Anna Overtakes Guðrún as Most Common First Name for Women

The group was ready for their swim across the English Channel

Anna is now the most common first name for women in Iceland. The most common name for men is currently Jón.

This per a new name and birthday survey published by Statistics Iceland.

There are 4,782 women with the first name Anna in Iceland; 4,472 women are named Guðrún. Kristín (3,383), Sigríður (3,192), and Margrét (also spelled Margrjet and Margret; 2,838) round out the remaining top five women’s names. This is the first time that Guðrún has not been the most common first name for women in the country.

Most Common Given Names for Women, according to the National Registry, January 1, 2023; via Statistics Iceland

The top ten men’s names in Iceland have been the same since 2018. Jón is still the most popular, with 5,052 men bearing that name, followed by Sigurður (4,073), Guðmundur (3,838), Gunnar (3,074), and Ólafur/Olav (2,743).

Most Common Given Names for Men, according to the National Registry, January 1, 2023; via Statistics Iceland

Double names have always been popular in Iceland, and Statistics Iceland has also been keeping records on the most common combinations. The most common double names for women are currently: Anna María, Anna Kristín, and Anna Margrét. These haven’t changed since 2018. The top two double names for men have been the same since 2018: Jón Þór and Gunnar Þór. This year, however, there’s been a shake-up with the third most popular double name for men, with Arnar Freyr overtaking Jón Ingi.

Anna, Jón not among most popular names for babies born in 2021

Although Jón and Anna may enjoy top ranking when it comes to the most common names overall, they don’t make the cut for babies born in 2021. The top three girls’ names that year were Emilía, Embla, and Sara; the top three boys’ names were Aron, Jökull, and Alexander. Björk and Ósk were the most popular second or middle names for girls; Freyr and Máni were the most popular ones for boys.

More common to have a summer or fall birthday than a winter one

Unsurprisingly, summer and fall birthdays are more common in Iceland than winter ones (October – March). Just over half of birthdays in Iceland—51.5%—land between April and September.

It’s then even more unusual to have a birthday on a major winter holiday in Iceland. As of this year, a total of 1,246 people living in Iceland were born on January 1, New Year’s Day; 780 people have Christmas Day birthdays and 861 were born on Christmas Eve, December 24. A February 29 birthday is uncommon everywhere, and this is true in Iceland, too. Only 234 Icelanders have Leap Year birthdays.

New Bill Proposes Abolishment of Naming Committee

A current parliamentary bill under consideration would abolish Iceland’s Naming Committee, a move that not only has the public support of some Icelandic linguists, but also the former chairman of the Naming Committee itself. Visír reports that former Naming Committee chairman Halldór Ármann Sigurðsson is among the bill’s supporters, stating that in its current form, the bill represents “a welcome and significant step forward.”

The bill, which was introduced to parliament just before the end of February, “is intended to significantly increase freedom in naming and to abolish as much as possible the current restrictions on the registration of names, both given and surnames, and to increase permissions for name changes. In so doing, [the bill] seeks to align with prevailing public opinion about names.” Laws on naming, the bill continues, should “first and foremost have minimal requirements for the registration of names. Thus will it safeguard the people’s right to decide on their names and their children’s names and at the same time, minimize the interference of public authorities with consideration for the sanctity of private life.”

Current law constitutes a ‘human rights violation’

The bill was open to public comment until the end of the day on Thursday, and received feedback, both for and against, from some prominent public figures. Interestingly, former committee chairman Halldór Ármann, who wrote in support of the new bill, was also among those who authored the current naming bill, which went into effect in 1996. “It’s long since time that the law be completely overhauled, as is now proposed,” he wrote in his comment. “Those of us who were on the [naming] bill committee from 1994 – 1996 were opposed to family surnames; we thought they were a threat to the Icelandic naming tradition. But this was a mistake.”

Family surnames (i.e. ‘Smith’ or ‘Jones’ or ‘Lilliendahl’ or ‘Ísberg’) have been banned in Iceland since 1925, except under rare circumstances where the individual’s family has borne the family name since before the law went into effect. Foreign nationals are also exempt from this provision.

Halldór also seconded Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, Professor Emeritus in Icelandic Language and Linguistics, who commented that the current restrictions on the use of family names violates article 65 of the Icelandic constitution, which states that everyone should be equal before the law and enjoy the same human rights without regards to their ancestry, among other things. The proposed bill would then “abolish the discrimination in the current law,” Eiríkur wrote, “which is, in fact, a human rights violation.”

Increase in foreign names could have “unforeseen consequences” for the Icelandic language

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is in total agreement with the full scope of the bill. Professor of Icelandic and chairman of the Icelandic Language Committee Ármann Jakobsson also issued a public comment on its provisions, in which he stated that it is “an inarguable improvement over previous bills” on naming laws, for one by “allowing for more advice about names” and making provisions to maintain Icelandic spelling conventions.

“On the other hand,” Ármann wrote, “the bill reduces legal protection for Icelandic, which is the vernacular and official language of the country, in accordance with the law on the status of the Icelandic language.”

“Presumably,” Ármann continued, the new law would make it “permissible to register various foreign names as Icelandic and there is nothing that would prevent, for instance, English names from becoming commonplace here with unforeseen consequences for the [Icelandic] language itself.”

Ármann suggested therefore that the naming committee or another governmental agency be allowed to continue to provide naming “advice,” even in the event that the naming laws are changed. “Thus we’d be operating from the assumption that parents would prefer to choose good Icelandic names,” he wrote, and therefore would be able to do so with the assistance of the government and/or numerous experts who could provide linguistic guidance.

Naming Committee Approves George, Rejects Carlsberg

The Icelandic Naming Committee approved a new round of baby names at the end of January, Vísir reports, now adding the names George, Franklin, Oktavías, and Amon to its roster of approved male first names, while the Carlsberg and Lauritz were rejected as acceptable middle names.

These six names were the only ones the committee ruled on in December, and the approval ratio was far better than it was in November, when five of the seven names under petition were rejected. (Ladý, Gleymérei (‘Forget-Me-Not’), and Leonardo were among November’s unfortunate denials.) Óktavías and Amon were approved on the basis of conforming to Icelandic grammar, spelling conventions, and declension patterns, as well as being considered “appropriate” names for boys.

Based on the above guidelines, both George and Franklin may seem unexpected approvals, as clearly neither conforms with traditional Icelandic spellings or declension. Both names, however, have previous precedent in Iceland, which is another factor that the committee takes into account when making its rulings.

Foreign names that do not conform to Icelandic spelling conventions— sometimes known as “young loan-names,” as the committee noted in its approval of “George”—can be approved if they are currently borne by at least 15 Icelanders or 10 – 14 Icelanders, one of whom is at least 30 years old, or 5 – 9 Icelanders, one of whom is at least 60, or 1 – 4 Icelanders and is also found in the 1910 or 1920 census, or is not currently borne by any living Icelanders, but does appear in at least two censuses from 1703 – 1920.

As it happens, 13 living Icelanders are named George, the oldest of whom was born in 1977. The name also appears in three historical censuses. Meanwhile, there are three living Icelanders named Franklin, the oldest of whom was born in 1944, and the name also appears in three censuses.

Although subject to slightly different rules as potential middle names, Carlsberg and Lauritz were both rejected—the former because it does not contain an Icelandic root word and the latter because it only has a precedent in Iceland as a first name. So it’s only allowable to name your child Lauritz as a first name, although it is permissible to have more than one ‘first’ name.

Aron and Hekla Most Popular Baby Names

Reykjavík baby

The most popular baby names given in Iceland last year were Aron and Hekla, RÚV reports. According to the National Registry’s data, 30 boys were given the name Aron in 2018, with the next most popular name being Kári, given to 22 boys. The third most popular boys’ name was Brynjar, followed by Alexander, Óliver, Daníel, Guðmundur, Emil, Jóhann, and Jökull.

Fifteen new-borns were named Hekla last year, making it the most popular girls’ name, with Embla a close second, given to 14 girls. Anna and Emilía were next in popularity, followed by Alexandra, Bríet, Júlía, Sara, Andrea, and Freyja.

The most popular given names in 2017 were Emilía and Alexander, showing a shift in preference between the years.