Naming a baby can be an incredibly difficult task. Finding a name that is beautiful, practical, suitable or unusual is hard enough, but finding one that everyone likes is even more tricky. In 2017 in the UK the top 3 baby boy names were Oliver, Harry and George, whilst Olivia, Amelia and Isla were the most popular girls’ names.
While these are lovely names, imagine calling a child across the school playground, only to have 4 different children turn and look. Maybe it’s time to turn attention to elsewhere in the world for some inspiration?
Nordic names are increasingly popular at the moment, with some ancient and fantastic names just waiting to become better used on the world stage.
Think of Sweden and most people may well think of Abba, Ikea and some tasty meatballs. But they should also think of such lovely names as Ebba, Elvira and Ines, or such traditional male names as Dante, Viggo and Arvid. The ‘namnlagen’ or ‘naming law’ in Sweden ensures that babies are named in such a way that will not cause offence or mockery, thus protecting the child from future ridicule.
Have a look at these naturally beautiful Swedish names for some inspiration.
Ebba, or Ebbe for boys, has a few different origins. It comes from the Old Germanic name Eberhardina and is also used as a pet name for Elisabet. It can be used for younger people as a version of Eyba or Ybba. It means ‘strong’ and is popular in Sweden and Denmark.
People with this name are sociable and like to be surrounded by a strong community and loving family. Ebba is a natural leader who resents authority and can sometimes be stubborn and proud. However, she gets the job done and inspires others to follow.
Pronounced ‘VEE-goh’, the most notable bearer of this name is probably Viggo Mortensen, the Danish-American actor who was in the hit ‘Lord of the Rings’. There are around 1500 people currently named Viggo in Norway and it was at its peak in the mid-1940’s. Now quite rare, it is becoming more popular in Denmark. Also spelt as ‘Wiggo’, the name comes from the old Norse 'vig', meaning ‘battle, fight’. It is alternatively thought to be from the English word for an inlet or bay.
Pronounced ‘lin-NAY-ah’, this pretty name is the name of several Scandinavian musicians as well as a Swedish politician. Although it was hugely popular in the 1940’s, it is now much rarer and it is unusual to find it outside of the Nordic area. If you love gardening and botany this is a perfect choice as it was originally given in honour of the eighteenth-century Swedish botanist Karl von Linné, who designed the Linnaean system of classifying plants and animals.
This Biblical boys’ name is one of the most popular in Sweden and its Nordic neighbours. It is thought to have come from the name Lucius, which in turn comes from ‘lux’, meaning ‘light’.
Boys with this name have contrasting aspects of their personalities, according to name analysis. They love order, convention and activities which are safe. At the same time, they are very creative and imaginative and even visionary at times. Notable bearers include Lucas Cranach, the Renaissance painter and the Argentinian footballer Lucas Alessandra.
This name hit a peak in the 1920’s and although it is still popular across Scandinavia and the Netherlands, the only other really famous Wilma is from ‘The Flintstones’ cartoon. It is the girls’ version of William or Wilhelm, and a short version of the very grand Wilhelmina. Meaning ‘resolute protector’, it is a strong and empowering name for a girl who is likely to become a charismatic and successful leader. Truth, justice and discipline are all important to Wilma.
This ancient Nordic name dates right back into Norse mythology. It comes from the fantastic Old Norse name ‘Víðarr’, from the words víðr (wide) and arr (warrior). It is pronounced ‘VEE-dahr’. Vidar is one of the Aesir (gods) and a son of Odin. It is said that he will avenge his father’s death at the time of the end of the world - the Ragnarok.
Although it is a popular Nordic name, it has never ranked in the top 1000 US names.
This is an alternative spelling of ‘Maya’ and so it is pronounced ‘MY-ah’. This lovely girls’ name is hugely popular across Scandinavia and the Slavic countries. It has been translated as ‘little mother’ but has a variety of meanings across the world. In Old Persian it means ‘generous’, whilst in Nepalese, it is ‘love’. Hindu philosophy has it as ‘illusion’ whilst Hebrew translates it as ‘spring or brook’. Maia was one of the Pleiades, the seven daughters of Atlas, in Greek mythology and was the mother of Hermes.
Even with variations such as Axl, Acksel and Aksel, you may well be asked repeatedly if your baby is named after one of the greatest rockers of all time - Axel Rose. however, you will also find Axel in Jules Verne's ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and as Eddie Murphy's character in ‘Beverly Hills Cop’. In real life, the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics is Axel Alonso, whilst Axel Paulsen, an Olympic gold medalist, invented the figure skating Axel jump. Meaning ‘the father is peace’, your Axel would be in excellent company.
If this name is good enough for a Swedish Nobel Peace Prize winner, then it’s good enough for your baby! Yes, Alva Myrdal joins other great and powerful women such as American suffragette and feminist Alva Erskine Belmont and
Alva Merlin Colquhoun, Australian swimmer and Olympic silver medalist.
Alva clearly attracts the strong and successful and comes from the Irish Gaelic ‘Ailbhe’, meaning ‘white or noble’. It is also the Scandinavian feminine form of ‘Alf’, meaning ‘elf’ and a short form of Alfhild and Alfrida.
In the late 19th century Arvid was consistently in the top 1000 US baby names, but since the 1950’s has dropped out of common use. Also popular in Persia and Lithuania, it comes from the Swedish words ‘arn’, meaning ‘eagle’ and ‘vidhr’, meaning ‘tree’, so Arvid translates as ‘eagle tree’. There is a huge variety of nicknames for this name including Arvie, Arvsan, Arvhat and Arvlus. Arvid is a strong and manly name sometimes translated as ‘friend of the people’.
Here is an old Norse name with a fantastic meaning. It comes from ‘Ássfriđr’, made up of the elements ‘áss’, meaning ‘a god’ and ‘friđr’, meaning ‘beautiful, fair’. So with Astrid you have a beautiful goddess. This name just made it into the top 100 around the turn of the 19th century, but it has had a revival in the last ten years and now sits at around number 776 in the baby name charts. Sometimes translating as ‘godly strength’, it has been used in Norway’s royal families for hundreds of years.
When the Vikings invaded England and Scotland they took many names and traditions with them. This name was one of them and soon became the Scottish ‘Ivor’. It means ‘archer or warrior’, coming from the Old Nordic words ‘yŕ’ (yew, bow) and ’herr’ (warrior, army). There are many Ivars in Swedish history, from Ivar the Boneless, Danish Viking chieftain, to Ivar Enger, the Norwegian former-guitarist of Darkthrone.
Just be careful which surname you are using this with to avoid your child being plagued with ‘I’ve a…….’ jokes their whole life.
This ‘amiable’ or ‘friendly’ girl would be lucky to have such a pretty and unusual name. Ranked inside the top 300 girl names in the 1900’s, use of Elvira has steadily declined over the last 100 years. With variations such as Elli, Elvi, Elira and Alira, it is sometimes translated as ‘elf-like’. It is also a popular Spanish name meaning ‘truth’ or ‘beautiful’ and appears in the legend of Don Juan and consequently in Mozart’s opera on the same tale - ‘Don Giovanni’.
Many of us may automatically think of chipmunks when we hear this name, but there is much more to Alvin than being a brother to Simon and Theodore. It originally comes from the Old English name ‘Ælfwine’ meaning ‘a friend of the elves’. This cool and funky name reached its popularity peak in the 1920’s when 1,205 babies per million were Alvin. It is currently at number 897 for boys and has even been given to girls too, although it is the 10,486th most popular girls' name.
Ines is the Nordic spelling of Inés, a popular Spanish and Italian name. It is also widely used in France and in English would be known as ‘Agnes’. In Finland, Ines has a naming day on 29th August. It was first recorded in Sweden in 1842, so considering this is a medieval name, the Swedes were rather late to the party with this one.
Girls with this name dislike tradition, preferring adventure and travel. They are trustworthy and considerate girls, who may come across as quite shy at times.
Tyra has several origins from around the world. In Scandinavia, it refers to Tyr, the god of battle. He is also the lawgiver of the gods and was the leader of the Norse Pantheon until Odin took over. Tyr’s special day is a Tuesday.
Tyra can also be found in the Greek language meaning ‘untamed’ and in Scottish, meaning ‘land’.
Tyra is an independent person who likes to lead others with her powerful personality. Unique and creative, Tyra can be stubborn and proud.
Milo is one of those names that comes from lots of different places and has various different meanings. Popular across Europe, it is rooted in the Old Slavonic word ‘milu’, meaning ‘merciful’. It also comes from the German for ‘mild and calm’. Alternatively, the Old German word ‘milan’ meaning ‘to mill or crush’ is another origin.
Whatever the origin or meaning, Milo is a trendy boys’ name that is found throughout popular culture, from Batman’s enemy to Disney movies and children’s TV series.
This beautiful name is a version of the much more common Louisa. This, in turn, comes from the masculine name Louis, which comes from the quite amazing German name ‘Hluodowig’. Coming from ‘hluod’ meaning ‘famous’ and ‘wig’ meaning ‘war’, Lovisa ultimately translates as ‘famous in war’. It is pronounced ‘Loo-VEE-sah’.
This name has never ranked in the top 1000 baby name charts so makes a lovely and rare choice for your baby. It has been used in Sweden since the 17th century and became popular after King Adolf Frederick married Lovisa Ulrika of Prussia in 1744.
Pronounced ‘YOO-nee’, this is a cute version of ‘June’. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden this is the name for the summery sixth month of the year. Although Juni feels fresh and modern, it is actually derived from the Roman mythological goddess Juno, who was responsible for marriage and is the queen of the gods. Other variations of the name include Joni and Juna. Juni is currently at number 5,148 in the baby charts and after peaking in 2014 it is on the decline again.
What a stunning boy’s name for your new baby. This ancient name is pronounced ‘DAHN-tay’ and has notable namesakes throughout history from Dante Alighieri, 14th-century Italian poet, to Dante Basco, the modern American actor. The epic poem ‘Dante's Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso’ is probably one of the most famous uses of this lovely name.
From the Latin ‘durans’, this name is a short form of Durante, meaning ‘enduring or lasting’. Delicate yet manly, this trendy name will have all the other moms jealous.
Leia is a French variation on the Hebrew name Leah, which means ‘relaxed’. It is also popular in Hawaii, where it means ‘child of heaven’ or even ‘heavenly flowers’. In England, it means ‘meadow’. If you choose to use this name you will, of course, be instantly linked to the very famous Princess Leia from ‘Star Wars’, the daughter of Anakin Skywalker. If you don’t like this association you could use one of its many variations including Leiya, Laya, Léa, Lia, Leah, Lei or even Aleia or Maleia.
This gorgeous girl’s name is a brand new invention, only in use since the 1980’s and now hugely popular. It has already found its way into the top 60 baby names in Sweden. It comes from the verb ‘tindra’, which means ‘to shine or twinkle’, so makes a great alternative to other sparkly names such as ‘Star’ and ‘Stella’. As yet unknown in the USA, it is a Scandinavian favourite. It is also the name of a Norwegian folk band.
This elegant name is so rare that it is currently ranked down at number 18,620 in the baby name charts. The name has quite an interesting and noble background from the 13th century. At that time, Svantepolk of Viby, a Slavic lord of high nobility, settled in Sweden and his family line came to be known as the Svantes.
Throughout time Svante has kept a high profile in Sweden, being the name of a Lord High Chancellor, a 16th-century leader of the government and several governors.
Elina is a traditional name in Finland and used widely around Scandinavia. In ancient Sanskrit, it means ‘woman of intelligence’. It is also popular in Spain as a version of Helen, from the Greek word ‘ēlē’, meaning ‘light, torch or bright’.
Girls with this name are often restless and rebellious. They enjoy change and excitement and don’t like to live by traditional rules. Optimistic and energetic, Elina makes friends easily and loves being part of a community. Famous bearers include the Eurovision singer Elina Born.
Luna is quite famously linked to the moon. She was the Roman goddess of the moon, the equivalent of the Greek Selene. If you enjoy horoscopes and astrology, it is worth knowing that the sign of cancer is ruled by the moon, so anyone born between June 21st and July 22nd would make a great Luna. Girls with this name love to express themselves and be the centre of attention. They are creative and are drawn to the arts and physical creativity.