Icelandic Last Names: 40+ Popular Icelandic Surnames And Their Meaning

Icelandic Last Names That Are Wildly Popular And Fascinating

June 28, 2021 Updated August 24, 2021

Icelandic Last Names
Elli Thor Magnusson/Getty

William Shakespeare had the right idea when he asked, “What’s in a name?” Ironically, Romeo Montague, the star-crossed lover who uttered those words, should have actually asked, “What’s in a last name?” as that was at the heart of his story. In fact, in most societies, a surname is the crux of a person’s identity, carrying with it traditions, origin, history, and meaning. But the passing down of surnames is oft unique. For example, the baby naming convention in Iceland is pretty fascinating if you’re not familiar with it. Unlike the way last names work generationally in the United States, Iceland (and other countries like Russia) places a different emphasis on familial ties when it comes to names. That being said, everyone in a family may not have the same surname, and that’s because of the way naming works. Let us break it down for you.

Consider this: In the U.S., oftentimes one partner takes the last name of the other partner after marriage. This becomes the family’s last name. In Iceland, this isn’t the case. When two people marry, they don’t commonly take on a different last name that becomes the family name. Rather, they keep their pre-marriage name. In the U.S. when a family brings a child into the world, patriarchal norms dictate the child takes the last name of the father. While that may not always be the case in modern society, the child still usually takes the family’s last name.

Now here’s how it works in Iceland. When a child is born, parents enjoy time with the baby before even committing to any names. We’re talking a few solid months before the baby has a name — this way the parent or parents can get to know the baby and pick out a moniker that feels fitting. They may name the baby whatever they want, but for a surname (which really isn’t a surname at all), the baby is given a name that corresponds to its father’s name — a patronym. Like in many Slavic cultures, sons and daughters have different iterations of their fathers’ names — each name has a suffix that literally means “son” or “daughter.” So if a couple by the names of Anna Kristjánsdóttir and Magnús Pétursson have a baby girl and name her Kristín, her surname (or patronym) would be Magnúsdóttir, because she is the daughter of Magnús.

It can be a little tricky to understand if you’re not familiar with the naming convention in Iceland, but it’s actually quite interesting and makes a lot of sense as far as naming goes. Surnames that mean “child of” date back millennia but many countries simply have family surnames that are taken on by the whole family tree. Icelandic names have evolved, though, too and now families are free to use matronymic (mother’s) names as well as patronymic names if they so choose.

This isn’t the only fascinating marker of Icelandic names — people who live in Iceland have to choose from a pre-approved list of first names for their babies, too. If they want to choose a name not on the list, it has to be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee. Yes, that is a real thing. Fascinating, right? Anyway, if you want to check out some of the most popular Icelandic last names (which are really patronyms!), find a list below.

Icelandic Last Names

  1. Jónsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Jón, God has been gracious.
    Origin: Icelandic
  2. Jónsson
    Meaning: Son of Jón, God has been gracious.
    Origin: Icelandic
  3. Kristjánsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Kristján, follower of Christ.
    Origin: Estonian, Icelandic
  4. Kristjánsson
    Meaning: Son of Kristján, follower of Christ.
    Origin: Estonian, Icelandic
  5. Ólafsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Olafur, ancestor’s relic.
    Origin: Old Norse, Icelandic
  6. Ólafsson
    Meaning: Son of Olafur, ancestor’s relic.
    Origin: Old Norse, Icelandic
  7. Magnúsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Magnús, or great.
    Origin: Icelandic
  8. Magnússon
    Meaning: Son of Magnús, or great.
    Origin: Icelandic
  9. Jóhannsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Jóhann, noble and bright.
    Origin: Icelandic
  10. Jóhannsson
    Meaning: Son of Jóhann, noble and bright.
    Origin: Icelandic
  11. Björnsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Björn, bear.
    Origin: Icelandic, Danish, German, Dutch
  12. Björnsson
    Meaning: Son of Björn, bear.
    Origin: Icelandic, Danish, German, Dutch
  13. Gunnarsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Gunnars, brave warrior.
    Origin: Swedish, Icelandic
  14. Gunnarsson
    Meaning: Son of Gunnars, brave warrior.
    Origin: Swedish, Icelandic
  15. Helgadóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Helgi, holy.
    Origin: Old Norse, Icelandic
  16. Helgason
    Meaning: Son of Helgi, holy.
    Origin: Old Norse, Icelandic
  17. Karlsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Karl, free.
    Origin: German, Icelandic
  18. Karlsson
    Meaning: Son of Karl, free.
    Origin: German, Icelandic
  19. Pétursdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Peturs, strong.
    Origin: Latin, Greek, Icelandic
  20. Pétursson
    Meaning: Son of Peturs, strong.
    Origin: Latin, Greek, Icelandic
  21. Ragnarsdóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Ragnar, warrior of God.
    Origin: Icelandic
  22. Ragnarsson
    Meaning: Son of Ragnar, warrior of God.
    Origin: Icelandic
  23. Árnason
    Meaning: Son of Árna.
    Origin: Anglo-Saxon origin
  24. Árnadóttir
    Meaning: Daughter of Árna.
    Origin: Icelandic
  25. Ásgeirsdóttir
    Meaning: The last name of the daughter of Ásgeirs.
    Origin: Icelandi
  26. Gísladóttir
    Meaning: This means the daughter of Gisli.
    Origin: Icelandic origin
  27. Gíslason
    Meaning: Son of Gísla.
    Origin: Icelandic
  28. Guðjónsdóttir
    Meaning: It means daughter of Guðjóns.
    Origin: Icelandic
  29. Guðmundsdóttir
    Meaning: The daughter of Guðmunds.
    Origin: Icelandic
  30. Guðmundsson
    Meaning: Son of Guðmunds.
    Origin: Icelandic
  31. Guðjónsson
    Meaning: Guðjóns.
    Origin: Icelandic origin
  32. Waage
    Meaning: It refers to weights, or a machine used to weigh items.
    Origin: Icelandic, Norwegian
  33. Blöndal
    Meaning: Blonde hair person.
    Origin: Russian, Icelandic
  34. Möller
    Meaning: Mill operator or miller.
    Origin: Norwegian, Scandinavian
  35. Briem
    Meaning: Psuedo foreign.
    Origin: Germanic
  36. Hall
    Meaning: Big rock or stone.
    Origin: Old Norse, Icelandic
  37. Schram
    Meaning: Cleft in a rock or someone who lives near a rock.
    Origin: Icelandic
  38. Beck
    Meaning: Refers to a brook or stream.
    Origin: Germanic
  39. Gröndal
    Meaning: A green dale.
    Origin: Swedish
  40. Gray
    Meaning: It doesn’t have a specific meaning.
    Origin: Scandinavian
  41. Strom
    Meaning: Related to the Nordic god of thunder and lightning, Thor.
    Origin: Nordic
  42. Bui
    Meaning: Dweller.
    Origin: Nordic
  43. Almr
    Meaning: Elm tree.
    Origin: Scandinavian
  44. Araujo
    Meaning: A type of climbing plant, with white, fragrant flowers.
    Origin: Portuguese and Galician