Icelandic Naming Laws

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Icelandic Naming Laws

Children in Reykjavík

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Q: If a foreigner is given Icelandic citizenship, can they change their name to a patronym (or matronym) to fit with Icelandic naming patterns? For example, if an Englishman’s name is Eric Smith and his dad’s name is John Smith, could he take the name Eric Johnsson/Jónsson upon naturalization?

Stan, London


A: A naturalized Icelandic citizen can take up a matronymic or patronymic after either their own parents, or their partner’s parents. So Eric Smith could take up the name Johnsson or Jónsson. And if he married Árný Þórsdóttir, he could take the name Þórsson and become Eric Þórsson, or even Eric Þórsdóttir if he so pleased.

He would also be permitted to take the last name of his partner, so if he instead married Árný Briem, he could then become Eric Briem. This is an important distinction because Icelandic-born citizens are not permitted to use their spouse’s last name, except as a middle name.