Swedish name

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In Sweden, a person must have a surname and one or more given names. Two given names are common. Surnames are inherited from the parents, in the order of "same as elder sibling, if any; specified by parents; or mother's last name," while given names must be chosen by the parents at birth. The calling name (Swedish tilltalsnamn, French Prénom usuel) by which the person is normally identified in conversation, is in Scandinavian countries (and previously in France) one of the given names, not necessarily the first. In contexts where the full name is spelled out, the calling name is often indicated by an asterisk, by capital letters, or underlines or italics. For example, Märta Birgit* Nilsson is known as Birgit Nilsson, while Björn* Kristian Ulvaeus is known as Björn Ulvaeus.


Common calling names in Sweden by year of birth Common Names in Sweden.svg
Common calling names in Sweden by year of birth

Transition from patronymic to surname

In Scandinavia, surnames proper did not exist until the later middle ages. Instead, patronymics were used. In Sweden, the patronymic ending is –sson and -sdotter, e.g. Karlsson or Karlsdotter ("Karl's son", "Karl's daughter"). These were gradually replaced by permanent surnames starting with the nobility and clergy, followed by the middle classes. The vast majority of people adopted surnames only in the late 19th century, often taking patronymic surnames.[ citation needed ]

Latin and Greek names

The adoption of Latin names was first used by the Catholic clergy in the 15th century as scholarly publications were written in Latin. The given name was preceded by Herr (Sir), like Herr Lars, Herr Olof, Herr Hans, followed by a latinised form of patronymic names, e.g. Lars Petersson, latinised as Laurentius Petri. These were not hereditary per se as priests were not allowed to marry. Starting from the time of the Reformation, the latinised form of their birthplace (Laurentius Petri Gothus, from Östergötland) became a common naming practice for the clergy. These names became hereditary.

Another subsequent practice was the use of the Greek language with the ending with ander, the Greek word for man (e.g. Micrander, Mennander).

Names of Nobility

The Swedish nobility during medieval times did not have formalised naming conventions as letters of patent did not appear until 1420. The families of the uradel used names deriving from the crest of the house such as Brahe, Natt och Dag, Bielke, Sparre, Oxenstierna, Trolle, Bååt and Bonde. After formalising the Nobility as the first estate of the realm in 1626, family names became mandatory (sometimes disambiguation was needed [1] ) and the use of patronymics by the nobility fell out of use.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the surname was only rarely the original family name of the ennobled; usually, a more imposing new name was chosen. This was a period which produced a myriad of two-word Swedish-language family names for the nobility; very favoured prefixes were Adler– (German for 'eagle'), Ehren– (German for 'honor', Swedish ära), Silfver– ('silver') and Gyllen– or Gylden- ('golden' or 'gilded'). Unlike a British peerage title ("Lord Somewhere"), such a name became the new surname of the whole house, and the old surname was dropped altogether. The ennoblement (in 1632) of Peder Joenson is a case in point, where the use of the old surname was discontinued and thus after the ennoblement Peder Gyllensvärd came into use. An illustration of the old name being modified by having an addition to it can be seen the ennoblement of the brothers Johan Henrik Lang and Lars Adam Lang (in 1772) taking the surname Langenskjöld.

Names prefixed with von or af (older spelling of "av", Sw: "from") which were commonly adopted in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively denote nobility, often in combination with a change to the original name. Examples include Carl Linnæus (also Carolus Linnæus) ennobled Carl von Linné, or af Donner from the German name Donner. When a nobleman was raised to higher rank, i.e. to friherre or greve, the new branch became its own house with a new name, often by appending af and a place name, e.g. Wachtmeister af Björkö, Wachtmeister af Johannishus, Wachtmeister af Mälsåker.

Ornamental Names

Starting in the 17th and gaining widespread popularity in the 18th century, people of the Swedish middle classes, particularly artisans and town dwellers, adopted family names in imitation of the gentry. Ornamental family names joining two elements from birthplace or nature, such as Bergman ("mountain man"), Holmberg ("island mountain"), Lindgren ("linden branch"), Sandström ("sand stream") and Åkerlund ("field grove"), were quite frequent and remain common today. [2]

Hereditary son names

During the 19th century the patronymics became permanent "son names". Before Sweden's family name regulation act (släktnamnsförordningen) of 1901, the patronymic was the most widely used instead of a surname.

Soldier Names

Another source of surnames was the Swedish allotment system, which from the mid-late 17th century was organised to maintain a standing army, and where a number of farms were grouped together and then supported a soldier with a small cottage and piece of land. The soldiers were often given names either describing their character (e.g. Modig 'brave', Skarp 'sharp' or Snygg 'clean'), weapons (e.g. Sabel 'sabre', Lans 'lance' or Sköld 'shield') or names joining two elements from nature as above. The name often followed the cottage rather than the soldier. These soldiers' names became actual surnames during the 19th century.

Farm Names

To disambiguate between several people with the same name in a community or parish, additional descriptions, usually the name of a farm, such as (Anders Larsson vid Dammen, 'Swedish Anders Larsson by the damm) could be used colloquially. These were not always recorded in church records.

In the region of Dalecarlia these farm names (Swedish: gårdsnamn) are often unique and put first in the name in genitive form, e.g. Ollas Anders Eriksson (Anders from Olla, son of Erik). As patronyms were replaced by surnames, these either became surnames proper (at the end) or continued to be used in the traditional way in combination with a new surname. This tradition is now recognised in law and the farm name appears before the given names in official records.

Outlawed/banned names

When parents name their child the name must be registered with the Swedish Tax Agency (Swedish Skatteverket ). Some names may be denied if they go against Swedish naming law. [3] Some names that have been denied are: [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

Surname conventions and laws vary around the world. This article gives an overview of surnames around the world.

A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the given name of one's father, grandfather (avonymic), or an earlier male ancestor.

Swedish nobility

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Paus family Norwegian family from Oslo

The Paus family is a Norwegian family that first appeared as members of the elite of 16th-century Oslo and that for centuries belonged to Norway's "aristocracy of officials" as priests of the state church, judges and other higher government officials, especially in Upper Telemark. The family is particularly known for its close association with Henrik Ibsen.

Middle name Additional given name

In various cultures, a middle name is a portion of a personal name that is written between the person's first given name and their surname. A middle name is often abbreviated and is then called middle initial or just initial.

<i><span title="German-language text"><i lang="de">Freiherr</i></span></i> Title of nobility in the Holy Roman Empire and its successor states

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Gyllenhaal family Family name

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The term von is used in German language surnames either as a nobiliary particle indicating a noble patrilineality, or as a simple preposition used by commoners that means of or from.

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Horn family

Horn is a Swedish noble family from Finland, known since the 14th century.

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Heritable family names were generally adopted rather late within Scandinavia. Nobility were the first to take names that would be passed on from one generation to the next. Later, clergy, artisans and merchants in cities took heritable names. Family names (surnames) were still used together with primary patronyms, which were used by all social classes. This meant that most families until modern times did not have surnames. Scandinavian patronyms were generally derived from the father's given name with the addition of a suffix meaning 'son' or 'daughter' or by occupation like Møller - naming tradition remained commonly used throughout the Scandinavian countries during the time of surname formation. Forms of the patronymic suffixes include: -son, -sen, -fen, -søn, -ler, -zen, -zon/zoon, and -sson .

Gentry People of high social class, in particular of the land-owning social class

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A nobiliary particle is used in a surname or family name in many Western cultures to signal the nobility of a family. The particle used varies depending on the country, language and period of time. However, in some languages the nobiliary particle is the same as a regular prepositional particle that was used in the creation of many surnames. In some countries, it became customary to distinguish the nobiliary particle from the regular one by a different spelling, although in other countries these conventions did not arise, occasionally resulting in ambiguity. The nobiliary particle can often be omitted in everyday speech or certain contexts.

Gyldenär, is the surname of an extinct Swedish noble family, enrolled in Riddarhuset [ "House of Nobility" ] with the number of 388.

Sir Peter Paulson Paus, also rendered as Peder Povelsson Paus, was a Norwegian high-ranking cleric who served as the provost of Upper Telemark from 1633 until his death. He is known through a loving poem in Latin written by his son Paul Peterson Paus in his memory in 1653, In memoriam Domini Petri Pavli. His descendants include the playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Sir Paul Peterson Paus, also rendered as Povel Pedersson Paus, was a Norwegian cleric and a signatory of the 1661 Sovereignty Act, the new constitution of Denmark-Norway, as one of the 87 representatives of the Norwegian clerical estate, one of the two privileged estates of the realm in Denmark-Norway. He is known as the author of the 1653 poem "In memoriam Domini Petri Pavli", a loving poem in Latin in memory of his father Peter Paulson Paus. Paul Paus was reputed to be a learned and contemplative personality. His descendants include the playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Wachtmeister (Swedish family)

Wachtmeister is a Swedish noble family from Livonia, who immigrated to Sweden in the 16th century. The name Wachtmeister is German for 'sergeant'.


  1. Jägerhorn af Spurila
  2. For a table of the elements that form such names, see http://www.nordicnames.de/wiki/Surnames.
  3. Skatteverket. "Ansöka om namn för ett nyfött barn". skatteverket.se (in Swedish). Retrieved 2019-10-19.
  4. "50 banned baby names from Sweden, Denmark and around the world". nordic.businessinsider.com. 2016-12-03. Archived from the original on 2019-01-10. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
  5. "Baby named Metallica rocks Sweden". BBC News . BBC. April 4, 2007. Retrieved December 14, 2009.