Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fun Swedish Names!

One of the big challenges when having a baby in a multicultural family is choosing names that aren't too hard to pronounce, don't have strange foreign meanings, and both parties seem to like.

In Sweden they have this crazy rule that you actually have to have your child's name approved by the government before it is official. While this might be good for preventing children ending up with urban legand names like Female or Shithead, the Swedish government has been a stickler, surprisingly, for things like 'gender appropriate' names (No girls named Michael or Billy – No boys named Sue).

That means fun Swedish names are not all that crazy, but they are still fun.

I still don't know why whenever I mention to a Swede my age that Kai is one of my all-time favorite Swedish male names, I get a giggle or a funny look. Whatever. Kai is an awesome name. But sadly it was not given the seal of approval by my Swede and thus there are no little Kais in our family.

My favorite baffling Swedish name is one of the few girls names on the list:

Lillemor – This name means 'Little Mother.' Now I realize it is a rather old-fashioned and outdated name that hasn't become popular again amongst all of the new little Signes and Beas and Ingas (yes, we know some baby Ingas) – but I cannot imagine anyone looking down at their brand new little baby girl and thinking 'I shall call her Little Mother.'

Other names I enjoy:

Björn: means Bear – not unheard of in the states, I met a few Björns there. My favorite moment in My Sweet Sixteen is where the boy named Björn insists on being called Bezhourn.

Knut: This means knot. I like it a lot. A boy named knot.

Karl: This means man. A strange name for a little baby – but Man? Why not? I really like the nickname for Karl – Kalle.

I know a lot of English names have fun and crazy meanings, but mostly the meanings are derived from other languages. The fun with these names is also that they are the words you use in every day language. If you have a knot in your shoelace you have a Knut in your shoelace.

It's a bit like Stone Phillips or Rock Hudson.

I'm sure there are more fun Swedish names. But I can't think of them at the moment. What are your favorites?  


  1. There's also Bror (brother) and Syster (sister). Both old fashioned and not popular amongst today's kids, but never the less existing. And Stig (path)!

  2. Sixten and Gun should be quite entertaining for english speakers.

    Our previous minister of justice had an exceptional name when pronounced in english: Gun Hellsvik (Gun Hell's week)

  3. You can be named stone in Swedish too (Sten)

    Don't forget a classic - Steer bear (Styrbjörn)

    My cousin once fooled me to believe that you could be named Spjutbjörn (Speer bear). Thinking about it know... Why wouldn't you?!

  4. Oh, I should totally ask you to vet my potential baby names for how they come off in Swedish! Like connotations. I think we did fine with our girl's name (chosen because it is spelled same in English/Swedish, pronounced nearly the same, and is not-so-common in the US but not-weird in Sweden) but now we will be needing a new name!

  5. Here are some more:

    Dag (day)
    Rita (to draw/sketch)
    Lina (line/rope)
    Linda (swaddle or twine/wind)
    Meta (to angle)
    Tova (tangle)
    Fred (peace)
    Bo (den)
    Axel (shoulder)

  6. The interesting thing about living in another language, for me, and especially trying to teach That One Guy I Live With Swedish, was realizing how important accent (as in emphasis, not the other one) and melody is in Swedish. Lillemor (which is my mom's name, she was born in 1942, and it never ceases to amuse me when my inlaws are trying to pronounce her name) has a very different accent pattern than the words "lille" as in say, "den lille pojken" and "mor" on their own. Which is probably why people don't think very much about it's meaning.

    Re Björn, it's actually a remnant of a naming pattern that was common in the Scandinavian area pre-medieval and early medieval times, where names were a conjunction of two words (ex Styrbjörn, or Torbjörn) where the latter part was often an animal. With time, the descriptive parts fell away. The same thing happened with Ulf, by the way, from old word for wolf, 'ulv'. Ylva is the feminine version of the same name, but no one thinks of it meaning 'she-wolf' because it's less obvious.

    Oh, and laws re gender specific names have been revised lately, to the relief of at least me. I'll show you some more info when I find it.

  7. My FIL's first name not given name is Knut and I love it but they all think it is old fashioned. My SIL is pregnant and what she is planning on naming her baby is the same as a very famous model with a show about modeling and a talk show.

    Yep that very annoying lady, Tyra Banks!! And their last name actually sounds alot like the models. When my husband brought this up to his mom he was told off on how the baby was being born in Sweden not America and to basically keep our pie holes shut.

  8. The subject of names is very interessting . I am all for chosing names that are interational and multicultural. Are there no rules at all of what you can name or not name your baby in the states?

    Another funny Swedish names for a boy I think is: Love. In English this just does not really work to call your son Love.

    Now I also came to think of a Norwegian name for boys that is weird. The name is believe it or not: Odd (does not work in English because ha ha it is what it is, odd).

    I think there are so many cool names in English. Came to think of two baby boys I know. One named Ridge and the other Cash.

  9. Why couldn't those names work if english speaking people can call their kids "Dick"? :)

  10. Haha - these are really great - thanks guys - cannot believe I forgot so many - LO needs to learn to take longer naps so I can focus more on my posts :)!

    @ Pauline I would love to be able to say 'This is my Sister 'Syster.' - but although I know a Stig I totally didn't think about the meaning of the word - strange thing that, isn't it.

    @Antropologa - I think in the end we just decided to go with names we like and the rest be damned. I can't believe I forgot to add one of my favorite Swedish female names 'Saga' which might have a more dramatic meaning to some English speakers, but I love the sound of it and that it means 'story.'

    @ulrika - Wow it is amazing how many everyday names you forget the meaning of, I know lots of folks with those names but never thought about it before. But yes I guess Bo does mean live and Axel means shoulder. I didn't realize Meta was a name - yes it means to angle - but I like the modern meaning too.

    @Mazui - Gun, can't believe I forgot Gun. And it's a woman's name, too - isn't it? Dick is actually a nickname for Richard and I have never understood that one. But if American reality TV is to be believed things are much worse there - I saw a woman named Tequila and one named AquaNet (a brand of hairspray).

    @Elin - haha, I guess you could get a little creative there and fool us 'new Swedes.' I haven't met a styrbjorn yet, but I'll be on the lookout,.

  11. @T-anna - interesting about Lillemor - I just remember the first time I heard it, being introduced to a Lillemor I did a double take. But I guess it was also me trying to get the name right. Interesting about Ylva as well -didn't realize that's what it is from.

    As for the gender names - I think you are right - there was a case that the rule was overturned when a transgender person appealed the decision - but there was that strange period of time where you could name your daughter Metallica but not Joey. Strange days :)

    @Hemborg - haha, names are so sensitive - we didn't tell anyone anything about our babies name before they were born because I didn't want to hear any opinions about it :)

    @Desiree - Nope, no rules on naming your child. Rah rah freedom and stuff :). That's why there is the famous myth about children named Female - pronounced Femily - because the hospital named the baby. I think multicultural names can be really interesting - but man it's not an easy process finding ones everyone likes!!

  12. Wah, getting government approval is sad. :C I mean sure it is probably nice not being named Lemonjello or something, but names are meant to develop! For example, back in the day I bet Madison would not be considered an appropriate girl's name. But then it became really popular- if the name was denied because of the government, then... I dunno. I guess I am surprised that in Sweden they make sure the name is sex-appropriate.

  13. I always thought I´d give my children ancient Norwegian names...until I married a Greek. But having an ancient Norwegian name myself - that no one can pronounce - I do admit you make it easier on your kids giving them names people manage to both pronounce and spell.
    Btw, Ulrika: Tova (and Tove) comes from Torfrid (meaning the beauty of Tor) - and has nothing to do with the verb tova...:)

  14. I wanted to name my baby boy Kai but my Swedish husband gave me a weird look as well! It's a cool name! So likewise, no little Kais in the family :(

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  16. KALLE HAHAHHAHA Kalle Blomkvist.

  17. Hampas. Because it sounds like 'hump us' in English. I had to explain to my wife it would be like naming a kid Yukus.

    1. Hmm, I would be more afraid of the kid being called Hamp-ass -- But Yukus is hysterical - do you think it would get past the Swedish naming board?

  18. In theory "Urban Dick-Jerker" would make fully legitimate swedish man's first names :D