Three Viking longships

How Did Vikings Get Their Names?

Viking names are often colorful and evocative, especially their nicknames. As hardy explorers, traders, and fighters seeking the glory of Valhalla, having a name that stood out was likely important for many Vikings. When choosing names for their children, they honored their family ties and their gods.

First Names

The Norse passed first names down from generation to generation. Vikings believed that a venerated ancestor’s name could bring a baby luck. If a relative died while the baby was still in the womb, upon birth, the baby would receive the name of the deceased person. Erik the Red named one of his children Thorvald, which means “Thor’s ruler”.

The Norse also named children after their gods. Variations of Thor were popular for males, including Thorald, Thorbirg, and Thorfast. Girl names that honored As, a Norse goddess, included Astra, Astrid, and Ashild.

Names of the Father

Many Viking men were known as the son of their fathers. Erik the Red’s last name was Thorvaldsson. Erik the Red was father of the first Viking in North America to establish a settlement, Leif Eriksson. The Viking women were known as the daughters of their fathers. Erik the Red’s wife, Þjódhild Jorundsdottir, to her father’s name, Jorund, and added daughter to the end of it. It was less common for a Viking to take his or her mother’s name; the skald Snorri Sturluson is one example, though he was born in 1179 later than the academically accepted end of the Viking age.

Colorful Nicknames

Harald “Fairhair” Hálfdanarson, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, and the aforementioned Erik the Red are among the Vikings with colorful nicknames. They were often given names based on a physical attribute. Erik the Red likely received the moniker because he had red hair and a red beard, though these details are not covered in the writings left from the Viking age. Historians aren’t sure if Harald Bluetooth had a dead tooth that appeared blue or if his nickname came from a corruption of what the English called him: “Blue Thane.”

Your Viking Names

If you want to know what your Viking name could be, try our Viking name generator. Then, you can use your name to participate in your own modern-day Viking activities.


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