Viking Names

Viking names: The most interesting old Norse names and their origins

Vikings, the seafaring Norsemen that roamed Scandinavia between the 8th and 11th centuries, have fascinated people for hundreds of years. Today, their legacy continues in many ways around the world, including one that may surprise you: Viking names.

Old Norse names for places can be found in many areas of Scandinavia, and many common English words (for example: anger, gift, and low) derive from the Viking language, Old Norse.

One might think that Viking baby names that are used today are quite rare, but in fact, some of them are incredibly widespread: Erik, for example, is a very common name in Scandinavia (and elsewhere in the world) and was originally a Viking name.

Frida, Harald, Astrid, Tove: all common and — you guessed it — all originally Viking.

In this article, we delve deeper into where Viking names come from, why Vikings chose them for their descendants to begin with, and where Viking names and Norse names stand in today’s society.

Viking Names

Where do Viking names come from?

Many Viking names derive from things that guided Vikings and meant a great deal in their culture.

Warfare and violence were inevitably large parts of the lives of Vikings, and Thor and Odin were common Norse names to give to children as tribute to the gods of war.

Many of the most popular Viking names also sprouted nicknames and variations: Thorsten and Tora, for example, are both versions of Thor.

The names of enemies and monsters were, perhaps surprisingly, not uncommon either. The Vikings believed that by naming their children after monstrous enemies, such as the wolf Fenrir, brought strength to the names’ carriers.

Conversely, such names as Astrid (which means “beauty”) and Frida (“peace”) were thought to bring similar powers to the children they were given to.

This tradition continues today, as many parents who choose Viking names for their children are fascinated by the meanings behind the names, hoping to instill some of the strength and endurance of Vikings into their children.

Nature and the Nordic landscape played a notable part in the Viking culture as well, resulting in such names as Björn (which means bear) and Ulf (wolf). Rune, which refers to the symbols that were used to record moments and people of importance, was also a Viking name.

The rise of Christianity in Scandinavia brought in countless new names that became popular quickly. However, Viking names held on and continued to do so for centuries — indeed, many babies born in the 21st century are given Viking names, and not only in Scandinavia.

Why did Vikings choose these names for their children?

Viking naming conventions followed various traditions, most of which were rooted in respect.

As mentioned, naming children after gods was common, as was using names of recently passed relatives or, in some cases, the child’s father who had died in battle — in fact, this happened nearly always if the father died before the child was born.

Vikings believed that respecting these traditions ensured that the deceased person’s spirit would live on in the child as tribute and would bring the child good luck. Vikings did not name their children until they were certain the child would live.

Variation and alliteration were common among Viking names — for example, one family’s children may have been called Hallfrid, Hallkel, Hallgerd, and Hallbera, following the same Hall element in the beginning of the name.

All Viking names carried meaning, ranging from simple — Knud means “knot,” Sten means “stone,” and Gertrud means “spear” — to specific, like Skarde, which could be translated into “with the cleft chin,” and Åge, which refers to “a man that plows”.

Since men were typically the fighters of the community and the women took care of the home base, baby girls were often given names that called for peace, tranquility, and beauty. Estrid and Astrid, which mean various types of beauty, were among the most common, as was Liv (“of life”).

Bynames were also quite common among Vikings. Similar to the modern naming traditions of Iceland, a Viking name might have referred to the relation of the child — something like “Thor, Son of Odin” would not have raised an eyebrow.

More creative names like “Sten with the Blue Spear” were used as well.

What are some typical Viking names?

Viking Names

Male Viking names

If you’re interested in Viking male names, there are plenty to choose from. Norse male names range all the way from Ake and Axel, to Thor and Dustin. 

Here’s a list of popular Viking male names, and their meaning…

Arne / Aren

Arne and Aren are fairly common Nordic names and their popularity goes back to the Viking times. Arne / Aren originates from the Old Norse word ǫrn, which means eagle.

For those who want to give their child an old Viking name but want something that is easy for English-speaking people to pronounce, Aren is a particularly good choice because it is pronounced very similarly to Aaron.

Although Aren is typically a Nordic male name, it could be used on a girl as well as it sounds similar to Erin.

Bjorn / Bjørn / Björn

The name Björn has been popular in Scandinavia, particularly in Norway, for centuries, and is one of the most popular Viking names still in use today. Björn literally means bear, making it quite a cool choice for a name.

Among Vikings, Björn was a common choice for names with double meanings. For example, Thorbjörn combines the name with the equally (if not more) popular Thor. Asbjörn means God (ans) and bear, while Gunnbjörn derives from the word gunnr (war).

Bo

The name Bo was originally a nickname, at times spelled as Bua. Bo meant “a resident,” “a dweller,” or “one who lived,” referring to people who were thought to get the most out of life.

The variation Beau is better known in English-speaking countries. Bo should not be confused with Borg, which means fortress and is often used in last names (Thorborg, Rosenborg, etc.)

Erik

The name Erik may not sound very exotic since it is still so common, but it goes back to Viking times and is considered to have originally gained popularity due to the ruler Erik the Red.

In fact, to Vikings, Erik meant “the great ruler” or “the eternal ruler” — ei means eternal and rikr means ruler.

The spelling Eric is more common outside of Scandinavia, and Erika / Erica / Ericka are common female Nordic names that are used around the world.

Viking Names

Gorm

Gorm was considered to be a very prestigious name during Viking times, as it derives from the Old Norse words guð/góð, which mean God or “God-given”.

Gorm was also the name of a Viking king, Gorm the Old, who ruled for a handful of years in the latest decades of the Viking ages.

He was the father of Harald Bluetooth, whom many consider to have been the first true king of Denmark and who played a pivotal part in introducing Christianity to the area.

Finn

Finn is a Viking male name that is believed to have referred to, as one might expect, the Vikings’ neighboring people that spoke a strange language and had very pale complexions and hair.

Finn was typically used as an extension of another Viking name, resulting in such names as Finngeirr (geirr means spear), Finnbog (bog means bow), and Thorfinn.

Halfdan

One of the more uncommon Viking names during modern times, Halfdan means “half Danish”.

The name was originally a nickname for people who were half Danish but became widely used throughout the years, gaining more popularity when Viking leader and commander Halfdan Ragnarsson became prominent in the community.

More recently, the television show Vikings has featured a fictional character called Halfdan.

Harald

Harald is a very common name in Scandinavia, with King Harald V of Norway perhaps its most famous carrier.

This Norse name has been prominent in the Norwegian monarchy for centuries, dating back to Harald Hårfagre (Harald Fairhair) who was believed to have been the first king of Norway.

The name derives from the Old Norse words here (army) and weald (leader), making it quite suitable for leaders. The spelling Harold is common in English-speaking countries.

Leif / Leifr

The name Leif became well known after explorer Leif Erikson, also known as Leif the Lucky, set foot on continental North America during Viking times.          

Leif comes from the word leifr, which means descendant — because of this, the name was often used as a part of longer names, such as Herleif (warrior descendant).

Vikings used both Leifr and Leif as names, but today Leif is much more common and popular.

Viking Names

Loki

Thanks to the Marvel Studios movies, Loki is perhaps more popular as a name than ever before.

Norse mythology describes Loki as a trickster god, but this did not stop Vikings from naming their children after him — regardless of his reputation as cunning, he was a companion of such other gods as Thor and Odin.

All three names were popular among Vikings, as they were believed to bring the strength of the gods to their carriers, in addition to paying tribute to the gods.

Ragnar

Ragnar has been a popular name in Scandinavia ever since the Vikings roamed the area, but the name has only gained popularity internationally in recent years due to the television show Vikings.

The show’s character Ragnar Lodbrok is based on the Viking legend of the same name, who later became a king in both Sweden and Denmark. Today, the name is particularly popular in Iceland.

The name Ragnar derives from the Old Norse words ragin (counsel) and hari (army). In Norse mythology, Ragnarök refers to an apocalyptic series of events that was expected to result in the death of all the gods and the drowning of the world.

Tor / Thor

Another Viking name that has become well known in recent years due to movies, Tor/Thor was perhaps the most popular and respected god among Vikings.

The name became widely used not only on its own but also as part of longer names and combination names, such as Thorfinn, Thorbjörn, Thorgeirr, and Thorvald.

The name Thor also produced many alterations, like Torsten, Troels, and Toke. The name Thor originated from the Old Norse word for thunder, Þórr.

Sten

The name Sten comes from the word steinn, which meant stone in Old Norse. It was used either by itself or as a part of longer name, like Torsten/Thorsten (Thor’s stone). Sten is still a very popular name in Nordic countries, particularly in Sweden.

Ulf / Ulv / Úlfr

On par with Björn, Ulf/Ulv is another Viking name that refers to an animal — in this case, a wolf (úlfr). Variations include Ulfur, Ulfhild, Arnulv, and Ingolf. The original name remains popular in Scandinavia, usually in the form Ulf.

Åke / Åge / Áki

This name derives from the Old Norse word áki, which means ancestor.

There are many versions of the name, including simply Áki, but the spelling with the “Swedish O,” Å, has largely replaced the more traditional version throughout the years — due to its similarity to the English word “age”, this name is perhaps not the best choice for Viking name enthusiasts in English-speaking countries.

Viking Names

Female Viking names

Boys aren’t the only ones that can benefit from a wide selection of historical Viking names. Scandinavian baby names for girls often frequently come from Old Norse origins too. 

Female Viking names are most commonly derived from mythology and Norse gods. However, there are some other titles that come from various other forms of inspiration too. 

Here’s a list of popular Norse female names, along with their meanings…

Astrid / Astrithr

Perhaps one of the most common female Viking names still in use today, Astrid carries several meanings — in old Norse, áss meant God and fríðr beautiful, so the name could be interpreted to mean beautiful and loved, or even “Godly strength”.

Old Norse spellings include Ássfriðr, Ástríðr, and Astrithr, but Astrid is far more common these days.

Freya / Freyja / Freija

The name Freya derives from the Old Norse term for a noble lady, Freyja. A classic Norse female name in modern Scandinavia, Freya has remained popular throughout centuries.

Both Freya and Freyja are common spellings, in addition to Freija.

Gertrud / Gertrude

Gertrud means both spear and strength. The name was common among Vikings but also gained popularity in German-speaking areas later on and is still popular in Germany today.

Trudy, which derived from Gertrud, has become a common name of its own right in later times.

Inga

Female names starting with Ing were used heavily by Vikings, with such names as Inga, Ingrid, Ingirid, and Ingifrid as examples. Some of the names carried double meanings, like Ingeborg, where borg refers to a fortress.

The origin of Ing has been debated over the years — some experts believe it comes from the Old Norse god Yngvi, who was later called Freyr.

Ingrid

Another Norse female name beginning with Ing, this name has been popular throughout Scandinavian countries ever since the Viking age — actress Ingrid Bergman and Norwegian Princess Ingrid are only a few examples of the famous carriers of this name.

As mentioned, Vikings liked to give their baby girls names that refer to beautiful and heavenly things, and Ingrid is no exception as it means “heavenly goddess”.

Viking Names

Frida

This name is perhaps best known because of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo but it originally derived from the Old Norse names Fríða and Fríðr, which mean — unsurprisingly — beautiful, love, and peace.

Variants of this cool Norse name include Freda and Freida, but Frida is the most common version and is popular around the world.

Gunhild

One of the rare Viking female names that mean something fierce, Gunhild comes from the Old Norse words gunnr (war) and hildr (battle).

This name was likely given to the daughters of Viking commanders and leaders, perhaps with the hopes that their girls would join them with shields one day.

Variations include Gunnhild, Gunhilda, and the more literal Gunnhildr. Another similar name is Gunvor, where the vor stands for careful.

Hilda / Hilde

Another name fit for a female Viking fighter, Hilda/Hilde derives from the Old Norse word hildr (battle) and means “the fighter”. In Old Norse mythology, Hildr was a Valkyrie in Valhalla.

Liv

The name Liv means “of life” and derives from the Old Norse term hlíf, which refers to shelter or protection. Liv has remained a fairly popular name in Scandinavia for years and is perhaps best known due to the actress Liv Tyler.

Revna

Revna, which means raven, is believed to refer to the two ravens that assisted the Viking god Odin on his path. Although this name is not particularly popular in modern times, it is an interesting choice for parents who are hoping to find a more unusual Viking girl name.

Sif / Siv

Sif / Siv was the wife of Thor, the most famous Viking god. Because of this, the name became synonymous with bride or wife in Old Norse. This female Viking name is not very well known outside of Scandinavia but is common in Norway and Denmark.

Tora

Tora is another Norse female name that derives from the name Thor; in this case, meaning “of Thor”. Vikings believed that naming their children after gods gave them strength and perseverance, and Tora was undoubtedly a good choice as it is so similar to Thor.

Tove

Most people likely think of the Moomins creator Tove Jansson or singer Tove Lo when they hear this name, but it actually traces back to Viking times. It is usually considered a Norse female name, but a man named Tove is not a rarity in Scandinavia either.

The name is very popular in Nordic countries, especially Sweden, and is believed to mean “dove”. Some experts have argued that it derives, as many other Viking names, from the god Thor in the form of Thorfrithr, “beautiful Thor”.

Viking Names

Yrsa / Ursa

This Viking female name refers to a wild female bear — quite a unique meaning for a baby name! These days, Yrsa/Ursa is most popular in Iceland. Of course, the name Ursa may bring to mind the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor constellations.

Åse / Åsa

Åse is a name that was used by Vikings only for female babies — in fact, the name means “goddess” — but has become unisex throughout the subsequent centuries.

Åsa Haraldsdottir, a Viking queen regnant and the mother of the legendary king Halfdan the Black, was a famous carrier of this Viking name.

Celebrating cool Viking names

As you can see, Viking names ranged from intimidating and powerful to sweet and loving, and everything in between. Vikings named their children following long-held traditions, believing that a name gave its carrier strength, power, and other attributes.

In addition, some names were chosen in order to simply pay tribute to the gods or deceased relatives that the children were named after.

Viking names are still a notable part of Scandinavian culture and many of the names have spread around the world.

Those looking for cool Viking names for their babies are in luck — this was only a small example of all the powerful Viking names that are still in use today!

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