If you are into pre-historic period stuff and you have been looking at different events of the Viking Age, one of the things you may have noticed because it really stood out has to do with the names of the Vikings. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the Viking names and what they meant/ mean.
During the Viking Age, the Vikings were named rather differently, with the names of boys and girls named dependent on the seasons and what was being celebrated. The boys, for example, were named after the god Thor and they’d be called Thorsten and Toke.
Besides names associated with the gods, the Viking names that were popular were associated with animals, which is why it isn’t an unusual thing to meet Vikings going by names like Orm for Serpent, Bjørn for bear, and Ulf for a wolf.
Often the names settled on by Vikings represent their way of celebrating the formidable enemies of the gods. For example, Midgard the serpent and Fenrir the wolf are beasts that had to be defeated by the Norse gods at Ragnarök.
There also are cases where the names selected could have special powers that are attributed to them. The name Frida, for example, means ‘peace’ while the name Astrid means ‘beautiful and loved,’ and perhaps a highly sought after woman. However, the meaning of the name Astrid is contrasted to the name Hilda, a name meaning ‘the fighter.’ Notably, the names used by the Vikings were meant to give them strength as well as protection. But that is not all, with the names in the Viking Age used today – there still are names from the Viking Age used today, for example, Erik, Rune, Tove, and Sigrid; all some of the most common names used in Denmark.
So, where do the Viking names come from?
While some Viking names are derived from places and runic inscriptions, there are few foreign sources with mentions of the names used by the Vikings. However, most of the names for the Vikings were specific to Scandinavia, which means that names can be distinguished easily from the names common to other reasons. Most of the names common in the Viking communities in most parts of England, for example, are mainly from the men going for expeditions.
The Vikings also have a renowned naming tradition with roots in the preceding period. And in the Viking Age, the names of mythological animals and the Norse gods really gained ground, with certain names gaining a foothold in specific families. These names include Svend, Harald, and Knud, and they are common with the Danish royal family in the early middle ages and the late Viking Ages.
On top of that, the Vikings also had and used bynames to indicate kinship and, in other cases, the places where people came from, for instance, Bjarke the Norwegian. There also are a few instances where the names used by the Vikings were used to indicate unique qualities or possessions – for example, the name Asgot with the Red Shield. But speaking of bynames, there were individuals with extreme and very imaginative bynames from the Vikings from the older days, people who were only described or written about.
During the late Viking periods and with the introduction of Christianity, the biblical names started to be popular, although the Viking names weren’t forgotten. And today, children are still named using names with roots from the Viking period.
Viking Naming Traditions
Like any parent, Vikings took a great deal of care in naming their children. There are numerous traditions that have had an impact on the names given to their little raiders. Some of the options include:
Naming after a relative – this is because the Vikings revered their ancestors a lot, and naming their kids after one that has passed was meant to pass on the deceased’s luck and success to their child.
Naming their children after a god – The Vikings glorified their gods in many ways, and one of the ways in which they glorified their gods was through naming their kids. Most of the time, the names chosen would take on some elements of a god’s name, creating unique names for themselves in the process. For instance, the name Thor would be referred to as Thorgest or Thorald.
Naming children after siblings – Parents would also use their oldest sibling’s first letter for the names of the rest of the children, meaning that all kids from one family would have names with the same first letter, for example, Ashild, Astrid, Asta, and Aster.
Below is a list of the most common Viking names and what they mean:
Male Viking Names
- Arne means Eagle
- Bjørn means bear
- Birger meaning keeper
- Bo for the resident
- Erik for the absolute ruler
- Frode for wise and clever
- Gorm for the one who worships god
- Halfdan that translates to half Danish
- Harald or Harold Means Lord and ruler
- Knud to mean knot
- Njal for giant
- Leif for descendant
- Kåre for the one with curly hair
- Roar meaning fame and spear
- Rune for secret
- Sten for stone
- Svend for the freeman in service for another
- Skarde for the cleft chin
- Troels for Thor’s Arrow
- Toke means Thor and the helmet.
- Torsten means Thor and stone.
- Ulf meaning wolf
- Åge meaning the man who ploughs or the ancestor
- Ødger means wealth and spear.
The other popular names include:
Odin represents the highest and also the most complex of all gods in Norse Mythology. It is believed that Odin is the god that reined over war, art, death, and wisdom.
Ragnar is the other name popular across Scandinavia. It is an internationally acclaimed name (this followed the huge hit TV show, Vikings with the lead character Ragnar “Lothbrok.”
Female Viking Names
- Astrid means beautiful and loved
- Bodil means penance and fight.
- Frida means peace
- Gertrud means spear
- Gro means to grow
- Estrid means god and beautiful.
- Hilda means the fighter.
- Gudrun means god and rune
- Gunhild means fight
- Helga means sacred
- Inga: of the god Inge
- Liv means of life
- Randi means shield or shrine.
- Signe means the one who is victorious.
- Sigrid means the victorious horsewoman.
- Revna means the raven.
- Sif/ Siv means wife and bride.
- Tora means of the god Thor.
- Tove means dove
- Thyra for helpful
- Thurid for Thor and beautiful
- Yrsa means wild or she-bear
- Ulfhild means wolf or battle.
- Åse means goddess
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