Norwegian Language Blog

Norwegian first names-norske fornavn Posted by on Oct 26, 2010 in Culture, Language

Now that you have learned about norske etternavn, it only makes sense to learn about norske fornavn.  There are many different origins of norske fornavn, such as biblical, historical, mythological, descriptive, or place-related.  Nearly every navn has a meaning which can be understood in most cases by simply picking up an ordbok (dictionary) or a bibel (Bible).  Prior to kristendom (Christianity) in Norway, navn typically derived from mythology, place, or from a plante (plant), dyr (animal), or farge (color), to name a few.  Norske kristne (Christian) navn look similar to kristne navn from other kristne land (countries), but of course are pronounced with norske lyder (sounds).

From the time kristendom up until the mid-19th century, priests encouraged the use of ´non-heathen´ navn, that is to say kristne navn.  During the nationalist movement in Norway after the crumbling of the union with Denmark, there was a revival of the old, pre-kristne navn in Norway.  Today, the use of kristne and non-kristne navn continues.

Many norske navn are present in both the male and female forms.  Male names often begin with a prefix such as Berg, Bjørn, Dag, Gaut, Geir, Gud, Halv, Har, Hjalm, Ing, Magn, Ragn, Stein, Svein, or Tor and often end in a suffix such as ar, bjørn, brand, dan, kjell, leif, tor, ulf, vard, or vor.  Similarly, female navn might begin with a prefix such as Aud, Bjørg, Frid, Gunn, Hild, Møy, Sne, Sol, Svan, Unn or Yn and end in a suffix such as borg, bjorg, frid, gerd, gunn, hild, run, siv, unn, or vild. All of these prefixes and suffixes are found in abundance in Norway today.  It is also common for parents to combine their navn or use one of their navn to name a child.  For example if the father´s navn is Bjørnar and the mother´s Hilde, the (female) child´s name might be Bjørnhild.  As in most cultures, many parents name their children after other family members.

Simple spelling differences indicate whether a navn is male or female, such as an ´a´or ´e´at the end.  For example, Helge is a male navn and Helga is a female navn.  Johanne or Johannes are male navn, while Johanna is a female navn.

Another thing to remember about norske navn is that many names look very similar to English names, except a ´C´becomes ´K´på norsk and a ´ph´becomes ´f´.  For example, Christian would be Kristian and Christopher would be Kristoffer.

Here is a fact about norske navn that may surprise you-since the 1800s, there has been a norsk lov (law) that regulates the naming of children to protect them from ´strange´or inappropriate navn.  I just came across an article on about a Norwegian woman who was jailed because she wouldn´t pay the fine for naming her child Gesher-the Hebrew word for bridge.  She was fined 1530 Norwegian crowns (about 200 USD) because the name was deemed inappropriate by the Norwegian government.  The name was not registered.  Crazy, huh?

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Louis Janus:

    Readers who are interested in Norwegian names might enjoy viewing / listening to the top 100 names on the CARLA website:

    MVH Louis