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Much like the rest of Europe, surnames in Denmark were created using the patronymic tradition, which is why most end in -sen. In the 1820s, this tradition was outlawed, but it took another 50 years for Denmark to change it. Below is a list of 30 common Danish last names along with their meanings.
You can also read a little bit about where a lot of these surnames came from. If you find your name on this list, you can get some more insight into the Danish side of your heritage.
Origin of Danish Last Names
When you take a look at Danish surnames, there is one thing you will notice about a majority of them - they have similar endings. It is common to see a Danish last name end in "sen." What does this mean? Well, until the 1820s, the Danish used the patronymic tradition. This means that they took the child's father's given name and added the "sen" for their surname. It directly translates to mean "son of." Occasionally you will see "detter" instead, which means "daughter of." S
So, if the father's given name is "Hans," the child's patronymic surname would be "Hansen." After the 1820s, this method was outlawed and instead hereditary surnames were used instead.
Starting in the 19th century, you could see something called a "double-barrelled" name. This is when the traditional patronymic surname was used at the end of a name but turned into a compound name with a middle name. Many of the people in Denmark would use their mother's given name and hyphenate it with the patronymic name.
Image: Copenhagen, Denmark
Most Common Danish Last Names
- Andersen - This is a Danish and Norwegian surname that means "son of Anders."
- Bille - This Danish surname was taken from the Old Norse personal name that means "hatchet."
- Christensen/Kristiansen - With Danish, Norwegian, and Old German roots, this surname is a patronymic name of "Christen," or "son of Christen."
- Dahl - This Danish surname is a common farm name in Norway and Scandinavia. It is also the modern form of the Old Norse name "Dalr" that means valley.
- Frederiksen - A Danish and Norwegian surname that is patronymic from "Frederik."
- Hansen - This surname has several origins including Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, and German. It means "son of Hans."
- Henriksen - A Danish and Norwegian surname that means "son of Henrik."
- Holm - This is a German and Scandinavian topographic name for someone who lives on an island or somewhere surrounded by streams.
- Jakobsen - This surname is Danish and Dutch and it means "son of Jacob."
- Jensen - This is a very popular surname in Denmark. It means "son of Jens" and it is also a reduced form of "Johannes."
- Johansen - This is a German, Danish, and Norwegian patronymic surname that means "son of Johann."
- Jorgensen - Danish and Norwegian last name that is a patronymic name from "Jorgen." It is also a form of the German name "Georgios."
- Knudsen - This is a Danish royal name that was derived from the Old Norse name "Knutr" which means "knot."
- Larsen - This is a Danish and Norwegian patronymic from the personal name "Lars."
- Lund - This is a topographic name for someone who lived near a grove. It has roots in Scandinavian, German, and English. This was a popular surname in Sweden where they became required in the 19th century.
- Madsen - This is a Danish and Norwegian patronymic from the personal name "Mathias."
- Mikkelsen - This patronymic personal name comes from "Mikkel" which is the Danish and Dutch version of "Michael."
- Moller - This is a Danish occupational name for a miller.
- Nielsen - A Danish, Norwegian, and German patronymic surname from the personal name "Niels" which is a short form of "Nikolaus."
- Nissen - A German and Danish patronymic name from the Scandinavian name "Nis" or the variant "Nils."
- Olsen - This Danish and Norwegian surname is derived from the personal name "Olaf" which is one of the most popular Scandinavian given names. This is probably because of St. Olaf who was the King of Norway in the Middle Ages.
- Oster - A Swiss and German topographic name for someone who moved to a settlement from the east.
- Paulsen - This has several origins including Danish and Frisian. It is the patronymic surname from "Paul."
- Pedersen - The Danish and Norwegian patronymic surname from "Peter."
- Poulsen - The Norwegian and Danish patronymic from the personal name "Poul."
- Randrup - This is a popular Danish family name in Denmark and it refers to the homesteads there.
- Rasmussen - This is the patronymic surname for "Erasmus" in Dutch, Danish, and many other languages.
- Schmidt - This is a German occupational name for a "blacksmith."
- Sorensen - A Dutch and Norwegian patronymic surname from "Soren."
- Thomsen - This is a patronymic name for "Thom" the short form of "Thomas" in German, Danish, and several other languages.
Popular Danish Last Names on FamilyEducation: Hansen, Meyer, Jensen