Icelandic Boy Names: a comprehensive guide

Icelandic names have a long history of use and can date back to the Viking Age, with some even older than that! Diving into the world of Icelandic boy names is a sure way of finding interesting and awesome examples of names from the culture of the Vikings.

Many Icelandic names have direct connections to old Scandinavian and Germanic mythology, magic, and their often-warlike cultures but nature or animal related names are just as common. Some names are younger and date to the medieval era, with some connections to Graeco-Roman and Biblical names as well.

Popular Icelandic boy names


Coming in at number one is the long-standing classic name Jón (corresponding to John in English). Originally a name from ancient Hebrew and introduced to Iceland through the Bible in the middle ages, Jón has been the number one most popular boy’s name for centuries.

Due to the tradition of forming last names in Iceland with the name of the father, the name Jón Jónsson is actually the most historically common name in Iceland.


The name Sigurður has been in use in Iceland from the time of colonization of the island in the late 800s A.D. and dates back even further than that among other Germanic nations.

The literal meaning of the name means “guardian” or “protection in battle” which may have come in handy for the most famous Sigurður in history, Sigurður Fáfnisbani, the iconic hero and slayer of the evil dragon Fáfnir in the heroic epic Völsunga saga.


This name represents a combination of Christian and Pagan elements. The suffix -mundur can be found in many Icelandic names and as a noun it means “gift” or “protection”, but as a verb (að munda) it can mean “to wield”.

Guð, however, means “god”, most probably the Christian God. The name then, once combined, is taken to mean “the gift of God” or even “the protector of God”.


Gunnar is another very old name, brought to Iceland by the Scandinavian settlers of the Viking Age. The name is formed from the word gunnur which means “battle” with the suffix -ar added to the stem to form a sort of participle, “he who battles” or in other words “warrior” or “soldier”.

In one of the most famous and beloved of the Icelandic sagas, Njálssaga, one of the leading heroes, Gunnar frá Hlíðarenda, is an epic warrior of unrivalled skill.


A very old pan-Scandinavian name, Ólafur has no specific known meaning. It likely did originally, but its meaning has been lost to us today.

Nonetheless, the name has always been popular, whether as the name of a 10th century Norwegian king, Ólafur helgi, or the longest serving president of modern-day Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.


Originally an Ancient Greek word meaning “a Christian man”, its popularity in Iceland is linked to it being the name of multiple successive kings of Denmark while Iceland was still under the Danish Crown.


Einar is an ancient Nordic name where the Ein- literally means “one”, but it is understood to mean “unique”, “amazing” or “exceptional”. Along with the suffix -ar the name carries the meaning of an “exceptional man and/or warrior”.

In Norse mythology the exceptionally brave fallen human warriors were brought to Valhöll (Valhalla), Odin’s palace, to feast and fight, and called the Einherjar.


Magnús has a long and storied history in its use amongst the Scandinavian peoples and has been popular since the Viking Age.

Its origin however is Latin and Roman, forming the cognomen of the famous Roman general Pompey Magnus and the early medieval Frankish king Charlemagne (in Icelandic, Karlamagnús). The name literally means “the great” or “the strong”.


Now for the first, but certainly not the last, animal-related name, is Arnar. The name is the genitive declension of the word örn, which literally means “eagle” and so Arnar carries the genitive meaning of one who is “of the eagle”.

The name Örn also exists but it is less popular than Arnar for reasons unknown. Similarly popular as Arnar is the name Árni, which also means “eagle”.


Björn requires little explanation since it simply means “bear”. It is worth noting, however, that the name is extremely old and goes back far earlier than the Viking Age, possibly as far back as the ancient Indo-Europeans of the Bronze Age, thousands of years ago. The name Bjarni is a direct derivation of Björn and also means “bear”.


The name is essentially a combination of two distinct names, Hallur and Þór. Hallur is an ancient word which means “stone”, while Þór is the name of the legendary thunder god (more recognizable by English speakers as Thor).

The name can therefore be understood as “Stone-Thor” or in other words as an amplification of the strength of Thor with the strength of stone.

The combination of these two names exists in other names as well, such as Þórhallur. There the meaning is in reverse denoting “the stone of Thor”, which could be taken to mean “the guardian of Thor” or “the strength of Thor”.


This name has been made famous as the name of the lead character, Ragnar Lothbrok, in the popular television series Vikings. The partly mythical, partly historical Viking king Ragnar had a rather silly sounding cognomen, Lothbrok (Loðbrók in Icelandic) which means “hairy pants”.

But the man himself is famous for leading some of the earliest Viking raids on Britain and France. The name itself is equally impressive as the stem Ragn- comes from an old word, rögn, which means “higher power” or “god”.

The name for the prophesied apocalypse in the ancient pagan Nordic religion is ragnarök which directly translates to “the end of the gods”. The suffix -ar in Ragnar thus adds the complete meaning of “a warrior of the gods” or “divine warrior”, which is quite fitting for the man who began the Viking age.


On the opposite side of the spectrum from Ragnar’s intimidating name comes Gísli. The name has a very literal meaning, “hostage”, which may have become a name due to the common practice in the Viking age of either taking or exchanging hostages with other nobles to guarantee their loyalty or build alliances.

The practice was not necessarily a violent one and some infant hostages would have been raised as part of the family and the title of hostage morphed into a name. Despite its dark background the name is a popular one today.


Andri is a relatively popular name, but its meaning is not entirely certain. Either it means “opponent” or, strangely enough, “a skier” (someone who skiis), which in cold and snowy Iceland and wider Scandinavia was a common practice even in the early medieval period, though less for fun and more for reasons of necessity.


The name Birgir is thought to have been brought over to Iceland from Sweden, as far back as the Viking age and it has remained a popular Icelandic name since. Its translation is “he who saves” or “he who protects”.

Powerful Icelandic boy names

The Nordic countries are infamously harsh in climate and so, more than a thousand years ago during the Viking age, they produced fierce people. It is no surprise then that this was reflected in their names. Icelandic boy names often have a strong connection to war, predators, physical traits, and the gods.


This name is a combination of two words, valur which means “the fallen on the battlefield” and garður which means “protection” or “fortification”. Together they take on the meaning of “the one who guards the fallen on the battlefield”, a position of great importance and honor.


Similar to the previously mentioned Halldór and Þórhallur, the Þor- is referring to the thunder god Þór (Thor). It takes on an even more powerful meaning however, as -valdur comes from the word vald which means “power” and so -valdur means “one who wields power”.

The epic fusion of the name Þorvaldur thus becomes “one who wields the power of Thor”.


Again, as with so many Icelandic names, this name is a combination of words. Ás- is the singular of Æsir which are the primary clan of the gods and alongside the Vanir (another such clan) form the ancient Nordic pantheon of gods.

Geir, meanwhile, is an old word which literally means “spear” but can also more generally mean “weapon”. Ásgeir is therefore “the spear of the gods” or “the weapon of the gods”.


Great power was also to be found in nature, especially in animals, as this name shows. Björn is a popular name in Iceland as was covered earlier, and means “bear”. Aðal- however is a word that denotes “nobility” or “grace” and so the boy who carries such a name would be known as a “noble bear”.


While rare nowadays, this name is a potent example of the mindset of the Scandinavian peoples in the Viking age, when it came to naming practices.

Gunn- as in the name Gunnar, means “battle” but -ólfur is a morphing of the word úlfur, which means “wolf”. It would be impressive enough to be named Úlfur, which is a common name still to this day, but Gunnólfur even more so as the meaning becomes “battle-wolf”.

Mystical and beautiful Icelandic boy names

Not all Icelandic boy names are so intimidating or war-oriented, many have beautiful deeper meanings that are connected to myth, magic, and nature.


Völundur was a character in Völundarkviða, one of the stories collected in the Poetic Edda. He was a smith of such magnificent skill and ingenuity that the name has become an adjective to describe something of incredible quality and beauty, völundarsmíð or “as if it were built by Völundur”.

The legend of Völundur also exists in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon legends where he is better known as Wayland the Smith. The name is quite beautiful in the Icelandic language and carries great meaning.


This name is based on the adjective fróður which means “he who knows much” and as a name it carries the meaning of someone who is “wise and knowledgeable”.


Kári is an ancient Nordic name which denotes two separate things, “one who is curly haired” and the name of the personification of the elemental spirit of the wind in ancient Nordic mythology.

Perhaps the two are connected, as the wind may have blown someone’s hair into curls, but regardless it is a simple but beautiful name with a deep connection to a fundamental element of nature, the wind.


A very old Nordic name which literally means “favorite god”, but it is understood as being someone “who is the favorite of the gods”.

Angan- means “favorite” but in modern Icelandic it can also be understood as “a very pleasant or delightful smell”, whilst -týr is a general term for “the gods” and also the name of Týr, the god of war and order in the Nordic pantheon.

While not the name’s original meaning, it can be understood today as meaning “divine scent” or something to that effect. Either way the name is quite beautiful to the Icelandic ear.


As with the name Guðmundur, the suffix -mundur carries the meaning of “gift” or “protection”. Sæ-, however, comes from the word sær or sjór, which both mean “the sea”.

The name is therefore “the gift of the sea”, which in Icelandic culture has a deep resonance. The sea occupies a central space in Iceland, but also among the other Scandinavian cultures, and has for centuries.

The sea feeds us and keeps us alive and the sea is a dangerous beast which claims many lives as well. Sæmundur or “the gift of the sea” is therefore the gift of life and abundance.


Choosing a name for your child is never going to be an easy task, but inspiration can certainly be found in Icelandic boy names which have a lot to offer with their deep and varied meanings, from the fearsome and powerful to the spiritual and elemental.