Friday, February 1

Swedish Top 100: Girls

Two photos from the past couple months: Sonoma deer, kitchen flowers

The top 100 names in Sweden were released a couple weeks ago — and if anything was going to jolt me out of blog-hiatus land, it would be a lovely set of names like this. The girls list, in particular, is full of soft, yet sophisticated, sounds. What I like best about the Swedish lists, and what I find most interesting about it, is that the pool of names reads as a rather cohesive one. Not to say there isn't a lot of variation — just the opposite, really. There are names that would seem dated if they were American choices (Alicia, Amanda, Ellen, Lisa, Melissa), striking Scandinavian specialties (Tilde, Stina, Ronja), plenty of super short yet feminine names (My, Rut, Liv, Linn) and, of course, the completely incongruous (I'm looking at you, Tyra). 

Yet, somehow, despite these seemingly disparate styles, the Swedish top 100 seems like it could almost be one big sibling set. Though the names come from all over the place, they repeat similar sounds, share the same aesthetics and favor certain letters — in short, and to sound totally name flaky, the names in the Swedish girls top 100 create similar vibes. There's not one that stands out when the thing's looked at as a whole, the names seem to flow and play off each other in a way that I find totally appealing. 

Here are some of my favorite names on the list — 

Saga — coming in at #22, Saga sits comfortably high-up on this list, for a name that would be incredibly unusual heard here in the States. I assume its use as an English word would prevent it from ever enjoying the same kind of popularity here, though plenty of names on the Swedish list are very successful internationally, like Isabella, Emma, Julia, Ella, Olivia and Stella, and the word "saga" translates directly to "story" in Swedish. In Norse mythology, Sága is a goddess whose name comes from a verb meaning "to see." I find the sound and meaning very appealing, and so do Swedish namers, apparently: Saga is on the rise, moving up 5 spots from its 2011 position

Moa — on the other hand, Moa, which ranks at #27, fell a few spots from its position last year. Its meaning may be derived from the Swedish word for "mother," and it was the name of writer Moa Martinson, popular in the first half of the 20th century in Sweden. Interestingly, Moa is also found as a place name in Cuba, Indonesia, Africa (Niger and Sierra Leone) and Australia, and is the name of a species of extinct flightless birds native to New Zealand. Where Saga would be a bit of a hard sell to a modern American parent naming their daughter, I think Moa has a broader appeal. Its similarity to popular Noah and Maya make it familiar enough to be usable

Ines — Ines is one of my personal favorite names. It doesn't get nearly enough love. It's a chic international classic with history and real weight, yet it's light and unusual and spunky. I'm not surprised that the Swedish have found it and like it — it ranks at #54 on the list. Ines also ranks highly in Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, France and Spain, and is a form of Agnes (which is #12 on the Swedish list), from the Greek hagnos, meaning "chaste," often associated with the Latin agnus, meaning "lamb." So good

Tindra — I've read that Tindra's a controversial one in Sweden, sometimes seen as a low-class choice. If you've spent time in an Ikea lately, you might begin to understand why — the word translates to "twinkle," in English. However, as an outsider unaware of this connection, I just think it sounds pretty — though I'm more drawn to the "Tin-" sound than the "-dra," one, which does sound a little dated to my American ear

Majken — #78 on the list is one that I always notice when I see it on the periphery. It's a variant of Maiken, a diminutive of Maria (also on the list, at #97) and I love the look of it. To get an idea of how it's pronounced, visit here. Something about that "-jken" is so cute

Lykke — probably due to the popularity of Swedish musician Lykke Li, this name made its top-100 debut this year. It's a Danish name meaning "good fortune" or "happiness," and is also in the Norwegian top 100. For those wondering about its pronunciation, it's something more like Luca than Laika. Actually, Lykke Li has a pretty cool full name — she was born Li Lykke Timotej Svensson Zachrisson. I think this is a sweet little choice and I can easily see it gaining popularity in Sweden

Novalie — another new face on the list, Novalie rounds it out at #100. Americans might associate it with Natalie Portman's character, Novalee Nation, from the movie Where the Heart Is, based on the best-selling novel by Billie Letts. I'm not sure why it appears on the Swedish radar — I assume it's a name-smush, taking popular Nova (#26) and pairing it with a popular suffix ("-ie," which is found all over the list, from Nellie to Emelie to Sofie). I wish I knew more about how it's perceived in Sweden, but I love that although it's technically a made-up modern name, it manages to sound retro and old-ladyish

A few of the things I noticed: 63 names out of the top 100 end in "-a," including 9 of the top 10. The top 5 fastest rising names are Alicia, Elise, Lykke, Majken and Sigrid, and the 5 names that are declining in popularity the fastest are Minna, Tove, Elin, Evelina and Thea

To see the lists, click here


  1. Yep you're right - Novalie is a cross between Nova and Li (Lykke's first name). It somehow seems slightly American to me.

    I like Saga too, although I guess it's slightly "heavy" as a name.

    Tindra just looks like someone mis-typed Tundra to me!

  2. I love Tindra so much, but as soon as I heard the meaning I knew it was probably seen as trashy in Sweden. I'm guessing its like Sweden's version of Nevaeh. Bummer!


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