The Meaning of Swedish Names

Swedish names are adorable. For the most part at least; until you name your child Knot or Bear. I got inspired by Surviving in Sweden’s post about fun Swedish names. Since I am always bugging the husband about street names, city names, people’s names, I put together a list of all the names I could think of in Swedish and their translations.

I separated the names by first name, last name, and city and street names. Of course some of the names overlap.

First names
Björn – bear
Knut (knútr) – knot
Linnéa – twinflower
Bror – brother
Karl – Man
Orvar – arrow
Siv – bride
Sten – stone
Sture – “to be contrary”
Tor (Thor)- thunder
Dag – day
Rita – to draw/sketch
Kåre – draft, breeze
Lina – line, tightrope
Hans – his
Linda – twine/wind
Meta – to angle
Tova/Tove – the beauty of Tor
Fred – peace
Love –
Sven – boy
Torbjörn (Þórbjörn) – Thor’s bear
Arne – eagle
Dagmar (Dagmær) – “day maid”
Torkel (Þórketill)- Thor’s cauldron
Torsten (Þórsteinn) – Thor’s stone
Tryggve – trustyworthy
Ulf (Úlfr)- wolf
Gudrun (Guðrún) – “god’s secret lore”
Hjalmar – “helmeted warrior”
Kettil – kettle, cauldron
Ylve – she-wolf
Freyr – lord
Gunnar – warrior
Gustav – “staff of the Goths”
Einar – “a warrior”
Erik (Eiríkr) – “ever ruler”
Folke – people
Fritjof (Friðþjófr)- “thief of peace”
Bo – life
Axel – shoulder

Last names
Ström – current, flow, stream
Pipkorn – small kernel
Lind – lime
Vall – bank, levee
Brunn – well
Mo – fine sand
Berg – mountain
Hed – heath, moorland
Lund – grove, toft
Fors – rapid, whitewater
Falk – hawk
Nordh (norð) – north

Common city names or street names
Vik – bay, inlet, cove
Bro – bridge
Köping – burgh
Eker – spoke
Sund – sound, channel, inlet
Tuna –
Tälja – cut, chip, carve
Ö – island
Å – creek, river
Borg – castle
Göte – bloom
Holm – little island
Stock – timber, log
Troll – goblin
Skog – forest
Hätta – hood, bonnet

And the most popular names of 2010? Maja, Alica, Julia, Linnéa and Wilma.

What’s your favorite Swedish name?

11 thoughts on “The Meaning of Swedish Names”

  1. Hi there! I am moving to Stockholm this summer for a Master’s Degree and I found your blog while searching for information about the horrid appartment hunting situation!
    Your blog is awesome by the way! I will try to read more of it, to find a little bit more about the city that will be my home for at least two years! Can’t wait! :)

    P.S. Can’t even pronounce most of these words I’m afraid…

  2. Rita! My mom’s name and ostensibly the reason I’ve inherited the love for drawing.

  3. Another common add-on to Swedish towns is “Hamn” which means harbor. I just love how many Swedes keep their old and traditional names, like Stig (which means path). Enjoyed the post =)

  4. Very interesting. I like the norse mythology names but the nature ones? I’m not so sure
    I guess I’m used to the desi concept of naming your child after a characteristic you admire, e.g. my brother’s name is ‘siddharth’ which means compassionate and my sister’s name is ‘sonali’ which means graceful.

  5. A lot of the names on that list does actually not mean what you think they do. Just because they happen to look like an existing word it doesn’t mena thats the meaning of the name. Rita, for example, even if it is spelled and pronounced like the word rita – to draw – that has nothing to do with the name. It is a shorter form of Margareta, where the e has changed into an i. And a lot of those names have similar origins and just happen to sound like words that mean something else. And others, like Gunnar, does not mean anything for people today. It is derived from ancient words for battle and warrior, but those word are not present in swedish, or even understandable at all for swedes today, so noone can hear on Gunnar that it had that meaning a ong time ago.

    If you want to se what names really mean, what there origin is, check out http://svenskanamn.alltforforaldrar.se/soknamn

  6. @Genie

    Many of the “nature”-names as you called it is in fact meant to be a symbol of the child’s characteristics or the parents hope for the child. Often the names were combined with something more. For example: Björn, we have already seen Torbjörn, but there are more even if they aren’t as frequent. There is Styrbjörn, Styr comes from styrr which means stoj and tumult in todays Swedish and would be translated to noise and uproar. The old Norse thought most animals and many things in the nature had a chief attribute, Sten means stone but most likely represent the attribute of being indestructible or tough and robust.

  7. genie – that’s what makes languages interesting. the nordic region is about being out with nature ad honoring the names from the eddas (gylfi, tor, oden, even snorri).

    Even though people may think there’s no meaning to their name anymore, there once was. I find it fascinating to see how a name got it’s name throughout the ages and even why a particular name was popular.

  8. Yuan – Not sure.

    Anyone can venture a linguistic guess? I’d say strömer is coming from German but unsure about tran.

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