The most common Norwegian last names: An overview

Norwegian flagPhoto: Ørn E. Borgen / NTB
Advertisements

Do you know any Norwegian last names – or maybe flaunt one yourself? Read on to discover the most common Norwegian last names, how family names were given in Norway throughout history, and what the surnames themselves mean.

Before we dive into Norwegian last names, let’s take a look at the languages spoken and written in Norway in which they’re transferred from generation to generation.

The languages and scripts behind Norwegian last names

At the time of writing, Norway has two officially recognized languages: Norwegian and North Sámi. These two languages, along with dozens of others (including South Sámi, Lule Sámi, Vlax Romani, English, and French), are spoken among Norway’s population of about 5.4 million and beyond.

Norwegian (Norsk), Norway’s national language, is used by around 5.2 million people in the country and around 100,000 outside it. North Sámi (Sámegiella) is an official provincial language used by around 20,000 people in Norway and 5,700 outside of it.

North Sámi is written in the Latin and Cyrillic scripts. Norwegian is written in the Latin script, but it has two written standards: Bokmål Norwegian and Nynorsk Norwegian. Bokmål is used by up to 90% of the Norwegian population and Nynorsk by 10%. 

Do any of these special characters from the Norwegian alphabet look familiar? Source: Florida International University.

Now that we’ve covered some of the main ways Norwegian last names are transferred from generation to generation, let’s examine the most common surnames in Norway.

Introducing the etymology of Norwegian last names

Here are some of the most important definitions used in the study of names, along with examples.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the historical development of their meaning.

Descriptive names are based on a person’s physical appearance.

  • For example, the last name “Armstrong” is descriptive.

Occupational names are derived from a person’s trade or line of work.

  • For example, the last name “Smith” is occupational; derived from the metal crafting line of work.

Patronymic names are passed down from the father, grandfather, or another male ancestor.

  • For example, the last name “Richardson” is patronymic; meaning, “Richard’s son” or “son of Richard”.
  • In Norwegian, the patronymic last name suffix is “sen”, which means “son” (operating as “son of”).
  • Female family names were rare Norwegian last names – and certainly much less common than male – but they function similarly, with the suffix “datter” meaning “daughter” (operating as “daughter of”).

Toponymic names are place names including geographic places such as mountains, rivers, towns, or others.

  • For example, the last name “Ford” is toponymic.
Many last names are historically occupational. Source: Peter Freitag / Pixabay.

The most common Norwegian last names

Without further ado, we’re bringing you the list of the most common last names in Norway for 2019. See if you can guess which are descriptive, which are occupational, which are patronymic, and which are toponymic.

  1. Hansen – 51 123
  2. Johansen – 48 541
  3. Olsen – 47 499
  4. Larsen – 36 771
  5. Andersen – 36 130
  6. Pedersen – 34 190
  7. Nilsen – 33 585
  8. Kristiansen – 22 751
  9. Jensen – 22 339
  10. Karlsen – 20 551
  11. Johnsen – 20 219
  12. Pettersen – 19 501
  13. Eriksen – 18 808
  14. Berg – 17 789
  15. Haugen – 14 163
  16. Hagen – 13 803
  17. Johannessen – 12 883
  18. Andreassen – 11 795
  19. Dahl – 11 412
  20. Jørgensen – 11 204
  21. Henriksen – 11 161
  22. Lund – 11 118
  23. Halvorsen – 11 083
  24. Sørensen – 10 534
  25. Jakobsen – 10 429
  26. Moen – 10 166
  27. Gundersen – 10 005
  28. Iversen – 9 904
  29. Strand – 9 819
  30. Solberg – 9 686
  31. Svendsen – 9 654
  32. Eide – 8 400
  33. Knutsen – 8 372
  34. Martinsen – 8 360
  35. Paulsen – 8 233
  36. Bakken – 7 704
  37. Kristoffersen – 7 671
  38. Mathisen – 7 411
  39. Lie – 7 382
  40. Amundsen – 7 184
  41. Nguyen – 7 174
  42. Rasmussen – 7 113
  43. Ali – 6 938
  44. Lunde – 6 889
  45. Solheim – 6 883
  46. Berge – 6 862
  47. Moe – 6 811
  48. Nygård – 6 806
  49. Bakke – 6 805
  50. Kristensen – 6 751
  51. Fredriksen – 6 688
  52. Holm – 6 517
  53. Lien – 6 402
  54. Hauge – 6 305
  55. Christensen – 6 235
  56. Andresen – 6 234
  57. Nielsen – 6 086
  58. Knudsen – 6 059
  59. Evensen – 5 909
  60. Sæther – 5 817
  61. Aas – 5 804
  62. Myhre – 5 758
  63. Hanssen – 5 727
  64. Ahmed – 5 717
  65. Haugland – 5 703
  66. Thomassen – 5 611
  67. Simonsen – 5 558
  68. Danielsen – 5 454
  69. Berntsen – 5 430
  70. Sandvik – 5 256
  71. Rønning – 5 224
  72. Arnesen – 5 151
  73. Antonsen – 5 074
  74. Næss – 5 062
  75. Vik – 5 033

A few additional family name facts…

The number of Norwegian surnames ending in ‘sen’ continued a preexisting decreasing trend in 2019, dropping to 14.2%, compared with 22.4% in 1995. In 2019, 8% of newborns received a hyphenated last name – slightly less than the year prior.

All data in this section is derived from Statistics Norway.

Can’t get enough Scandinavian last names – or names in general – and perhaps interested in those related to Vikings, too? Find our full lowdown on historic and modern Viking names here.

Source: Norway Today

Advertisements

1 Comment on "The most common Norwegian last names: An overview"

  1. Diana Skogan Morey | 9. November 2020 at 07:33 | Reply

    My paternal grandfather immigrated to the U.S., I have heard his name was Hansen (not sure of spelling), but there were so many Hansen’s that because he lived in the forest he changed his name to Skogan. Now that is how he spelled it but not sure if he was a good speller or he just didn’t know how to spell, because I think maybe it should be spelled Skogen. Which is right, do you know. My maiden name is Skogan.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*