Did you know that the Vikings had a rich and vibrant culture that extended to their names?
Their naming process was complex and significant, so much so that it has been studied by experts throughout history.
In this blog post, we're going to take a detailed look at Viking names, from the formation of first names to the meanings of surnames.
Read on to learn more about this fascinating subject!
The formation of Viking names
In Old Norse, there were three main ways to form nouns. The most common method was alliteration, where two or more words began with the same sound or letter. Assonances were also widely used, that is, words that start with different letters but use the same vowel sound. Finally, variant spellings were also very popular among Viking parents to name their children.
Simple and compound nouns
Viking parents often opted for simple, one-word names, such as Olafr or Sigridr, but compound names (two or more words put together) were also popular. For example, Thorketill consisted of Thor (the god) and ketill (a cauldron).
Many compound names referred to gods like Odin and Thor, as well as elements of nature like earth (landi), sea (sævar), and stone (steinn).
Assignment of first names
Viking parents usually named their children a few weeks after birth in a special ceremony attended by family members and friends.
The name usually had a meaning; for example, if a mother wanted her child to be lucky, she could give him a name such as "Lucky" or "Lucky One".
Other times, the naming process might be based on the events surrounding an individual's birth; for example, if he was born in bad weather, he could be given a name like "Stormy" or "Rainy".
Nicknames and diminutives
Nicknames were very common among the Vikings. Sometimes they were part of an individual's official name, while other times they were used as informal references between friends or family members. The diminutives were also used in Old Norse. These are shortened versions of longer words, such as Olaf which becomes Ola or Sigrid which becomes Sigga.
The Vikings also used nicknames as part of their naming conventions. These could be based on physical characteristics or even personality traits. Examples include Borsson ("son of bear"), Gorm ("blue eyes"), Harald ("leader"), Ulf ("wolf"), Inge ("protector") and Gunnar ("bold warrior" ).
Surnames were not very common among the Vikings before the arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia around 1000 CE.
Previously, people generally identified themselves by their father's first name ending in -son; for example, Erik's son was named Eriksson while Olaf's son was named Olafsson.
This process is known as surname and is still used today in parts of Scandinavia, such as Iceland, where surnames are based on fathers' first names rather than surnames passed down from generation to generation. generation as in other countries.
Matronyms were less common than surnames, but some cultures practiced them; this is the case where a person takes their mother's first name instead of their father's, with a -sdotter ending added to the end (eg Maria's daughter would be Mariasdotter).
This type of naming system is particularly prevalent among the Sami people who live in northern Scandinavia today, as traditionally men would go away from home for long periods of time due to reindeer herding, so that the transmission of surnames by mothers became necessary so that families remained connected from one generation to the next without relying solely on the first names of fathers which could change.
List of given names in Old Norse
Hákon, Gunnarr, Björn, Ólafur, Eiríkr, Sigurðr, Guðmundur, Jón
Sigríður, Sveinnbjörg, Helga, Unnr/Unna/Unniþórunn, Gunnhildur, Ingibjörg, Jorunn.
These are the most common Old Norse names used by the Viking people; many of them are still in use today!
After conversion to Christianity With the arrival of Christianity in 1000 CE, many Vikings changed their surnames from patronymic forms based on the given names of their fathers before them to surnames derived from animals like fox, wolf, bear etc.
These animal-based surnames are still very popular among Norse people today: Viking naming traditions give us insight into how society functioned at that time. They show how important he was to individuals, families, clans, etc. to stay in touch with each other, even over great distances. They also give us insight into the virtues that people valued most at that time.
Whether you're looking for inspiration for your baby's name, researching your family tree, or just curious about Viking culture, understanding these naming conventions can provide you with valuable context. about what life was like back then.