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Guide to Icelandic Names

  • Átak
  • 02.09.2022

Icelandic names are a big part of Icelandic culture, many of which have historical links or deep and important meanings. However, if you are not from Iceland, they can sometimes appear unusual, particularly when they contain letters that are unique to the Icelandic language. 

Alongside this, the Icelandic naming system means that many of the locals may share the same last name - despite not being related. This guide will help you to understand how Icelandic people are named. 

First Names in Iceland

In Iceland, there is a Naming Committee in place which registers approved first names and determines whether or not new names are deemed fit to be introduced into Icelandic culture. Whilst parents may choose a name for their child which isn’t already on the Personal Names Register, it must be reviewed by the committee and may even be rejected.  

There are a number of names that are currently banned in Iceland including Ezra, Zelda and Sezar, due to the fact that their spelling is not grammatically correct or possible in the Icelandic alphabet. There was additional disapproval of the name Lucifer, due to its satanic links. 

Some first names still used in Iceland today have originated from ancient Icelanders. Ingólfur, a boy's name, is said to be the name of one of the first settlers in Iceland. As time went by, different names began to pop up due to the introduction of Christianity (when children began to be named Kristín) and the influence of outside cultures and migration. Fast forward to today and there are many modern names that have been created using Icelandic vocabulary such as Stormur, meaning storm, and Paradís, meaning paradise. 

All Icelandic names have a meaning, and historically, Icelanders had a strong belief that names had power - many still do.  It is for this reason that it would not be uncommon for a child that was poorly at birth to be named Ófeigur, which means immortal. 

An Icelandic name you may already be familiar with is Björk. Björk is a famous Icelandic musician with over 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify. 

Hand holding feet of newborn baby

Popular Icelandic Boys Names

  • Jón
  • Sigurður
  • Gunnar
  • Einar
  • Magnús

Popular Icelandic Girls Names 

  • Anna
  • Helga
  • Guðrún
  • Jóhanna
  • Margret

Last Names in Iceland

In Iceland, last names are not passed down through the generations in the way that is seen in many other cultures, instead, it is the father's first name that is passed down. An Icelandic last name for a child comprises of their father's first name with the addition of either "-dottir" if the child is female, "-son" if the child is male, or "-bur" if the child was registered as gender neutral. 

For example, if an Icelandic man named Pétur had a child, the child's last name would be either Pétursson (if male), Pétursdottir (if female) or Pétursbur (if registered gender neutral).

Once you understand the Icelandic naming system, we’re sure you’ll agree that it's actually fairly simple, and whilst some names may look difficult to pronounce, the most polite thing to do is simply to ask. The Icelandic people are very friendly and will be happy to clarify for you if you aren’t sure.