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Viking Names

Viking Names

As discussed in our article about Viking Runes, the Vikings believed that words possessed real strength and power. Not surprisingly, names were important within Viking Culture and great care was given to the selection of a name. The runes provide us with excellent records of some of the Viking names in use by the powerful. It may be that there were other, more "common" names that are unrecorded.

Many Vikings possessed bynames. A byname is a secondary name, nickname, or descriptive term associated with a person. Some examples include the Viking kings Harald Bluetooth or Ivar the Boneless. Sometime the byname refers to location or kinship.

Bynames could also be acquired as a result of accomplishments of note. For instance "Erik the Fearless", or "Leif the Lucky" could refer to an event in the bearer's life.

A powerful name could protect the bearer and might have special powers associated with it. Viking names were NOT chosen lightly.

Viking Names for Girls

Astrid: beautiful, loved
Bodil: penance and fight
Frida: peace
Gertrud: spear
Gro: to grow
Estrid: god and beautiful
Hilda: the fighter
Gudrun: god and rune
Gunhild: fight
Helga: sacred
Inga: of the god Inge
Liv: of life
Randi: shield or shrine
Signe: the one who is victorious
Sigrid: victorious horsewoman
Revna: raven
Sif: wife and bride
Tora: of the god Thor
Tove: dove
Thyra: helpful
Thurid: Thor and beautiful
Yrsa: wild or she bear
Ulfhild: wolf or battle 
Åse: goddess

Viking Names for Boys

Arne: eagle   
Birger: keeper    
Bjørn: bear    
Bo: the resident   
Erik: absolute ruler   
Frode: wise and clever  
Gorm: he who worships god 
Halfdan: the half Danish   
Harald: lord and ruler  
Knud: knot    
Kåre: with curly hair   
Leif: descendant
Njal: giant    
Roar: fame and spear  
Rune: secret   
Sten: stone    
Skarde: with cleft chin  
Sune: son   
Svend: freeman who is in the service of another 
Troels: Thor’s arrow   
Toke: Thor and helmet   
Torsten: Thor and stone  
Trygve: trustworthy   
Ulf: wolf    
Ødger: wealth and spear  
Åge: man that ploughs; ancestor

As can be seen (particularly in the boy's names), some names must have originally attained use as physical descriptions and then transitioned into use as a regular given name. For example the name Skarde must have originated as a form of "nick-name"; perhaps used as a byname (e.g. Ulf Skarde) but we can guess that a cleft-chin was considered to be a good thing and accordingly, it becomes a stand alone given name at a later name.

One interesting boy's name is Knud (knot). Knots have been associated with magic throughout human history. Alexander cuts the Gordian knot and releases its king-making magic upon himself.


LastUpdate: 2018-12-02 02:38:58