Many Icelandic first names have a transparent meaning, i.e. they are not just harmonious syllables or cute sounds, they
actually mean something. Björk is an Icelandic word that means birch tree. Tree names are quite popular
as Icelandic first names. A boy may be be given the name Reynir (rowan tree) or Hlynur (maple tree). Birds names are also quite common. Örn an eagle is a common
masculine name, and so is Hrafn raven, Haukur hawk - and Svanur swan. The girl name Ugla owl -
also exists. Fancy that. Meet my cousin Eagle, my brother Maple, and my niece Owl.
Among popular first names, there are also those that refer to mammals, warriors,
weapons, gods and mythical entities. One of the most popular names among the mammals is Björn, bear, and its
feminine form Birna for a girl. There are wolves among us: Úlfur, and Ylfa for the she-wolf. Among the gods,
of course, there are the classical Óðinn, Þór and Baldur, Njörður, Freyr, Freyja etc
and then there
is God himself or the gods: Guð, but only in composed names.
Now, thats where the fun begins, when you start composing names. Thus you get
Hrafnhildur battle of ravens Þorbjörn a daring bear, Guðlaug pool of gods or God, Guðrún
godly secret, Kristrún being Christs secret. There are also ladies named Hugrún minds secret
and Sigrún victorys secret
s! Well, the general idea is that most names have an obvious meaning, a bit like native American names.
Icelandic names are patronymic (as they contain the
first name of the father of the person, rather than the historic family lineage. In other words, family names
are not the rule in Iceland. For instance, our favourite singers name is Björk, and she is the daughter of Guðmundur indeed she
is Guðmundsdóttir. Björk could also have chosen to use her mothers name rather than her fathers. Some
family names do exist in
. They are either well-established, foreign names (Danish, for instance Möller or Briem), or latinized
versions of Icelandic names: Thorlacius, Thoroddsen).
First names that have not been used as such in
have to be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee. There are countries where a name has to have
a saint attached to it, or a day in the almanach. No such thing in
, nothing but the Naming Committee. Needless to say, its rulings are often controversial.
When a name is chosen for a child, the obvious choice is traditionally the name
of a grandfather or grandmother. There are also numerous instances of names being inspired by a parents
dream during the pregnancy. An Icelandic urban legend has it that a pregnant woman had a recurring dream
featuring a frozen apron. Accordingly, she named her daughter Freðsvunta, Frozen Apron. This must be why they
set up the Naming Committee. Needless to say, Icelanders have also used Biblical names extensively throughout
the centuries, like their neighbours in Europe and
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