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Hva heter du? (What’s your name?) Jeg heter… (My name is…) Talking about navn (name/s) is important when making new friends. Let’s look at Norwegian naming traditions!
Ola & Kari Nordmann are like the Norwegian versions of Uncle Sam – a man and a woman representing the ”typical” nordmann (Norwegian). Like all nordmenn, they have a fornavn (first name) followed by an etternavn (last name). The etternavn is the one to look for in a printed list – the Internet, of course, doesn’t really care which name you google! 🙂
When two people gifter seg [yeefter say] (marry) in Norway, the woman traditionally takes her husband’s etternavn. This is still very common in Norway, even if there are lots of other options now (the woman keeping her last name, the man taking hers, same-sex marriage etc.) Some people choose to keep their old family name as a mellomnavn (middle name). Let’s suppose Kari had the last name Fjell before marrying Ola Nordmann – it would then be possible for her to call herself Kari Fjell Nordmann.
The 10 most popular jentenavn (girls’ names) in 2016 were:
Nora, Emma, Sara, Sofie, Sofia, Maja, Olivia, Ella, Ingrid, Emilie
And the corresponding guttenavn (boys’ names) were:
William, Oskar, Lucas, Mathias, Filip, Oliver, Jakob, Emil, Noah, Aksel
If those names were not as exotic as you had hoped for, there are still many, many traditional names in use, including Gro, Guro, Gunnhild, Aslaug, Bjørg, Åsne, Ingvil, Hilde, Vilde, Jorunn, Siri, Silje, Rannveig, Solveig, Synnøve for women and Olav, Harald, Håkon, Guttorm, Gunnar, Aslak, Atle, Bjarne, Børge, Sverre, Sigurd, Finn, Geir, Stig, Stian, Kjetil, Øystein for men… Lots of these were used in vikingtida (the Viking Age), too!
Fun fact: Don’t be surprised if you meet a Norwegian called Per Olav or Anne Elisabeth! Double names are a very old ”trend”. Sometimes a child gets a name from each grandparent (of the same sex) – for example, maybe Per Olav’s two granddads were called Olav and Per Isak.
There are different kinds of etternavn in Norway:
nature names which mean things like ”Mountain”, ”Field”, ”Cottage” etc. Each of these was once taken from the name of the gård (farm) where the original family lived. Examples: Li, Fjell, Berg, Vik, Næss, Sørebø, Bondevik.
What is your favourite Norwegian name?