What’s in a Viking name?

Would you rather be called Sigrid or Harald? Well if you were a Viking that would mean the difference between a “victorious horsewoman” or a “lord and ruler”! The National Museum of Denmark has some interesting information on the origin of Viking names.

On the Jelling Stone are the names Harald, Gorm and Thyra. “King Harald ordered these kumbls made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Thyra, his mother; that Harald who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian”.

According to the National Museum of Denmark, many boys were named after the god Thor, like Toke and Thorsten. Animal names were also popular. It was not unusual to meet Vikings with names like Orm (Serpent), Ulf (Wolf) and Bjørn (Bear).  These names celebrate the gods’ formidable enemies – such as the Midgard serpent and the wolf Fenrir – beasts that the Norse gods had to defeat at Ragnarök.

The names could also have special powers attributed to them. For instance, Frida means “peace” and Astrid “beautiful and loved”-  probably a much sought after woman. This was in contrast to Hilda, which means “the fighter”. The names gave the Vikings strength and protection in life.

Many names from the Viking Age are still in use today. There are still people called Rune, Erik, Sigrid and Tove in Denmark. The box contains many of the names that the Vikings used and their meanings. Read more from the National Museum of Denmark or see a beautiful scarf we have by Katja Bie of Storytelling Textiles based on the Jelling Stone motif.