I have just been reading a novel by an Icelandic writer called YRSA Sigardarsdottir. Apart from the fact that it was a good book I was intrigued by some of the names. As you are our regular Scndinavian expert, would you be able to tell us a bit about how some of the names are pronounced - YRSA is one, then the heroine is [name]Thora[/name] with an acute accent on the o. There is a little girl called GUDNY (which reminded me of my Norwegian penpal’s name, Oddny).

Also can you explain the system where women are called “dottir” and men “son”? If Yrsa Sigardsdottir is the daughter of Sigard, does she take her husband’s surname on marriage?

[name]How[/name] are you doing Dearest?


I second [name]Ailsa[/name]'s call for Dearest! I [name]LOVE[/name] Icelandic names! I have an Icelandic friend who used to work with me, before she married and moved back to Iceland, and I always though she had the coolest name. It was Hrafnhildur, and I believe it meant raven-something. I’m eagerly awaiting Dearest’s Scandinavian expertise!

– [name]Nephele[/name]

Well, Dearest , I have been doing a bit of research, and have found a great site on Icelandic forenames. (I will tell you details if anyone is interested). I have emailed them to ask them for some hints on pronounciation!

[name]Hope[/name] you are well?

POOF She’s here ^^

I come when I am needed… XD
Yrsa is lovely [name]Ailsa[/name]!! [name]Even[/name] in Norwegian (and not all Norwegian names are, like [name]Ingrid[/name]), but she looks very odd, like there should be another vowel in there or something… I’ll try to explain the pronunciations, but expect directions on how to shape your mouth, because that’s what it takes to get the vowels right!

Yrsa is two syllables, the ‘r’ is harsh like in French or the ‘j’ in Spanish, and the ‘Y’ (prepare yourselves) is like EE only mixed with an A… If you say EE out loud, your lips will move back into a smile. You need to move your lips together as if you were saying YOU and then a tiny bit more. (your upper lip should feel like it’s pursed or forced to form a straight angle) This will make it easier for you to get the sound right so you can hear it, and you can find an easier way to replicate the sound later on. The ‘a’ is like the French, think [name]Armande[/name] perhaps (I’m not sure if French is easier for you, but here’s hoping ^^) It’s like a mix of an O and an A, think [name]Olivia[/name]/[name]Alivia[/name] and it’s not too hard to imagine… the stress is on the ‘Yr’ part (which is actually the Norwegian word for light drizzle XD )
[name]Thora[/name] is also hard to explain, the ‘o’ being another vowel you just don’t have in the English language… The ‘r’ is French/Spanish again, the ‘Th’ is said as if the ‘h’ wasn’t there ([name]Tora[/name]), the ‘a’ is like in Yrsa again, and the ‘o’… Let’s see… Make the same formation with your lips like you do when you whistle, bend your lips upwards a bit so that when you try to whistle, only the air and not the sound comes out (unless your try very hard, or you’re really good at whistling), then say ‘o’ or maybe a mix of and ‘o’ and a ‘u’? It’s a very, very deep sound… the stress is on the first syllable which includes the ‘o’ …
Gudny is GOOD-nee only the ‘ee’ is like in Yrsa (being the Scandinavian Y)… Good is luckily very similar in sound to ‘Gud’, but I think it will vary slightly depending on your accent… If you say it in a “standardised” way, it will be as close to accurate as you can get…

The ‘dottir’ and ‘son’ thing is only used in Iceland by rule these days, but I see a few young Norwegian parents using it in addition to an inherited last name, think Oddny Larsdotter [name]Hansen[/name] (dotter/datter being the Norwegian word for daughter, depending on your preferred written language. Dottir is Icelandic, naturally)… I kind of love that they’re doing it, it’s a fantastic tradition IMHO ^^ I would be Olavsdotter like that, which would be fantastic!
Women who marry keep their last names, but I don’t know the reasoning behind that… The obvious would be because their father is still their father even though they’ve married, and will stay so for all eternity something the husband might not do. Also, she’s not her father in law’s daughter… ^^

Hrafnhildur is ‘raven-something’ yes! Hrafn is [name]Raven[/name], Ravn in Norwegian (and a pretty boys’ name!), and [name]Hildur[/name] is [name]Hilde[/name]/[name]Hilda[/name] which means “battle/war”… The initial ‘H’ is silent, the ‘r’ being the first letter and again, think French! the ‘l’ as well is slightly different, if you smile more as you say it, and make it harder, or more curt, less like you have a potato in your mouth when you say it, it will sound more like the Norwegian L… The ‘u’ is also a problem, think [name]Julie[/name], and isolate the ‘u’ sound. Pay attention as you say it to make not of how the mouth is shaped and how the tongue is positioned… The last ‘r’ is like the last one, only almost silent… It’ss there, but a LOT softer than the “French” I instructed you to say earlier… The sound is still the same, but not as harsh…

I hope this makes sense to you both! [name]Don[/name]'t hesitate to let me know if something is unclear, I love to help out as best I can :smiley:

And I’m doing fantastic [name]Ailsa[/name], thank you for asking ^^ We’re having our usual autumnal rains, and I just had to get my winter coat out for my walk to work today, so I can feel the seasons changing, which is always lovely! I have a very uneventful life this year, mostly by choice, so I’m just enjoying the time well spent on things I love :slight_smile:

Many thanks, Dearest, for clearing up Hrafnhildur for me. I’d always pronounced my friend’s name with a preceding “h” sound, and I guess she was too polite to correct me! Hahaha! Next time we meet, I am going to impress her by pronouncing her name correctly!

– [name]Nephele[/name]

Thanks Dearest!

My favorite Icelandic name right now has to be Sumarlina.

Thanks Dearest - I would like you to do a blog please. You tell us such interesting things, and it is such a specialised area. I did hear back from that statistics site, but they could not help me with pronounciation. Some of the names on the lists were REALLY interesting, so I am going to make a list and ask you about them, if I may!

[name]Glad[/name] you are well and still with us.

I love the way you are called Dearest - it makes me smile. Did you ever see the Blackadder comedy programmes, with that man whose surname was Darling? It reminds me of that.


Yes, days are getting shorter, leaves are falling, conkers are here. I wore my boots for the first time since [name]April[/name], today

@ [name]Nephele[/name] - You’re welcome! But keep in mind that although Norwegian and Icelandic are very similar, I might be slightly off as I’m not a native speaker… As far as I know, I explained it right, but a native Icelandic speaker might argue on tidbits. ^^ The silent h’s and often d’s are very common, I have both in my name, pronounced something like AU-sill but spelled Ashild (the A being that funky Scandinavian vowel that looks like an A with a tiny circle above it)…

@ Shaymin - I’m glad you found it interesting as well ^^ Sumarlina is very nice, as well as Sumarlidi… Sumarlina is SOO-mahr-[name]LEE[/name]-nah, very simple for your English tongue, which actually makes it usable outside of Scandinavia! :slight_smile:

@ [name]Ailsa[/name] - I’m happy to help in every way I can, so go right ahead with your list, I’ll be happy to explain the pronunciation nuances to you along with some history perhaps ^^
And I’m happy you like my username, I quite love it myself! I haven’t seen all of Blackadder, it’s too stressful to be my kind of humour… I started at the beginning once, but didn’t get very far before I gave up… ^^

I find this very interesting. Thanks for all the info Dearest, and thanks [name]Ailsa[/name] for invoking it with your questions! It’s not one of the usual nationalities that inspire name-givers in the US (unless they have heritage to go by), but it should be! Such fantastic naming.

I find the surnames in the Scandinavian tradition fairly intriguing, with the -sen/sons and drs (I found all names were like Johannsdr, not spelled out like dotter) but also frustrating. A while back, I tried to discover my Norwegian roots and got stumped by a cluster of Olys and Johanns. Since the father may name his son after himself, or his father or brother, it just goes round and round with the common names, and it’s difficult to be sure if they are my own relation. It’s been a few years, maybe there are more records online now, so this post nudge me to give it a new look.

I don’t know any other people with this background or who lives in this region of the world, so I appreciate the subject, even if I’m not from Iceland.

Thanks again Dearest. Did you say you have children, and if you have (or even if you don’t yet) do you think you would use Norwegian names, and if so, which ones?

I agree with [name]Karen[/name] that this is a huge untapped source of naming traditions, and I hope we can take it a bit further, with Dearest’s help! I wonder if there are any other people out there with Scandinavian roots to help Dearest with the load?!

When I lived in [name]Scotland[/name], I had a very good friend whose father was Icelandic and was very well known in the UK ([name]Magnus[/name] Magnussen). I am still in touch with her, although she is very busy with TV work etc, and living on a huge farm, and having five children. So I must ask her more next time I write! I will let you all know any further interesting bits. [name]Sally[/name] called two of her boys Sigi and [name]Magnus[/name], and her daughter is [name]Anna[/name]-[name]Lisa[/name].

Off to compile that list for you now, Dearest! (Can you give us some hints about your own name or do you prefer total anonymity?)


@ [name]Karen[/name] - I’m glad you find it interesting as well, I really love being of help to people ^^

@ [name]Ailsa[/name] - I don’t have children myself yet, I’m only 19 :slight_smile: I plan on having at least six if I can find a decent guy with the same ambition ^^ Our paths haven’t crossed yet…
Being a name nerd, I have already considered names for them, and I’ve reached the conclusion to use one international name and one super Nordic one, because there are so amny pretty Nordic names, but I don’t want my children to feel awkward with an impossible to pronounce name overseas…
My current Norwegian favourites:


As for more Norwegian names to export, I’m orking on a list of traditional Nordic names that wouldn’t have too much trouble integrating in English speaking countries… It’s taking some time, but I hope to have it done soon… That would give people an alternative to [name]Lars[/name] and [name]Ingrid[/name] if they ant to honour their Scandinavian heritage ^^

I think i’ve mentioned my name twice already! In my last post in the section to [name]Nephele[/name], and in another thread… I’m worried it will disrupt this post, as it has an unfamiliar character, but it’s Ashild, the A being the Scandinavian vowel that sounds something like AU, and is an A with a tiny circle over it… Pronunciation is something like AU-sill and it means “God’s warrior maiden” XD Very Viking inspired! I’m named after my two grandmothers Ragnhild and Asbjoerg (the A again being the AU and the OE being the Scandinavian vowel that looks like an ‘o’ with a line through it)
If you go to the link above, you should be able to find more information by clicking “Norwegian Names” in the sidebar and finding the right initial… ^^

And I’ll be waiting for your list! :slight_smile:


Thank you so much dearest! And yes, I do remember you saying before that you were only 19, although I missed reading your name. Which is very interesting and intriguing and pretty, by the way.

[name]Will[/name] it be too much bother to go through the list of names that you gave for prospective use and tell us how to pronounce them, individually? I will then send you some more to work on in your spare time!

I am still hoping to unearth some Scandinavian heritage. I have a lot of ancestors from Northumberland and the [name]North[/name] [name]East[/name] coast of [name]Britain[/name], and the children’s dad is Scottish, so there is quite a good chance that there is some Viking in us too. I do hope so! It is too late for using in my own childrens names, but for the prospective grandchildren in the future maybe? . . . . . . .

Looking forward to hearing from you.


You’re very, very welcome [name]Ailsa[/name] ^^ I love to contribute like this!
I’m happy you like my name, but have to admit I don’t have very high regards for it myself… I can appreciate it’s qualities from afar, but I don’t like having it as my own name… For some reason, it doesn’t sound like me at all, and I feel very strange using it in reference to myself… I just don’t feel very connected to it at all. I’m not sure if that’s normal though, I haven’t really asked people a lot ^^ [name]Do[/name] you feel connected to your name [name]Ailsa[/name]? Like it’s really yours, or a good representation of you?

As for my list of Norwegian names, I’ll go through them quickly with some pronunciation hints ^^
[name]Sol[/name] - One syllable, the ‘o’ is like the one in [name]Thora[/name], the ‘l’ is said without the potato in your mouth… If you pull your tongue further back, you’ll get it right…
[name]Rima[/name] - The French ‘r’ again, [name]REE[/name]-ma
Mist - Exactly the same as the English word ^^ Easy for once
[name]Lilja[/name] - [name]LIL[/name]-ya, both L’s like in [name]Sol[/name], Norwegian word for [name]Lily[/name]
Emerenze - em-eh-[name]REN[/name]-seh, with the French ‘r’
Lerke - LER-keh, again with the ‘l’ like in [name]Sol[/name], Norwegian word for [name]Lark[/name]
[name]Liva[/name] - [name]LEE[/name]-vah, the L like in [name]Sol[/name] (it’s like this in all Norwegian names, so just assume that from now on…)
[name]Eir[/name] - AEER, the E like the A in [name]Annie[/name], pronouncing both the A and the EE… The ‘r’ again.
[name]Abelone[/name] - [name]Ab[/name]-eh-LO-neh, the ‘o’ like in [name]Thora[/name], Danish form of [name]Apollonia[/name], actually ^^
[name]Minna[/name] - MI-nah, very short ‘i’, means memory I think…
[name]Edel[/name] - E-del, very long E, like the E in [name]Ethel[/name], only it doesn’t sound like EH like it does in [name]Ethel[/name]… This is the traditional pronunciation of the E in Norway, which you should keep in mind when pronouncing the other names as well, [name]Eir[/name] in particular… Norwegian word for [name]Noble[/name]
[name]Erla[/name] - ER-lah, with all the rules I’ve mentioned previously
Olava - o-LA-vah, the ‘o’ like in [name]Thora[/name], only not where the stress is…
Thomine - [name]TOM[/name]-ee-neh, [name]Tom[/name] said the English way, meaning not [name]Thora[/name]'s ‘o’
Ovidia - o-VEE-dee-ah, with [name]Thora[/name]'s ‘o’ ^^

Ravn - French ‘r’, one syllable, pretty straightforward… ‘a’ like [name]Armand[/name]
Engel - ENG-ell, very important to get the initial E right, as it’s not Ingel… ^^ Means [name]Angel[/name], long history as boys’ name
Lage - LA-ge, long A like [name]Armand[/name]
[name]Imre[/name] - EEM-reh, the EE being very short, the ‘r’ again
[name]Iben[/name] - EE-ben, this time the EE is long like in English
Emre - [name]EM[/name]-reh, the E is important again
Emrik - [name]EM[/name]-rick, with a French R
Gard - GARD, kind of like ‘guard’ only shorter and with a Norwegian ‘r’ (aka French)
Theis - TEIS, ask me if this is unclear, I think I’ve explained the sounds enough times for you to get it right…
Amandus - a-MANN-dus, the ‘u’ being the issue… Big issue… Make a kissing mouth, exaggerate it and try to say boo-hoo. Isolate the ‘oo’ sound and make it sharper by pushing you lips forward while you say it… It should become more distinct, and it should feel like it’s coming from the area around the back of your tongue…
Amund - A-mund, the A being very long, and the ‘u’ like in Amandus, the ‘d’ is practically silent…
Ask - ASK, very short A!! not like the English word at all! Norwegian word for ash tree
Bror - BROR, the Norwegian R’s and [name]Thora[/name]'s ‘o’, Norwegian word for ‘brother’
[name]Matteus[/name] - ma-TE-us, very long E, all other rules apply
Evar - E-var, very long E, very short ‘var’, all rules apply
[name]Alvar[/name] - [name]AL[/name]-var, see ‘Evar’
Frimann - [name]FREE[/name]-mann, very long EE, very short ‘mann’, remember the ‘a’

I hope you find some Scandinavian roots in your family, that would be awesome :slight_smile:

I’m eagerly awaiting your list, but please let me know if I stop making sense… This has been rather a busy week, so my posting has been late at night which can be a bad thing at times… ^^


[name]Edit[/name]: I think I just found a good name to illustrate my name’s ‘feel’ in Norway: [name]Paulette[/name]. Comprised of two elements found in different names, the first for both genders, most popular in the 40’s, but never that much used, and not too pretty and fashionable today. My name is the Norwegian equivalent of [name]Paulette[/name]! :smiley:

Talking of posting late at night, Dearest - it is now here in [name]Wales[/name], and I can’t sleep. It has been a stressful week and I got some bad news today, so here I am on Nameberry while the rest of the UK snores . . . . . .

I will answer you properly over the weekend, but it is an interesting question about feeling like your name belongs to you. I wonder why your pretty name Ashild does not really feel like “you” to you? Of course, I have had a lot longer with [name]Ailsa[/name] belonging to me! I am in my fifties now, and have been answering to [name]Ailsa[/name] for a long time! Because it is unusual, and I have rarely even heard of other Ailsas, let alone come across any real-life ones, I have to say that it DOES seem like me. If someone was to call out “[name]Ailsa[/name]” in a crowded room, I would know without doubt that they would be calling to me. If my name was, say, [name]Liz[/name] or [name]Sue[/name], I would not be so certain! So this has helped me identify strongly with my given name, although as I have said before, I have had a lifetime of having to spell it for people, and correct people - even people like my godmother and my next-door neighbour who have known me for ages! People rarely get it right if I spell it out over the phone, and I recently had to return a work contract to the HR department because they had called me [name]Alisa[/name], even though I had clearly typed my name correctly on the application form. People just seem to see my name, and their brain seems to say [name]ALISA[/name] because perhaps that is more usual? I dont know. I am rambling, now Dearest - the two o’clock ramblings of an insomniac Welsh woman with an unpronouncable name.

I will be working through my lists over the weekend, including the pronunciations you have just kindly sent me. The icelandic site is quite long. It would be helpful if you would give me your email address. Mine is [name]Do[/name] you know the name [name]Asta[/name], by the way? I am just thinking of [name]Barbara[/name] [name]Vine[/name]'s wonderful book [name]ASTA[/name]'s BOOK, which is about a Danish woman. ([name]Vine[/name] is herself half Danish, and also known as [name]Ruth[/name] Rendell of course).

Must make a cup of tea now and try and go back to sleep. A cup of tea is my answer for everything. Typically British!


PS sorry, I know you are Norwegian, so sorry if I am presuming you know everything about [name]Sweden[/name], Denmark, Finland and Iceland etcetc as well!!! But let’s face it, you are far more likely to have expert knowledge than anyone else!


I’m familiar with [name]Asta[/name] ^^ In my books it’s a short form of [name]Astrid[/name], pronounced AS-tah, the ‘AS’ being like the initial sound of ‘assault’… It had it’s peak around 1900, and has been practically out of use since the 60’s, although there are 1100 [name]Asta[/name]'s in Norway today… ^^

And I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a bad week. That makes me sad, because I really like you. I’ll be thinking about you, hoping everything is okay… :slight_smile:

I’m not entirely sure why my name doesn’t feel like my own… It’s not like I don’t look up when someone calls my name, there aren’t many called Ashild in my area, but I think my distaste for my name might have something to do with the meaning. “God’s Warrior Maiden” is so far from everything I am and could ever want to be… Since I was named after my grandmothers, I also don’t feel that my name was given to me for my sake, but for theirs, and that makes the name more theirs than mine… I don’t want to be the product of trying to please everyone, I want a name entirely in my own right, given to me with special consideration to my liking it, and it’s meaning, the way I intend to name my children… I guess my dislike for my name may just stem from my ever growing need for being unique, to have something of my very own to grow within like my siblings have… A speciality of some kind… There’s a LOT of psychology in it I guess ^^

I always thought [name]Ailsa[/name] was a beautiful name, so I’m happy to hear how you relate to it in a good way… I think I first heard it on ‘Home and Away’ as [name]Alf[/name]'s wife, and was always intrigued by it… :slight_smile:

My email address is … The double A is an alternative way of writing my initial ^^
And I’m not sire if this is going to make a difference, but it might cheer you up: I’ve recently come to discover that I think of you as my first internet friend! :smiley: At least my first with some significance beyond light-hearted chatter buddy to pass time. I love that!

I wish you all good things, and look forward to helping you some more with those tricky Icelandic names!
And about my ‘expertise’, I’m okay for pronunciations and some history, as long as you don’t ask me about Finnish names!! I’m a lot less confident there ^^

[name]Love[/name] xx

Well thank you Dearest, I am flattered and honoured to be your best internet buddy! I have always been proud that I have friends of all ages - one of my best friends is twenty years younger than me, but it doesn’t seem to make a jot of difference, so I am thrilled to have a pal who is just 19! You are very intelligent and perceptive and thoughtful for your age.

I will email you soon. Thank you for trusting me with your email address. I have made a lot of really really good friends on this site, and think it is fabulous!

[name]Asta[/name] would have been a very good choice for the heroine in [name]Barbara[/name] [name]Vine[/name]'s book [name]ASTA[/name]'S BOOK, then, as it was written at the turn of the last century. She had a sister called [name]Swanhilde[/name], nn [name]Swanny[/name]!


What are the ^^ to signify? or is it just your “calling card” as it were? Whenever I see them, I think they are Norwegian mountains!!!

Thank you for your kind words, I love having you as a friend…
Regarding [name]Swanhilde[/name], the most used version in Norway is Svanhild, the name of 2900 Norwegian ladies… I had no idea she was that common, more than [name]Asta[/name] actually! She had her peak in the 30’s, but the [name]Swanhilde[/name] version is a lot older, I’d say 18th-19th century…

I should have guessed you wouldn’t know what the ^^ signifies, but it’s actually a smiley, same league as :slight_smile: only cuter… It’s supposed to look like two eyes squinted together due to the whole face smiling/laughing… That said, it has become kind of a trademark for me, because I use it all the time! I actually have to restrain myself and use alternatives or just nothing at all at times, because it pops up everywhere almost on reflex… ^^


ooh. I want my own smiley. <>