Travel Notices

What is your Icelandic name?

Among many of the wonderful eccentricities of Iceland are the names of the Icelandic people. The Icelandic naming system is unlike any other in the world. To create surnames, Icelanders take the first name of their fathers, and then add son for males and dóttir for females to show possession. For instance, if your father’s first name is Paul, and you are his son, then your last name is Paulsson. If you are his daughter, then your last name is now Paulsdóttir. Fun, right? Try it for yourself. My Icelandic last name is Samuelsdóttir.

Not only that, but strict rules regulate name selection. All new first and middle names must be approved by the Icelandic government, so there’s little chance of ever meeting a Gagasson or Gagasdóttir when visiting this island nation.

But there are plenty of other reasons to visit Iceland, a country that is quickly becoming a hot international travel destination. First and foremost are the worldviews of its people. It’s a land that sounds like it could be frozen in time, yet it’s remarkably progressive. Approximately 85 percent of the country’s energy comes from green sources, thanks to an abundance of hydrothermal and geothermal energy pools. Additionally, the nation has one of the lowest incidences of violent crimes around the globe, keeping in line with its peaceful and accepting perspectives.

Iceland is also a nature lover’s paradise, where hiking, skiing, and exploring abound. To top it off, guests can glimpse breathtaking views of the Northern Lights. While it is chilly, it’s not nearly as cold as its name suggests, with temperatures that range from an average of 28 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to a high around 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Ruled by Denmark until it declared its independence in 1944, Iceland is known for both its fire and ice — glaciers and ice fields coexist with volcanoes and lava flows. While parts of Iceland are considered Arctic tundra, other areas are more like temperate European countries. I personally love it all.

This land of incredible contrasts, full of youthful and unique people, is now a must-visit destination for any son or dóttir. And that includes you!


  1. Martha Morris (Waynedottir)

    I so enjoyed your piece on Iceland. The tour price seems reasonable. I assume it does not include airfare. let me know more.

  2. Hi Martha,
    Happy to hear you liked the post! Our Iceland Adventure tour includes round-trip airfare from Boston Logan, JFK, or Newark airports, and select departures from Toronto (or other gateways at low through fares). It also includes three nights in tourist-class accommodations, breakfast daily, a Reykjavík city tour, all taxes and fees, and all arrival and departure transfers.

  3. Wayne D. Perkins

    Someone clearly neglected to explain that “son” and “dóttir” are added to the POSSESSIVE form of the father’s name – hence, we would have “Paulsson”, “Paulsdóttir”, “Samuelsson”, and “Samuelsdóttir” in the examples you gave.

    Incidentally, what we know today as “Icelandic” was actually the language of the Norse, the Vikings, the language in which the famous Norse “Sagas” was written, and it has changed very little in 1,100 years, thanks to the island’s isolation. What’s more, it’s a “fossil” language, the closest living language to the original Indo-European tongue, in fact, and this paternal naming convention is a “fossil” example of ancient culture.

  4. Teresa

    The naming scheme of using the first name of the father and tacking “son” or “daughter” on the end is an old Scandanavian tradition. As I researched my Swedish ancestors, I found that many of my ancestors used this tradition into the late 1800s.

  5. Hi Wayne,
    You’re right! Thanks for sharing your Icelandic knowledge. We’ll update!

  6. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker

    The Icelandic naming convention also exists in many other cultures. In Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev, son of Sergey Gorbachev, is Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. And a Jewish person’s Hebrew name will be their first name, followed by “bar” or “ben” for males and “bas” or “bat” for females, followed by their father’s name. In Scottish, “Mc” or “Mac” is “son of,” and in Irish, “O'” precedes the grandfather’s name.

  7. Julie

    “Ab” or “Ap” in Welsh, too. I always thought “Mc” and “Mac” actually meant “of the clan of,” though.

  8. Lebronacus Jordamian Tomlinson

    I like my name

  9. michele


  10. Spencer


  11. Michael

    Also, if I remember correctly from my somewhat brief time stationed there, they take the surname as the first name. For example, Svenni Thorsson’s child will be Thor Svennsson, and his child would be Svenni Thorsson, and so on. Some families can retrace ancestry for MANY generations…


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