Last names in Sweden are often connected to nature, or they are patronymic. Most people in the country have a last name reflecting one of these cultural naming traditions. Swedish surnames also stem from traits and characteristics as well as topography, although this is not as common as it is in other European countries.
The History of Swedish Last Names
The Swedish Naming Act started in 1901. This act required Swedish residents to adopt a surname comprised of their father's first name. Since then, the law has changed several times because the original law did not address the naming of adopted children, divorced women, and even married women.
Unlike many other European countries, Swedish last names often consist of two words put together to combine a surname. And while many other countries have used the occupations of people to derive a last name, this is actually a less common practice in Sweden.
Swedish Surnames Inspired By Nature
A well-known naming practice in Sweden is to use a last name inspired by nature. Many of these last names are the result of two nature-inspired words. For example, the last name Holmgren is comprised of 'holm' meaning island and 'gren' meaning breach. These surnames are beautiful names that translate to many natural wonders of the world.
- Blom - Means "flower"
- Björk - Means "birch"
- Blomqvist - Means "flower branch"
- Elg - Means "moose"
- Engberg - Means "meadow mountain"
- Fahlgren - Means "plains" or "flat lands"
- Falk - Means "falcon"
- Haag - Means "hedge"
- Gronberg - Means "green mountain"
- Nyqvist - Means "new branch"
- Öberg - Means "island" and "mountain"
- Ranstrom - Means "raven" or "river"
- Sandberg- Means "sandmountain"
- Sjö - Means "lake" or "sea"
- Strömberg - Means "mountain of the river"
- Sylvan - Means "forest"
Last Names Based on Physical Traits or Personality Characteristics
Last names that stem from physical traits or personality characteristics are common means to arrive at a surname, although less common in Sweden. These Swedish monikers reflect the qualities of ancestors.
- Adell - Means "noble"
- Birger - Means "one who protects"
- Ferm - Means "ready"
- Frisk - Means "healthy"
- Gudmundsson - Means "Godly protection"
- Lustig - Means "funny"
- Modig - Means "brave"
- Stolt - Means "proud"
- Trygg - Means "confident"
- Wallin - Means "powerful friend"
Popular Swedish Last Names
Sweden has some very recognizable last names. In fact, one-third of all Swedish names end in the suffix -son. The country is known for the band ABBA, Ikea, and thousands of people named Andersson.
- Andersson - Means "son of Anders." Most popular last name in Sweden.
- Bengtsson - Means "son of Bengt"
- Berg - Means "mountain"
- Eriksson - Means "son of Erik"
- Gustafsson - Means "son of Gustof"
- Johansson - Means "son of Johan"
- Jönsson - Means "son of Jon"
- Karlsson - Means "son of Karl"
- Larsson - Means "son of Lars"
- Lindgren - Means "Linden-tree branch"
- Nilsson - Means "son of Nils"
- Nordin - Means "descendant of the north"
- Olsson - Means "son of Olof"
- Persson - Means "son of Per"
- Svensson - Means "son of Sven"
Patronymic Swedish Names
Patronymic names are found all over the world. These names are created by taking the first name of the father and attributing a suffix such as "son of" onto it. This type of last name is very common in Sweden. Due to naming laws and practices started at the turn of the century, these surnames are readily found throughout the region.
- Abramson = Means "son of Abram"
- Alfredsson - Means "son of Andersson"
- Andersdotter - Means "daughter of Anders"
- Arvidsson - Means "son of Arvid"
- Bergson - Means "son of Berke"
- Claesson - Means "son of Claes"
- Davidsson - Means "son of David"
- Eriksdotter - Means "daughter of Erik"
- Gunderson - Means "son of Gunder"
- Gunnarsson - Means "son of Gunnar"
- Hansson - Means "son of Hans"
- Helgerson - Means "son of Helger"
- Isaksson - Means "son of Issac"
- Josefsson - Means "son of Josef"
- Magnusson - Means "son of Magnus"
- Petersdotter - Means "daughter of Peter"
- Samuelsson - Means "son of Samuel"
Rare and Unique Swedish Last Names
Every now and then, you come across a last name you have never heard before. Every country has its fair share of unique last names, and Sweden is no different. Some last names are unique because of their translations. While these names sound pretty standard, they become rare and interesting when the strange meaning behind them is revealed.
- Ahlgren - Means "older branch"
- Bergman - Means "mountain man"
- Drakenberg - Means "mountain of dragons"
- Ehrling - Means "heir of the clan chief"
- Lagerlöf - Means "laurel leaves"
- Lindelöf - Means "leaf of the lime tree"
- Ljungberg - Means "heather mountain"
- Thunberg - Describes a person who lived near a fenced-in area by a hill
- Wollter - Means "leader of the army"
Ornamental names are commonly found among Swedish last names. This particular naming practice started around the 17th century and was created by the middle class who wanted to follow naming practices of nobility. These names sometimes describe a landscape, but they are often arbitrary, combining words that may have no real relation.
- Alvin - Means "elf" and "in"
- Almstedt - Translates to "elm" and "town"
- Bergquist - Translates to "hill" and "twig"
- Bjornberg - Translates to "bear mountain"
- Bjurstrom - Translates to "beaver" and "river"
- Boman - Translates to "dwelling" and "man"
- Broberg - Translates to "bridge" and "mountain"
- Cederholm - Translates to "cedar" and "island"
- Cronquist - Translates to "crown" and "twig"
- Dahlberg - Translates to "valley" and "mountain"
- Dahlgren - Translates to "valley" and "branch"
- Edelberg - Translates to "noble" and "hill"
- Ekbald - Translates to "oak" and "leaf"
- Ekstrand - Translates to "oak" and "shore"
- Engstrom - Translates to "meadow" and "river"
- Fagerstrom - Translates to "beautiful" and "river"
- Hellström - Translates to "rock" and "river"
- Haggstorm - Means "bird" and "cherry"
- Holstrom - Translates to "island" and "stream"
- Kalberg - Translates to "cold" and "mountain"
- Kallgren - Translates to "spring source" and "twig"
- Kielman - Translates to "wedge" and "man"
- Lagerquist - Translates to "laurel" and "twig"
- Lindskog - Translates to "lime tree" and "wood forest"
- Mossberg - Translates to "peat bog" and "mountain"
- Osterling - Means "Easterling"
- Ostlund - Translates to "east grove"
- Quarnstrom - Translates to "mill" and "river"
- Roseander - Means "roseman"
- Settergren - Translates to "mountain pasture" and "branch"
- Sjöberg - Translates to "mountain" and "sea"
- Stahlberg - Translates to "steel mountain"
- Vastin - Traslates to "vast" and "west"
- Wiklund - Translates to "bay" and "grove"
- Windgard - Translates to "wind" and "farmhouse"
Habitational and Occupational Last Names
In other parts of the world, surnames are often taken from the place a person lived or lived nearby and the jobs they did. These names are less commonly found in Sweden.
- Bjorklund - Translates to "by the birch grove"
- Boberg - Means "dwelling by the mountain"
- Bodeen - Means "small hut"
- Carby - Translates to "freeman by the village"
- Hammar - Derived from a place called Hamarr
- Norgaard - Means "north farm"
- Nylander - Means "dweller on a new land"
- Sundstorm - Could refer to a person who lived near a river leading to a strait
- Underberg - Means someone who lived near or at the foot of the mountain
Surnames Can Reveal Your Ancestry
Last names can tell you a lot about a person's culture, heritage, and past. They can unlock secrets to what ancestors did, where they lived, and what personality qualities were specific to them. Every part of the world has naming practices particular to that region. Swedish last names illustrate a culture of people true to their lineage and devoted to the natural world around them.