The Finnish language is filled with beautiful, unique first names. They can be hard to pronounce because they often include a handful of vowels.
It can also be difficult to understand if it’s a boy’s or a girl’s name because the generic name rules don’t apply in Finnish.
For example, a first name ending with A, can in Finland, be a female or male name. For example, Mika is a man’s name but Minna is a woman’s name.
Today we will explore over 100 Finnish names, many of which have their roots in ancient Finnish folklore or nature. Some names, of course, do not mean anything at all.
I have made sure I included many of the names that make the list of most popular names in Finland year after year and also those popular right now.
Table of Contents
- Finland’s naming laws and first names
- How do Finns choose a name?
- Finnish girl’s names inspired by folklore, mythology and royals
- Finnish boy’s names inspired by folklore, mythology and royals
- Finnish girl’s names inspired by nature
- Finnish boy’s names inspired by nature
- But wait, aren’t some Finnish names gender-neutral?
Finland’s naming laws and first names
Before we dive into the names themselves, it might be good to know a little bit about what type of names Finns usually give and have. In Finland, a person must have at least one first name and one surname. In addition, they can have up to three middle names.
When you look at the list of most popular names given each year, the names given as middle names are often different from those given as first names. For example, in 2021, the most popular first name for a girl was Olivia and the most popular name (both first and middle names) Maria, which was not one of the first 50 most popular girl’s first names.
Once in a while you might find out the name you are used to calling your Finnish friend is actually their middle name. Like elsewhere in the world, Finns also have nicknames that are commonly used for certain names (Pirjo might be known as Pike, Karoliina as Karo, and Johanna as Jossu) and we are quite relaxed about people choosing what they want to be called.
The Finnish language does not use patronyms formed out of the father’s name, common for example in Russia, but especially men are sometimes given such middle names as Jukanpoika which means Jukka’s son. There are 380 men in Finland who currently have this name, compared to just under 50 000 men called Jukka.
How do Finns choose a name?
In Finland, a child gets a name after they are born. It can be a secret only the parents know until the official name giving day.
When I was reading about the ancient Finnish traditions, I found out there was a belief back in the day that revealing your child’s name before the name giving day would mean your child will talk too much. That is sooo Finnish!
Back then people used various methods that would help them determine what the right name would be. For example, if you lift the cradle and it feels light, you might have found the right name for this child. Another way would be to soothe a crying baby with different names. When the baby stops crying, you have found the real name.
Based on studies, for Finns today, one of the most important criteria for choosing a name is the meaning behind it. Many of our names literally mean something.
First names used in the family have had a long tradition of being passed down to newborn babies. It’s quite popular that your middle name belonged to your great grandparents or other ancestors.
Sometimes these older names also suddenly become trendy to use as first names. Out of the most popular names given to girls in 2021, for example, Aino, Kerttu, and Elsi are traditional names.
For boys, the traditional Eino and Elias, both made it to the top 5, probably inspired by well known Finns Eino Leino (poet) and Elias Lönnrot (philologist, Kalevala).
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Meanings of Finnish names
If meaning is so important, what kind of meanings do names most commonly have in Finland?
Nature is one of the most common inspirations. Out of the 20 most popular names given in 2021 for both girls and boys, eight names had a meaning and six of them referred to nature. In addition to nature, two popular boy’s names, Onni and Toivo, mean happiness and hope.
My name Varpu is nature inspired and means a small branch. The branches of different berries are also called varpu. For example: blueberry branch is mustikanvarpu.
Another common theme is Finnish mythology and folklore. You might find names of gods you might be familiar with from Kalevala but also Finnish versions of biblical names, like Eeva and Aatami for Eve and Adam. There are also Finnish versions of royal names, like Meeri, Kaarle and Yrjö for Mary, Charles and George.
English names or names that work globally are also becoming more and more popular in Finland. In 2021, the most popular girl’s name in both England and Finland was Olivia!
Next, let’s look at those names that are inspired by nature and folklore!
Finnish girl’s names inspired by folklore, mythology and royals
Names from the literature
Some very well known Finnish names come directly from some of our best known writers. The name Aino was created in Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot. The word ainoa he based the name on means “only one” and she was the only sister of Joukahainen.
Lönnrot wasn’t the only Finnish author who has left a lasting impression on Finnish naming traditions. In his book The Egyptian or Sinuhe egyptiläinen in 1945, Mika Waltari introduced a woman called Minea. The name was the 45th most popular female name given in 2021.
Another name made its way into Finland from the book “Prinsessa Lumisirkku ja kääpiöt” or Princess Snow White and the Dwarfs, published in the 1812 by brothers Grimm. Sirkku became a girl’s name and later took the now more common form Sirkka.
Names from folklore, religion and royals
Lempi, which still means love, is one of the older names in Finland that was reintroduced in the 1800s and in 1860s became a female name. Before then it was mostly used for males.
These early Finnish names were used as part of two-part names such as Hyvälempi (good love) or Kaikkivalta (all power) which can be found in documents from around 1200s and 1300s.
Some of the popular names have their roots in religions: Inkeri is based on the Swedish name Inger, which refers to the Scandinavian Ing-god and Isabella is the Finnish version of Isabel from the Hebrew word “elisheba”, God’s promise. The popular Lyydia (36th of all girl’s middle and first names in 2021) also has biblical origins.
Other names that have arrived from elsewhere with a connection to well known stories or royals include such names as Helena (Greek helios, sun light, the daughter of Zeus), Elisabet, and Aleksandra (20th most popular) or Alexandra (31st).
Finnish boy’s names inspired by folklore, mythology and royals
Names from folklore and mythology
More traditional names of gods or mythological creatures are still used as boy’s names in Finland. Some characters you might recognise from Kalevala or Finnish folklore include:
Ahti the god of the sea
Tapio the god of the forest
Ilmari from ilma meaning air, Ilmarinen is the blacksmith in Kalevala and the name has been used for a god before 1550s
Jouko is a shorter version of Joukahainen from Kalevala, probably originally meaning a white swan or related to words meaning snow.
Kalevi might come from a giant, kalevanpoika, in Finnish mythology
There are also some names that probably trace their roots to Kalevala, folklore and mythology in other ways than as gods. In Kalevala, Viljo means the best or excellent, and Otso comes from the pseudonym for bear, and is the king of the forest.
The bear was deeply respected in ancient Finland and also reflects Finnish folklore and Kalevala. Otso has become quite the popular name and actually ranks in the top 40 most popular boy’s names in Finland.
Another older name worth mentioning includes Kauko, a form of an old Finnish name meaning distant or far away (see the description for Lempi). Veikko, although not directly related to folklore, is a great one too, since it is similar in meaning to fellow in “a jolly fellow”.
Biblical and royal Finnish names
Since ruling a kingdom has often meant being chosen for the task by higher powers, royal and biblical names for men tend to have strong connections. There are Finnish versions of most of the common English male names of biblical origins. Often there is a longer version and then, often a more common, shorter and more Finnish sounding version.
Some examples of longer and shorter variants for names like William, Michael, Matthew, Stephen, Christian, Benjamin, Thomas, Oscar, Timothy, Joachim, and Samuel include:
Viljami, Vilho or Ville
Mikael, Mika or Mikko
Matias or Matti
Tuomas, Tommi, Tomi or Tuomo
Samuel or Sami
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Finnish girl’s names inspired by nature
I mentioned earlier that Finns choose names based on their meaning and names that refer to nature are especially popular. It has become a bit of a trend to identify new nature-based names too.
What different things feature in Finnish girl’s names?
Weather, light and times of the day
Beautiful words that mean something that appeals to people have become more popular. A great example of this is Lumi, which is not a traditional name and means snow. It was the 50th most popular name given to girls in 2021.
Different weather phenomena have made their mark on Finnish names in other ways too. Tuuli for wind and the derived Tuulikki found in Kalevala are traditional examples but more recent versions include names like Merituuli which means sea wind. Naturally these are air, light delicate names. Another similar name is Pilvi which means cloud.
Ilta which means evening and Aamu which means morning have both become sweet and straightforward names that have a magical ring to them. As of 3 years ago, only about 1083 people had the name Aamu in Finland. Säde, meaning ray of light, could be part of the same family of names.
Even more striking landscapes are painted in names like Aava (open, no land in sight at sea) and Aurora (dawn).
Trees, flowers and berries
Little treasures found in nature have also found their way into Finnish names. More traditional nature-inspired names include Helmi (pearl) and Marja (berry). The name Hilla means cloudberry and is rising in popularity. In my mind this sounds like an independent girl.
Marjatta, on the other hand, has only a connection to berries despite the fact the name could mean “without berries”: it is a name from the end of Kalevala given to a character who eats a berry and gets pregnant as a result!
Other things from nature you can find in Finnish names include Vilja (grain), Pihla (derived from the rowan tree with the beautiful red berries in the autumn), Paju for willow, Kanerva for heather, Lilja for lily and Nuppu for bud. What a delicate girl’s name that last one is!
My parents were very inspired by nature when choosing the names for us, as my sister is called Vanamo. It stands for twinflower.
Finnish boy’s names inspired by nature
What about boy’s names then? Interestingly most berries and trees are more common as girl’s names. Perhaps many of the things we like about the natural world have more feminine qualities?
We already know of Otso, the bear from Kalevala. Kuutti is also quite a fun and unique name as it means seal pup. The name Aarne can also be derived from names that originally might have meant an eagle. In Finnish mythology, “aarni” is the guardian of a treasure.
On the weather front boys can get names like Pyry. Fun to pronounce right? This name means that it’s snowing a lot, but it’s not yet a storm. This could be a strong and powerful name. At the end of 2019, the name Pyry was given to about 3,832 men.
Next we have another stormy name: “Myrsky”. It literally means “storm.” This name feels untamed and wild. It doesn’t yet have a nameday on the Finnish calendar, like many of the names that are just picking up popularity.
The beautiful name Otava refers to the Big Dipper constellation. Havu is one of the few tree related male names and means conifer. This name is quite new and the majority of people this name were born in the 2010s.
But wait, aren’t some Finnish names gender-neutral?
While many of the especially newer nature-inspired names are actually not that tightly tied to gender, at least Talvi, Ruska, and Myrsky can be gender-neutral. Talvi means winter and Ruska means the winter foliage.
Other such names might include Tuisku for another type of snowfall, Aalto or Laine which both mean wave, Kataja for Juniper, Kuura for frost, Leimu for flame, Pouta which means dry weather, Puro for stream, and Sumu for fog.
These are all suggestions for gender-neutral Finnish names from the internet but none of them are very common yet. Many of these nature-inspired names also feature as Finnish surnames.
As a fun fact, like in any language, you can also give these unique names to your pets. For example, I know a dog named Varpu!
There you have it! 100+ Unique Finnish names and their meanings where applicable – many of them from the nature or local folklore.
Which name was the most interesting to you? Let me know in the comments!
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