What’s Your Icelandic Last Name?

 In History & Culture
ísland – Lictestein  fótbolti karla

Since Iceland’s surprising streak of victories at the Euro Cup, the spotlight has been on this island up north. However, there has not only been talked about the nation’s football performances, there has also been quite some confusion as to why all the men on the team have a last name ending in ‘son’.

The turmoil about all the ‘son’s has most clearly been noticeable on social media. Tweets such as ‘hahah all the Iceland players last name end with ‘son’’ and ‘if your last name doesn’t end with ‘son’ you’re not allowed to play for Iceland’ have become par for the course in the past weeks.

https://twitter.com/emilia_wojjjj/status/747507279193333760

It even led to a new-found questioning of heritage among ‘son’s all over the world.

Well, Stephen, the reason for this crazy coincidence is that, technically, Icelanders don’t have surnames, they have patronymic last names. Their last names are derived from their fathers’ names, and the son at the end simply means son of *enter father*.

You’ve encountered an Icelander whose last name doesn’t end with ‘son’? Then chances are it’s a girl and her last name ended with dóttir (which, you would never guess, means daughter).

Iceland Explained - Björk
This woman's name is Björk GuðmundsdóttirBjörk, daughter of Guðmundur

So, the quick formula to Icelandic last names?

Your father’s first name + possessive ‘s’ (but only sometimes) + son/dóttir (depending on your own sex) = your ‘last name.’

Kristbjörg has a father named Hrafnkell, therefore her name is: Hrafnkell + s + dóttir, or Kristbjörg Hrafnkelsdóttir.

Or a simpler version is, Jón’s father is Jón, so his name is Jón Jónsson.

Easier than maths, isn’t it? This also means that you only share the same last name with your sibling of the same sex, not with your other siblings, parents, or even grandparents!

So now we know why all the men on the Icelandic team have the same ending of their last name, and why that is actually not as much of a bizarre coincidence as most might think.

IMG_0309
This man's name is Erpur EyvindarsonErpur, son of Eyvind

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