway, making it topographical. The word itself refers to the Old Norse words for stone, and farmstead. 

11. Grinde

Another excellent toponymic name for someone who comes from a Norwegian village. Usually, people with the last name Grinde came from a village sharing the same name. The title comes from the Old Norse word grind, which meant gate. 

12. Hagen

There’s something about the surname Hagen which feels intrinsically Scandinavian. Hagen comes from Old Norse elements, much like many of the last names on this list. It’s connected to “Hagi”, which meant an enclosure or pasture. 

13. Hove

Hove is a memorable and easy to pronounce last name in Norway. The title comes from the Old Norse “Hof”, which was the title given to a place of worship. The title also appeared frequently around farmsteads, so may by toponymic. 

14. Ihle

At first glance, you might think the Norwegian last name Ihle refers to an Isle or Island. However, this surname comes from the Old Norse word “ila” which referred to a small spring of water, or a well. 

15. Jordahl

A combined last name which takes various elements from Old Norse, Jordahl is a fantastic title meaning the “shining river” or the “shining valley”. This is one of the more ornamental last names we’ve covered so far. 

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More Norwegian surnames and meanings

There are plenty of Norwegian surnames to explore, each with their own distinct meanings. As noted above, Norway takes a lot of inspiration from its Viking roots, with tons of names connected to Norse words. 

Here are some more Norwegian surnames and their meanings:

1. Kampen

This toponymic name actually refers to a specific city in Norway. The city of Kampen was named after the Norwegian word for “kamp” which meant round or boulder. This name sometimes appears in other parts of Scandinvia too. 

2. Klepp

A delightful geographical name, the moniker Klepp comes from the Old Norse Kleppr, which meant a “bluff” or a cliff. It’s easy to see why this would be a common Norwegian surname, considering the number of cliffs and fjords in the region. 

3. Korsmo

One of the more exotic sounding Norwegian last names on our list, Korsmo is a name built from a combination of Norwegian words: Korz (meaning crossroads), and the “mo” element, which means a sandy meadow. 

4. Lund

Among the most common Norwegian surnames, Lund refers to a person who used to live next to, or within a grove of trees. The title, like many of the ones mentioned above, comes from the Old Norse word Lundr, which means grove. 

5. Ness

Ness is a common name in various parts of the world, and one very easy to remember. The surname comes from the Norwegian word “nes”, which stands for headland. It’s a toponymic name referring to someone who lived at a headland. 

6. Selland

Selland was a common name for several of the farmlands throughout Norway. This also means it’s a very common surname today. The title comes from the Old Norse elements of “Selja”, which meant willow, and “land” for farm or space. 

7. Solberg

Both topographic and ornamental, Solberg is an adorable last name meaning both “son” and “mountain”. We think this name could be an excellent reference to a family that lived on and with the mountains of Norway. 

8. Strand

This is a Norwegian last name often appearing around various other parts of the Nordic landscape. Strand is a name referring to a specific geographical site, often located near a beach or seashore. The word comes from the Old Norse word, Strond. 

9. Tenold

Tenold is derived from an Old Norse word, Tunhvall, which combines the words “tun” for enclosure, with hvall for “hill”. The toponymic name basically means an enclosed hill, or an enclosed rise. It’s a common title for farms too. 

10. Ulberg

Another excellent ornamental name, the Ulberg surname comes from Old Norse, and it combines the elements “Ulfr” for wolf, and “berg” for mountain. In other words, this surname means the wolf of the mountain, or mountain wolf. 

11. Ure

Ure is a Norwegian surname taken from a specific location in Hordaland, Norway. The title derives from the Old Norse word “urd” which used to define a rock-strewn slope. 

12. Valle

Although “V” names aren’t very common in other parts of the world, Valle is quite a frequently used surname throughout Norway. Taken from the Old Norse word Vollr, for field, Valle refers to someone who came from a meadow. 

13. Vik

Popular throughout both Norway and Sweden, Vik is a name from Old Norse that defines a small bay or river. The name is often toponymic, used to describe a family hailing from a farm with its own access to flowing, natural water. 

14. Wahl

Another name becoming well-known around the globe, Wahl comes from the names of various farms throughout Norway, and it’s taken from the Old Norse word for “shallow” or “ford”, Vadill. You’ll find this name all over the Nordic region. 

15. Watland

As you might guess from its proximity to the word “Wetland”, Watland in Norway is a toponymic name which refers to a family which came from an area with access to both water and land. Various farms in Norway also share this title. 

Amazing Norwegian surnames

Whether taken from an ancestor using the patronymic trend, or designed with reference to a specific landscape, Norwegian surnames are incredible. Most of the names we’ve covered above, and many of the titles throughout Norway come from Old Norse and the days of the Vikings. 

Today, these common Norwegian surnames offer an insight into the wonderful history of the country, and the amazing natural scenery too.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the popular Norwegian surnames in the region, check out our complete guide to Norwegian names. Or read through our lists of male and female Norwegian names for inspiration. 

You can also visit our other naming lists to learn more about the monikers all around Scandinavia.

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

Now read these:
An introduction to Norwegian first names
Your guide to Norwegian girl names
Popular Norwegian names for boys
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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