This might come as a surprise to some but Iceland has a very strict policy when it comes to naming babies. We have special laws about how this all works and a list of permitted names. There is also a committee that reviews and rules on any applications for new names the rules they are to follow are very conservative.
The basic rules for naming a baby are the following:
- The baby can only have two names + plus the last name.
- The baby must be named before it is six months old.
- Names must be from the list and a girl must be named from the girls list and the boy from the boys list.
But back to the present: When reviewing additions to the list, the names committee is supposed to take the following into account:
- The name must conjugate in a manner that suits the Icelandic language.
- The name shall not be likely to cause the child grievance.
One is also allowed to use both the mother’s and the father’s name to construct a last name. Had this been my destiny I would be Yrsa Kristínar- og Sigurðardóttir. Which would really be joyful to my foreign publishers. And the cover designers.
In addition to these three options there are certain families that are allowed to use family names that work the same way as elsewhere, i.e. the family name is passed directly on to the children. There are not many occurrences of this here but we do have a few old family names, dating from a long time ago when the better off tended to take up a Danish sounding last name or simply because they were descendants of Danish officials that were stationed here. The trend now is for people with such names to renounce them and take up the normal father/mother system.
For those with a fetish for super long last names – here is the final option for last an Icelandic name: If you come from a family that has the right to use a family name, you are allowed to use as you last name, a combination of the mother/father son/daughter system plus the family name. I am not from such a family but to give you an example of what my last name could be if this was the case, this is what my name could have been: Yrsa Kristínar- og Sigurðardóttir og Gudbrandssen. With this name the foreign publishers would simply have passed on me. The Icelandic ones probably as well.
An Icelandic national is not allowed to take up his or her spouse’s last name upon marriage. This is a big no-no, understandably since the usual last names have to do with your lineage and gender. If someone has to change their last name to that of their spouse upon moving abroad to show a married status and moves back – they must change it to the original name immediately upon entering the country. Same goes for any children such people may have.
Nowadays if one intends to undergo gender reallocation one can select a name from the opposite list prior to having any surgery done.
The laws we have today are a big improvement from about ten years ago when foreigners who took up citizenship had to forego their own names and take up Icelandic names, both first and last. If Jeff had moved here for example he could have been forced to become Jesper Siggeirsson – I am trying to pick the most similar names I can find, from the list of course. Now only the children of those that immigrate need take up an Icelandic first name. They can have a foreign middle name though and a foreign last name.
Funnily enough the naming committee just allowed the name Þyrnirós to be added to the girls names list. This is highly unusual seeing that it is Icelandic name for Sleeping Beauty.
Yrsa - Wednesday