Icelandic Girl 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! The world of Icelandic girl names is filled with interesting and deep names, many from the culture of the Vikings, which tend to have direct connections to old Nordic pagan mythology, magic, and culture with nature and animals playing a big part as well.

Popular Icelandic girl names

Guðrún

Guðrún is an old Icelandic name and has been one of the most popular Icelandic girl names for centuries. The Guð- half means “god”, presumably the Christian God. The suffix, -rún­, can mean either “a secret” or “a mystery”. The same word refers to the rúnagaldur or “rune-magic”, which in Icelandic and ancient Norse meant “secret magic”. The name Guðrún can therefore mean “the secret of God” or allude to “the magical, mysterious power of God”.

Sigríður

This popular name in modern-day Iceland stretches back into the Viking age and possibly even farther back than that and has a very primal and central cultural meaning to it. Sigur- can mean “victory” or “battle”, whereas -fríður means “beautiful”. The combination then becomes “the beauty of battle or victory” or even “as beautiful as battle/victory itself”, which either way speaks to the cultural perspective of the ancient Scandinavian peoples.

Helga

A timeless classic, Helga has a relatively straightforward meaning, as “the holy one” or “the sacred one”. It does however pre-date Christianity and has been a popular name in Iceland since the colonization of the island began in the 800s A.D.

Sigrún

In this name there is a different combination of two words already covered, Sig- (as in Sigur) and -rún. It can be understood a few different ways however; “the secret of victory or battle” or as “the mystery of victory or battle”. It remains a very popular name in Iceland from the Viking age until today.

Ingibjörg

A centuries old classic, Ingibjörg carries a deep mythological meaning. Ingi- is a common prefix in Icelandic names, both male and female, and derives from an alternate name of the god Freyr (also known as Ingvi-Freyr or Ingvi). While it directly connects to that god of fertility, growth and wealth, it also means “king” or “lord”. The second half of the name, ­-björg, means “safety” or “protection” and so the name means “a king’s protection” or taken to its mythological roots, “protected by Freyr”, a mighty blessing as the god was one of the Nordic pantheon’s most powerful and popular gods which of course explains the popularity of the name, from the Viking age till today.

Elín

You might not guess it, but the name Elín is actually a derivation of the Graeco-Roman name Helena. The name is quite popular in Iceland and has an entirely Icelandic grammar structure, which disguises its origins, and carries the meaning of “the bright” or “the glowing”.

Hildur

Hildur is an old name, really old. It goes back to Proto-Germanic times and is heavily featured in mythology and general language as well. Simply put, Hildur means “war”, which either derives from or explains why one of the key Valkyries of Nordic legend is named Hildur. The Valkyries had the sacred duty to survey the battlefields of men and guide the mightiest warriors to the halls of Odin in Valhalla. For that reason they were also worshiped and sacrificed to as goddesses to some extent and they were perceived as the personification of war itself. Now Hildur as one of the leading Valkyries was a powerful figure, so powerful in fact that the name for war on a large-scale, with connotations of dread and extreme danger, is called hildarleikur, which literally translates to “Hildur’s game”.

Lilja

Moving away from war into something entirely different, Lilja is a very pretty name in Icelandic and translates to “lily”. It can also be taken to mean “the living faith”, although for most Icelandic people the connotation to the flower is more obvious.

Ragnheiður

This name consists of two parts, Ragn- which means “the gods” or “higher power” and -heiður which means “bright” (as in, gleaming or shining). Ragn- is a very common prefix in Icelandic names, male and female, which is not surprising as it carries such a powerful meaning, forming the phrase Ragnarök for example, which is the ancient prophecy of apocalypse in Nordic mythology, literally meaning “the end of the gods”. The name then in combination denotes someone who is as “bright as the gods”.

Ásta

Technically this name is an abbreviated form of a longer name, Ástríður, which is a relatively common name but the shortened form is far more popular. Ástríður translates to “her who the gods love”, which carries over to Ásta as the meaning, with perhaps more emphasis on “love”, as the word ást literally means “love”. Ásta can therefore also more simply mean “her who is loved”.

Erla

Another simple name with connection to nature, Erla means “bird”. It is not the most common word for bird however in the Icelandic language, which is fugl, and it carries a more beautiful, almost poetic sense. A very pretty bird species which migrates to Iceland in the summers is called Maríuerla (latin for reference: Motacilla alba).

Auður

Auður is a name as old as the colonization of Iceland itself, with one of the first settlers named in ancient sources as Auður Djúpúðga. The cognomen Djúpúðga meaning “the deep thinking” or “the contemplative”. Auður was a daughter of a Norwegian ruler and both her husband and son became sea-kings in Ireland and Scotland, after successful Viking conquests, but after their deaths in battle Auður set out on her own with a party of followers and settled land in Iceland and was one of the country’s first practicing Christians. The name itself carries a meaning of “fortunate woman”, and the word auður is used today to mean “wealth”.

Steinunn

A combination of two words, Stein- which means “stone” and ­-unn which can mean either “to love” or “ocean wave”, the name Steinunn dates back to the early colonization of Iceland and therefore likely farther back in Scandinavia. Its meaning translates to “she who loves the stone” or “the wave-stone”, which either way carries a deep meaning in the ancient Nordic culture. Stone is seen as a totemic elemental force and ocean waves as divine blessing or punishment depending on context.

Kolbrún

Again a combination of two words, Kol- which means “black” or “dark” as in kol for “coal” and -brún which means “brow”. The name Kolbrún is then somebody who is “dark of brow”. The name is a pretty one in Icelandic and also very popular through the ages.

Bryndís

Immensely popular historically and in modern-day Iceland, Bryndís is a combination of two words. Bryn- is a prefix which means “armored”, with the word brynja literally meaning “protection” or “armor”, and ­-dís which most simply could be translated to “fairy” but has far more nuance in Icelandic mythology. A dís is a supernatural feminine being of some sort or even a literal goddess, with words like fegurðardís meaning “divinely beautiful” or “as beautiful as a dís” (örlagadís being another one, “a dís of fate/destiny”). The name Bryndís then is a hard one to directly translate, as “armored fairy” does not quite conjure the same image it does in English as in Icelandic. Picture, if you will, a divine female being who is immensely beautiful and tremendously powerful and fierce, and you start to get a feeling for the name’s inherent meaning.

Powerful Icelandic girl names

The peoples from the Nordic countries during the Viking age were famously fierce and intimidating and though their culture was male dominated, it was far less so than most other societies of their time, with women often occupying positions of leadership and power, sometimes as warriors themselves and with many powerful deities being female. It is no surprise then that Icelandic girl names carry that legacy.

Ásgerður

As is so often common in Icelandic names, here is another combination of two words. Ás- refers to the primary clan of the gods, the Aesir (Æsir or Ás in Icelandic), Odin being their leader and other notable ones being Thor, Frigg, and Baldur, who all collectively reside in Asgard (Ásgarður). If you are noticing a resemblance to the name Ásgerður you are not mistaken! -garður translates to “fortification”, “wall” or “city” and in its morphed form, ­-gerður, refers to the concept of “defense” or “protector”. Ásgerður therefore is “the protector of the gods” or “defender of the gods”.

Bjarnveig

Ferocity from nature has always been represented in Icelandic names and Bjarnveig is a good example. The prefix Bjarn- means “bear”, whilst the suffix -veig means “strength”. The bearer of this mighty name would thus be known as “she who is as strong as a bear”.

Herdís

Herdís features the already covered suffix -dís “a magical or divine female being and/or goddess” and the first half, Her-, means “army”. The name in combination translates to “goddess of the army” and can also be understood to mean the “guardian spirit of the army”.

Gunnfríður

Continuing the theme, Gunnfríður is a name that is also deeply connected to war. Gunn- is short for gunnur which means “battle” and ­-fríður means either “beautiful” or the “act of loving”. This powerful name can therefore either mean “the beauty of battle” (or possibly “beautiful in battle”) or “she who loves battle”.

Þórey

The ever-popular god Thor exists in the name constructions of both Icelandic boy and girl names. In this case the prefix Þór- is just literally the god’s name but the suffix -ey­ means something akin to “fortune” and/or “happiness”. In the former sense the word very much resembles the Latin concept of fortuna as the ancient Romans thought of it, that is, not simply luck but rather a sort of divinely orchestrated success and fortune. Þórey then means “the fortune of Thor”.

Mystical and beautiful Icelandic girl names

Icelandic girl names, same as for boys, can be somewhat dominated by themes of power, war, and battle prowess, which reflects the ancient culture they stem from. Some names are far removed from that however and can be very beautiful connections to nature and myth.

Embla

In the Nordic creation myth the gods and brothers Odin, Vili, and Vé created the first two humans out of trees. The first man, Askur, was crafted from the ash tree and the first woman, Embla, from the elm tree. As such the woman Embla was the primordial mother of mankind, akin to the biblical Eve. Embla is a name with a deep mythological story behind it and it is quite pretty.

Eygló

Simply put, the name Eygló means “the Sun”. Diving into its distinct parts, Ey- in this case means “eternal” and -gló as in “glowing”, the name then means “the eternal glow”, referring to the Sun.

Drífa

Another elemental name, Drífa is one of the Icelandic language’s nearly infinite different words for snow. It is no surprise that the snow and winter holds a special place in the Icelandic and pan-Nordic cultural imagination, though it is not always regarded with dread, as in the case of this beautiful name.

Freyja

It would be tantamount to blasphemy to forgo mentioning this famous and beautiful name. Freyja was the goddess of love, fertility, beauty, and magic in the Nordic pantheon, very much a similar role to Aphrodite or Venus in the Graeco-Roman world. She was the daughter of Njörður the sea god and twin sister to Freyr, another fertility god. She was also one of the more powerful gods and one of the most popular amongst the Nordic peoples, especially for matters of magic and the heart. That legacy is still felt today, as the name remains popular and is considered quite beautiful.

Villimey

This name consists of two parts, Villi­- which means “wild” or “willful”, deriving from vilji which means “willpower” and the suffix -mey which means “maiden” or “woman”. The double meaning of the prefix can be understood as two sides of the same coin, as a “willful” woman was perhaps seen by a male dominated ancient society as “wild”, but the name is complimentary in that the society of Viking age Iceland and wider Scandinavia respected few traits more than strength and power, whether of mind or body. Villimey or “a woman strong of will” was a mighty title as well as a beautiful one.

Conclusion

If you are ever in doubt or in need of inspiration for names, then Icelandic girl names have many powerful, mystical, and elemental options to choose from with names full of totemic meaning which are full of beauty and cultural depth.

We have also published a guide to Icelandic boy names.