View Full Version : Scandinavian naming conventions in the Viking age

05-26-2016, 05:40 PM
I know it was customary for children to receive "surnames" relating to their fathers (ie Leif Erikson = Leif, son of Erik), but what of bastard children whose fathers were unknown? (yeah, Mom was generous with her favors)

Would they have been given their mother's name + -son or -datter, or would they have maybe been known by the name of their birthplace or (eventual) profession?

05-26-2016, 08:45 PM
I have absolutely no idea, but that's an interesting conundrum!

I would suspect that if Mom wasn't well-off, that he might just be called, say, Leif from Thirsk, or wherever he was born, or Leif the Fair if he were blond, without a last name. It's not like they needed a standardized name on his birth certificate. Just enough to separate him from any other Leif they were discussing.

If he were an aristocrat, possibly he'd be named after his grandfather? Just spitballing here.

AW Admin
05-26-2016, 09:02 PM

05-26-2016, 09:18 PM

I actually have that link in my bookmarks, and felt I was "naming" my characters correctly, but I had someone (a native Dane) arguing that I was wrong because of the lack of "-son" at the end. :Shrug: Not everybody's name ends in -son (not even hers!)

King Neptune
05-27-2016, 12:12 AM
The patronymic is a little different from a surname, because it simply give the name of the father. It makes no difference whether the child was legitimate. The Danes only adopted permanent, heritable surnames, rather than patronymics, less than 200 years ago in 1824 (250 years in Schleswig). Before that time everyone had a patronymic, and on;y a few people had heritable surnames.

Katharine Tree
05-27-2016, 12:30 AM
I recently read that in Iceland it is possible for a boy's second name to be made from his mother's instead of his father's. I don't know the rules, wherefore, or whyhow, but if Icelanders do it there's a fair chance Vikings did too. So, Frejasson, etc. Very useful if the father's identity is unknown, I imagine.

05-27-2016, 12:42 AM
That link says a patronymic was "far more common than a matronymic", which suggests matronymics were sometimes used. I know Icelanders still use the old Norse way of naming, maybe look at what they do in cases of unknown father?

05-27-2016, 03:22 AM
If he were an aristocrat, possibly he'd be named after his grandfather? Just spitballing here.

This link (http://icelandreview.com/stuff/ask-ir/2008/05/22/if-children-iceland-have-name-their-fathers-family-name-then-what-about) says that in modern Iceland a baby would never be given his grandfather's name as a patronymic, since that would imply that he was his grandfather's son. Babies with unknown fathers get the matronymic.

05-30-2016, 09:03 AM
Don't know if you saw this, it may help


05-30-2016, 10:00 AM
As a minor aside, the conventional spellings of patronymically-derived surnames today differ among Scandinavian nations. Norway favors -son,, Sweden -sson, and Denmark -sen.