A long time since Jan was embossed on the nameplate


Sunday was for everybody called Jan, their name day. But the sheen has lost its lustre for the boy’s name that was the most popular in Norway for decades.


Both Jan and Jens are Sunday names. But name researcher, Jørgen Ouren, at Statistics Norway (SSB) doesn’t relish talking about name days. He believes name days are making the flora of names to get poorer.

Instead, Ouren speaks more than anything about names, and historical use. Then, Jan is particularly interesting. Because it is Norway’s most common boy’s name.

But children who are named today, whether they are baptised or not, are no longer called Jan. The name had its heyday in the years between 1940 and 1960. Then the name reached a peak of 3.5%, and according to Ouren, there were enormously many.

‘Popular names today have a spread of around 1.5%’, he said.
‘It’s hard to know why some names get so popular. It’s easier to understand why popularity declines. It’s probably due to the name being worn out. Everybody knows someone who’s called it, so it isn’t exciting anymore’, he said.

Historic Anne
Anne, the most commonly used girl’s name in Norway, has shown some of the same developments. 60 years ago, over 5% of Norwegian girls had Anne as their first name. Since then, its popularity has fallen steadily.

But while Jan suddenly rose sky high in popularity in the 40’s, Anne and Anna have a much stronger tradition. Historically, Anne and Anna are very strong in Norway, according to Ouren.

Anna had almost gone, but has now come back and thrives,’ he said.
Nor did Jan disappear. In the last year, 66 boys were born with Jan as a first name, giving it 104th place on the list.

New names in classrooms

Anne and Jan, which are both easy to combine with other names, are not found so often in today’s classrooms.

‘One of the reasons is that the use of double first names has become less used – probably because almost everyone now has double last names, so the parents feel that they have to limit themselves a little. But even though there is a greater spread today, there are still trends and nameplates.

In 2016, Nora/Norah/Noora, and William, became very popular, which is not so strange, to all those who know the TV series ‘Shame’.

Ouren does not want to name any name that stands out.

‘Go to Statistics Norway’s (SSB’s) pages to get inspiration. Look for name trends’, he said. Then you can avoid the most common names.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today