A primer on Swedish names

Though Sweden doesn’t have a list of approved names like Iceland, Hungary, or Portugal, all names nevertheless must be approved. Names considered offensive, liable to cause discomfort, or ridiculous won’t be approved. Parents have three months to submit names. This law also applies to adults wanting to change their own names.

Some people have submitted blatantly ridiculous names in protest, like Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced Albin), though most parents submit socially-acceptable names.

My Polish-born Robleński family finds refuge in Sweden during WWII. First the eight youngest siblings and their then-unofficially adopted sister manage to sneak their way out of their bunker in the woods and onto a ship bound for Sweden, due to the bravery and ingenuity of sixth-born Maria. They’re eventually joined by their four oldest siblings.

Magdalena Brandt, the oldest daughter of Sparky (Katherine) Brandt and Lazarus von Hinderburg, also marries a very liberal Swede, Zeevie Peterson, who loves to goad Magdalena’s religious fanatic cousin Joshua. Zeevie starts a New Age synagogue, B’nei v’Batei Ha’Olam (Sons and Daughters of the World).

Alphabet:

Swedish uses the Roman alphabet, with the addition of Å, Ä, and Ö. Unlike Danish and Norwegian, Swedish doesn’t use Ø or Æ. In the modern era, Q, W, and Z are rare.

Surnames:

Many Swedish surnames are patronymical, ending in -sson (e.g., Alfredsson, Carlsson, Einarsson, Gunnarsson, Martinsson). In the 15th century, the gentry (nobles and clergy) began using Swedish, Latin, German, and Greek surnames. Latinization of the patronymic (e.g., Petersson to Petri) and birthplaces were very common.

In the 19th century, these traditional patronymics became permanent family names. Wanting to copy the gentry, the bourgeoisie adopted surnames too. These were often Latinized, to pretend they came from high birth and old pedigrees.

Ennobled families were frequently given new surnames. Popular prefixes included Silfver- (silver), Gyllen- (guilded; golden), Ära- (honor), Adler- (German for “eagle”), and Ehren- (German for “honor”).

Soldiers were frequently given surnames fitting their personalities or appearance (e.g., Skarp [sharp], Modig [brave], Rapp [quick, prompt], Snygg [handsome]), or after weapons (e.g., Sköld [shield], Sabel [sabre]). Also common, among both soldiers and the bourgeoisie, were portmanteau ornamental names (e.g., Lindgren [linden branch], Holmberg [island mountain], Sandström [sand stream]).

Until the släktnamnsförordningen (family name regulation act) of 1901, patronymics were still more widely used in place of any surnames.

Middle names and other issues:

It’s fairly common for Swedes to go by a middle name instead of the forename. When the full name is written out, the name one goes by is indicated by italics, all caps, an asterisk, or underlining.

Sample names:

Male:

Adam
Adrian
Albert
Albin
Alexander (Sander)
Alfred
Alvar (Elf warrior)
Anders
Ansgar (God’s spear)
Anton
Arne
Aron
Arthur, Artur
Arvid (Eagle tree)
Asbjörn, Esbjörn (Bear god)
August
Axel (Acke)

Bengt (Benedict)
Benjamin
Bernhard, Bernt
Bertil (Bertolt)
Birger, Börje (Help, save, rescue)
Bjarne
Björn (Björne) (Bear)

Dag (Day)
Daniel (Danne)
David

Edvard
Edvin
Egil (Awe, terror)
Eilert (Hardy edge of a sword)
Einar (Warrior alone; one warrior)
Elias, Elis (Elijah)
Elof, Elov (Always a descendant)
Emanuel
Emil
Enok
Erik
Erland (Foreigner)
Erling (Descendant of the jarl [chieftain])
Ernst

Felix
Filip, Philip
Finn (Person from Finland)
Frans
Fredrik
Frej (Lord)
Fridtjof, Fritjof (Thief of peace; always loved this name!)

Gabriel
Georg
Gerhard
Gösta, Gustaf, Gustav
Gottfrid (Peace of God)
Greger
Gudmund (God’s protection)
Gunnar (Günther) (War warrior)

Håkon (High son)
Halvar (Rock guardian)
Harald
Helge (Holy, blessed)
Hemming (Shape)
Henrik (Henning)
Herman
Hjalmar (Helmeted warrior)
Holger (Spear island)
Hugo

Ingemar, Ingmar (Inge)
Ingolf (Inge)
Ingvar (Inge)
Isak
Ivar (Bow warrior)

Jakob
Jarl (Chieftain)
Joakim (Kim)
Johannes, Jan, Johan, Jon (Hannes, Hans, Hasse, Hampus, Janne)
Joel
Jonas
Jonatan

Kai, Kaj
Kåre (Curly, curved)
Karl, Carl (Kalle)
Kasper, Casper
Kettil, Kjell (Kettle, cauldron)
Klemens
Knut (Knot)
Konrad
Krister, Christer
Kristian
Kristoffer

Lars, Lasse, Lorens (Lawrence)
Leif (Heir, descendant)
Lennart (Lelle) (Leonard)
Leo
Linus
Loke (Modern form of Loki)
Ludvig, Love (Ludde)
Lukas

Magnus
Mark, Markus
Mårten, Martin
Mathias, Mattias, Matthias
Maximilian (Max)
Melker (Melchior)
Mikael

Niklas, Nils (Klas)
Njord (Strong, vigorous)
Noak (Noah)

Oliver
Olov, Olof (Olle, Ola) (Ancestor’s descendant)
Orvar (Arrow)
Oskar
Osvald
Otto
Ove

Pål, Paul
Patrik
Per, Peer, Peder, Pehr, Peter, Petter (Pelle)

Ragnar (Army’s advice)
Ragnvald (Ruler’s advice)
Ralf
Rasmus (Belovèd)
Rikard
Robert
Roland
Rolf (Roffe)
Ruben
Rudolf
Rune (Secret lore)

Salomon
Samuel
Sebastian
Sigfrid (Sigge) (Victory and peace)
Sigmund (Sigge) (Victory protector)
Sigvard, Sigurd (Sigge) (Guardian of victory)
Simon
Sixten (Victory stone)
Sören, Severin
Stefan, Staffan
Stellan
Sten (Stone)
Stig (Path)
Sture (To be contrary)
Sven (Boy)

Teodor, Theodor
Thor, Tor, Thore, Tore, Ture (Thunder)
Tobias
Tomas, Thomas
Torbjörn, Thorbjörn (Thor’s bear)
Torgny (Thor’s noise)
Torkel (Thor’s cauldron)
Torsten, Thorsten (Thor’s stone)
Torvald, Thorvald (Thor’s ruler)
Truls (Thor’s shaft)
Tryggve, Trygve (Trustworthy)
Tyko (Hitting the mark)

Ulf (Wolf)
Ulrik (Prosperity and power)
Urban
Valdemar
Valentin
Valter
Verner
Vidar (Wide warrior)
Viktor
Vilhelm (Ville)
Vilmar (Famous desire)
Vincent
Yngve

Female:

Agda, Agata
Agneta
Aina (Means “the only one” and “always” in Finnish)
Alexandra (Sassa, Sandra)
Alfhild (Elf battle)
Alva (Elf)
Anna (Annika)
Antonia
Aslög (God’s betrothed woman)
Astrid (Asta, Sassa)

Beata (Blessed)
Beatrice
Bengta (Benedicta)
Birgit, Birgitta, Berit (Brita, Britt, Britta, Gittan)
Bodil (Battle remedy)

Cecilia (Cilla)
Charlotte (Lotte, Lotta, Lottie)
Dagmar (Day maid)
Dagny (New day)
Diana
Dorotea, Dorothea (Tea, Thea)

Edit (Edith)
Eira (Mercy)
Eleonora, Eleonor (Ella, Nora)
Elin, Elina, Helena, Helene (Ella, Lena, Lina)
Elisabet (Elise, Ella, Elsa, Lis, Lisa, Lise, Lisbet)
Embla (Elm)
Emelie, Emilia, Emilie, Emma (Milly)
Erika
Erna (Brisk, vigourous, hale)
Ester
Eva
Evelina

Felicia
Filippa
Fredrika (Rika)
Freja (Lady)
Frida (Peace)

Gabriella
Gerd, Gerda (Enclosure)
Gry (Dawn)
Gudrun (Gull) (God’s secret lore)
Gunborg (War of rescue)
Gunhild, Gunilla, Gunnel (War battle)
Gunvor (Cautious in war)

Hanna, Hanne
Hedvig (Hedda) (Battle combat)
Heidi
Helga, Hella (Holy, blessed)
Henrietta
Henrika, Henrike (Rika)
Hilda (Battle)
Hildegard (Battle enclosure)
Hillevi (Happy war)
Hjördis (Sword goddess)
Hulda (Ulla) (Hiding, secrecy)

Ingeborg (Inga)
Ingegärd (Inga)
Ingrid (Inga)
Irene
Iris
Isabella

Janina
Janna (Jannicke, Jannike)
Jenny, Jennie
Johanna (Jonna)
Josefina, Josefine
Judit
Julia

Kamilla (Milla)
Karla
Karolina (Lina)
Katarina (Kaja, Kai, Kajsa, Karin, Karina, Katrin, Karita, Katja, Katrina, Ina)
Kerstin, Kjerstin, Kristina, Kristin, Kristine (Kia, Ina, Stina, Tina)
Klara

Laila
Laura
Lea
Linnéa (Linn, Nea) (always loved this name!)
Liselotte, Liselott (Lotta, Lotte, Lottie)
Liv (Life)
Lovisa
Lucia

Magdalena (Lena, Magda, Malin, Malena)
Margareta, Margit, Marit, Merit, Marita (Greta, Märta, Meta, Rita)
Maria (Maja, Mia, My)
Marina
Marta, Martha
Martina
Matilda, Mathilda (Tilda)
Mikaela
Monika (Mona)

Olga
Olivia (Vivi)
Ottilia
Paula, Paulina, Pauline
Petra
Petronella (Pernilla)
Pia

Ragna (Advice, counsel)
Ragnhild (Ragna) (Battle advice)
Rakel (Rachel)
Randi (Beautiful advice)
Rebecka
Regina (Ina, Gina)
Ronja
Rosa
Runa (Secret lore)
Rut, Ruth

Saga (Seeing one)
Sara (Sassa)
Selma
Sibylla
Signy, Signe (New victory)
Sigrid (Beautiful victory)
Sigrun (Secret victory)
Siv (Bride)
Sofia (Vivi)
Solveig, Solvig, Sylvi (Sun’s strength)
Susanna, Susanne (Sassa)
Svea (Swede)
Synnöve (Sun gift)

Teodora
Teresa, Terese, Teresia (Tessan)
Thora (Thunder)
Torborg, Thorborg (Thor’s protection)
Tordis (Thor’s goddess)
Tova, Tove, Tuva
Turid (Beautiful Thor)
Tyra, Thyra (Holy Thor)

Ulrika (Rika, Ulla)
Ursula
Vendela
Vera
Viktoria
Vilhelmina (Helmi, Mimmi, Minna)
Vilma
Viola
Virginia
Viveka (Vivi) (War)
Ylva (Wolf)

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