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Updated March 13, 2024

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Norwegian culture is rich with nature and stories and heavily influenced by Norse mythology. Anyone who has watched a recent Marvel film will be familiar with the mighty god Odin and his son Thor, but those aren’t the only formidable characters Norse legends offer. Many Norwegian last names are influenced by these ancient stories and have been passed down for generations.

Another significant influence on Norwegian culture is the country's Viking past. Viking families often passed down their names to their children in a patronymic tradition. 

Patronymic Norwegian Last Names

People familiar with Norway’s history and Viking stories likely heard of Leif Erikson, the European explorer. He is believed to be the first European to step foot in North America. The name Leif means descendant is an example of patronymic tradition. Many popular Norwegian surnames also follow familial traditions.  

  1. Alfson - "Son of Alf" or "elf."
  2. Andersen - "Son of Anders."
  3. Carlsen - "Son of Carl."
  4. Ellingboe - "The son of the earl."
  5. Erling - "Descendant of Jarl."
  6. Gulbrandsen - "Son of Gulbrandr."
  7. Hansen - "Son of Hans."
  8. Jensen - "Son of Jen."
  9. Johansen - "Son of Johan."
  10. Nilsen - "Son of Nils."

Viking Last Names

While some Viking last names follow the traditional patronymic tradition and use the suffix sen or sson for sons and datter or dotter for daughters. However, contrary to many other cultural traditions that only pass down names from father to child, Vikings names sometimes took their surname from their mothers.

  1. Bjorge - A name of Scandinavian origin, primarily used in Norway, meaning "help" or "rescue." It is often associated with protective qualities or assistance.
  2. Borg - An old Norse term that means "fortification."
  3. Borja - Of Spanish origin, particularly from Aragon, this name is associated with the noble Borja family, known in Italy as the Borgias. It likely derives from the town of Borja in Zaragoza, Spain.
  4. Eriksson - Meaning "son of Erik," it indicates lineage, with Erik commonly believed to symbolize "eternal ruler."
  5. Hagen - This name has Germanic origins, meaning "enclosure" or "protected space." It often refered to someone who lived by a hedged or enclosed area.
  6. Haraldson - "Son of Harald" or "son of the commander."
  7. Larsen - A patronymic name meaning "son of Lars," with Lars often linked to the ancient laurel plant symbolizing victory.
  8. Ragnarsson - Signifying "son of Ragnar," this name connects to the Old Norse word ragn, meaning "advice" or "decision."
  9. Sigurdsson - Meaning "son of Sigurd," a name that combines sig (victory) and urðr.
  10. Thorfinnsson - Indicating "son of Thorfinn," a name derived from the Norse god Thor and finnr, meaning "Sámi" or "Finn" (a person from Finland), highlighting a divine connection or origin.

Toponymic Norwegian Surnames

Geographical surnames are also quite popular in Norway. Some place names are derived from geographical features like mountains or rivers, while others reference neighboring Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland. 

  1. Aland - A Viking name that references the Aland Islands.
  2. Arud - The Old Norse word rud means "clearing"; this name refers to a clearing by a stream.
  3. Beck - This name comes from the Swedish word for "stream."
  4. Berg - "Mountain."
  5. Dahl - This family name comes from the old Norse word for "valley."
  6. Ege - This name refers to the Southern villages in Norway covered in oak groves.
  7. Hagen - A last name that refers to people who lived in a protected region.
  8. Krog - A Danish-inspired word that means "bend or corner."
  9. Landvik  - A former municipality in Norway. 
  10. Lund - Lund is the old Norse term for a "grove."
  11. Ness - This name comes from the old Norse word nes for "headland" or "promontory."
  12. Nord - The word originated in Sweden and means "north."
  13. Solberg - Solberg or Solenerg means "sun mountain."
  14. Vik - A common Norwegian last name for people who originated from Vik. 

Hamnoy - Lofoten, Norway - Seascape photography | Copyright … | Flickr

Norwegian Farm Names

Unique to Norway and other Scandinavian cultures are the farm names. These are names that people adopted based on the farm where they lived or worked. Since Norway was a predominately agricultural country, these names can be found in abundance.

  1. Aune - "Wasteland farm." It is derived from the word aun
  2. Gaarder - Derived from the word for "farm", gard, and often given to a son or daughter of a farmworker. 
  3. Haugen - A given name that referred to farmsteads. It is derived from the Norwegian word haugr meaning a "small, grassy knoll."
  4. Sund - A farmstead in the country.
  5. Thorp - An old Norse word for "farm" or "farmstead."

Occupational Names from Norway

Many popular Norwegian last names are derived from occupations. It wasn’t until 1923 that a surname was required in Norway. When it became law to adopt a surname, some people went with the traditional patronymic last names while others adopted occupational names; however, the adoption of occupational last names is much less common in Scandinavia than in other parts of the world.

  1. Fiske - "Fisherman."
  2. Kusken - "Driver."
  3. Moller - "Miller."
  4. Smed - "Smith."
  5. Snekkeren - "Carpenter."

Norse Mythology Names

No list of Norwegian family names would be complete without a handful inspired by Norse Mythology and the ancient beliefs of the magical land of Norway.

  1. Axel - Derived from the Old Norse Asketill, which is comprised of the words for "god" and "kettle."
  2. Eskildsen - A name that combines the words for "god" and "sacrificial cauldron."
  3. Junge - A variant of the name Odhinkar. Odin means "god", and karr means "strong."
  4. Oscar - An old Norse name derived from Asger, meaning "god’s spear."
  5. Thor - "Thunder." Thor was the god Odin’s son and was the god of Thunder. 

L. Elizabeth Forry

About L. Elizabeth Forry

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom… Read more

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