Brief Historical Context of Scandinavian Names and Language
The region of northern Europe made up of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is called Scandinavia. These three countries are also part of a larger group called the Nordic countries that includes Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. The Scandinavian languages include Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Faroese.
The history of Scandinavian people can be traced back to The Vikings. The Vikings, also called Norsemen, were well-known sea-faring people with a reputation for raiding and pirating throughout Europe and Asia. They most often practiced Norse Mythology. In modern times, Norse Gods such as Odin, Thor, Freya, and Loki have become well-known figures in pop culture thanks to Marvel's Thor movies.
The Scandinavian region is famous for its breathtaking landscapes including fjords, mountains, and beautiful beaches. The naming customs in Scandinavia also have their own fascinating history.
The Origin of Scandinavian Last Names
Like other regions throughout the world, Scandinavia was late to adopt surnames. Scandinavian names follow specific naming patterns. Family names are often passed down generations. Most surnames follow the practice of patronyms that incorporate a person's father's name. Patronymic names use the father's given name plus a suffix at the end to indicate relationship. Therefore, their baby names indicate relationships and a sense of community.
Scandinavian last names typically end in -sen or sson meaning "son" or –datter or - dotter, meaning daughter. For example, "Bengtsson is Swedish surname that translates to "son of Bengt." Scandinavians are also known for re-using several of the most popular first names and last names, so it's not uncommon to come across many people with identical names in this region. Currently, over two-thirds of the Danish population have a surname ending in -sen!
The 10 Most Common Scandinavian Surnames (with English translations)
- Hansen - meaning "Son of Hans"
- Johansen - meaning "Son of John"
- Olsen - Dervied from Old Norse, meaning "son of Olaf."
- Larsen - A Danish and Norwegian patronymic from "Son of Lars." Lars is the Scandinavian equivalent of the Latin first name Lawrence.
- Andersen - A Danish-Norwegian patronymic surname meaning "Son of Anders"
- Christensen - (Kristiansen) - A name derived from Danish origins, meaning "Son of Christen/Christian"
- Karlsson - A patronymic surname meaning "Son of Karl." Karlsson is one of the most common surnames in Sweden.
- Nielsen - A Danish patronymic surname meaning son of Niels
- Jensen - An extremely popular Danish surname meaning "Son of Jens." Today, Jensen is also a popular first name for boys.
- Jacobsen - meaning "Son of Jacob"
Image: Trondheim, Norway
Like other regions throughout the world, Scandinavia was late to adopt surnames. Once those countries did, they were used in conjunction with patronyms.
Use the list below to find your last name and learn about its meaning and origins.
Popular Scandinavian Last Names on FamilyEducation: Hanson, Aaberg, Falkenberg