Personal names of the Scandinavian Realm

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In the Scandinavian Realm, it is mandatory in formal settings for all citizens to use the same personal naming convention without regards to ethnicity.


In the 18th century, all the nobility, clergy, and burghers of Scandinavia used family names. Among the peasantry, only heirs to free farms tended to use family names, while the rest used patronymics instead. In the German states and the tropical colonies, everyone used family names.

The near exclusive use of patronyms by the Scandinavian peasantry created many problems in society, and it was aggravated by the fact that there was a very small inventory of names among the fathers. This was due especially to the name-giving tradition where the oldest sons and daughters were named after their grandparents, and so the oldest in a group of related children often had identical names. In the end, it became difficult for the government to determine who was who, and who was related to who.

The situation can be illustrated from a Danish register from 1652. Out of 3700 names, 2800 were carried by males from the peasantry. Of these, 73% consisted of just ten different personal names, while the remaining 27% consisted of 109 different personal names.

In 1771, Schleswig successfully implemented a surname reform by requiring all baptismals from the same family to adopt the same family name. The same was tried for the rest of Scandinavia in 1828. However, this was met with fierce resistance from among the peasantry as well as non-peasant parents. The former were were not willing to give up the use of patronymics, while the latter saw the use of family names as a privilege.

In 1856, a compromise surname reform was implemented with better success. It forced all citizens to adopt a patronymic as well as a family name. Existing noble family names were protected by law. Those that did not have a family name had to decide on one, which then had to be accepted by the College of the Church and the King-of-arms.

In 1889, when the new Riksmål orthography was implemented, all patronymics had to be spelled in Riksmål. Thus, male patronymics are spelled with -sen and female patronymics are spelled with -sdotter. All other names retain (for the most part) their pre-Riksmål spelling forms.

Order of names

Minimally, citizens must have a given name, followed by a patronymic, and followed finally by a family name. Optionally, one or more middle names can be used after the given name. The formula is thus:

Given_name (Middle_name/s) Patronymic Family_name

A given name can be single or double. In the latter case, both names are of equal importance. A well-known example is perhaps Jens Christian Andersen, whose given name is not just "Jens" nor "Christian", but "Jens Christian".

Middle names are optional. They can be any kind of name: another given name, a patronymic, or a family name; and they can be male or female regardless of the bearers sex. Middle names typically honour a relative, an ancestor, or a family friend. This is where the parents really get to be creative. They are only used in official settings.

The patronymic is the name of the father followed by -sen if male, or -sdotter if female. Adopted children use the name of their adopted father. Illegitimate children without fathers use a matronymic (i.e., name of the mother followed by -sen or -sdotter) instead of the patronymic. In recent years, matronymics have become more popular, especially among homosexual and feminist parents.

Families with noble roots have family names that could refer to a presumed or real forefather (e.g. Folkunge -- an ancient Swedish royal dynasty) or to the family's coat of arms (e.g. Gyldenfeldt "Goldenfield"). In many surviving noble family names from Scandinavia proper, such as Cederqvist ("cedar-twig") or Stiernhielm ("Star-helmet"), the spelling is obsolete and does not follow Riksmål orthography.

Families with non-noble roots often indicated the original place of residence of the family, like Bergmann ("Mountain-man"), Holberg ("Hole Mountain"), Hvidsteen ("White Rock"), and Åkerlund ("Fieldgrove"). Denmark has a high incidence of family names derived from those of farms, as signified with the suffix -gaard, like Kierkegaard ("Churchyard"), Lynggaard ("Heathfarm"), Søndergaard ("Southernfarm"), and Lykkegaard ("Happyfarm"). A few have family names that reflect a trade, like Schrøder (German for "Tailor"), Fisker (Scandinavian for "Fisher"), Bager (Scandinavian for "Baker"), or Broewer (Cruzan for "Brewer").

Sample analysis of a complete name

An example of a complete personal name in the Scandinavian Realm is:

Åse Marie Frederik Hartvik Kajsdotter Setterdahl

The given name of this individual is Åse Marie. Her middle names are Frederik Hartvik. Apparently she has been named after her grandfather on her mother's side Frederik Hartvik; Frederik being a male name and Hartvik the family name in her mother's side. Her patronym is Kajsdotter, after her father Kaj. Finally, her family name is Setterdahl.

Scandinavian names of non-European origins

Since the Scandinavian Realm is a multinational state, personal names are not only of European origins, but can also be of Guinean, Greenlandic, or Asian origins. One will get exotic Scandinavian personal names like Ponnambalam Xenius Rámanaþhansen Tillali from Tranquebar, Eric Sjaubing Veilisen Ling from Tsingdav, or Satorina Alluaqsdotter Egede from Greenland.