Ever have a hard time remembering Icelandic given names (and, by extension, “surnames” or patronymics)? Although pronunciation of names is relatively straightforward once the basic rules are learned, and relatively speaking there are few given names available, sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to recall whether that guy you met at the party last week was called Sigurbjörn or Sigurgeir.
“Icelandic names are like Lego,” an expat friend commented to me a while ago. He hit the nail on the head. A large number of given names, especially those not adapted for the language from foreign cultures (e.g. Óskar, Sara, Tanja) are actually compound names of various components. Mix and max pre- and suffixes to your content to find a name you like.
So you too can create your very own Icelandic name right in your own home, here is a list of some of the common building blocks:
Sigur- (“Victory”) e.g. Sigurveig (f), Sigurdur (m) Thor- (Norse god) e.g. Thorsteinn (m), Thorgerdur (f) Ás- (Norse god) e.g. Ásdís (f), Ásgeir (m) Gud- (“God”) e.g. Gudni (m), Gudmundur (m), Gudrún (f) Gunn- (“Battle”) e.g. Gunnar (m), Gunnhildur (f) Krist- (“Christ”) e.g. Kristján (m), Kristín (f), Kristrún (f) Hall- (“Stone”) e.g. Hallgerdur (f), Halldís (f), Hallbjörn (m) Sae- (“Sea”) e.g. Saemundur (m), Saedís (f) Ragn- (“Powerful”) e.g. Ragnheidur (f), Ragnhildur (f) Kol- (“Dark”) e.g. Kolfinna (f), Kolbeinn (m) Sól- (“Sun”) e.g. Sólveig (f), Sólrún (f)
-geir (“Spear”) e.g. Ásgeir (m), Thorgeir (m) -steinn (“Stone”) e.g. Thorsteinn (m), Gudsteinn (m) -björn (“Bear”) e.g. Sigurbjörn (m), Ásbjörn (m) -dís (“Goddess”) e.g. Thordís (f), Ásdís (f) -björg (“Savior”) e.g. Sigurbjörg (f), Thorbjörg (f) -veig (“Strength”) e.g. Sigurveig (f), Rannveig (f) -mundur (“Protector”) e.g. Sigmundur (m), Gudmundur (m)
Sometimes you can also take a name and just add a little bit to it: Gerdur (f) can also be Hallgerdur (f) or Thorgerdur (f) Hildur (f) can transform into Gunnhildur (f) or Svanhildur (f)
Add a few names of natural phenomena (Unnur (f), meaning wave; Jökull (m), meaning glacier; Ketill (m), meaning, um, kettle), places (Hekla (f), Esja (f)), and animals (Björn (f), meaning bear; Örn (f), meaning eagle) with a few Biblical classics (Rakel (f), Pétur (m), Jónas (m)), and you’ve got almost all the Icelandic names.
Almost more fun than the real Lego, isn’t it?
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