Icelandic Naming Committee

Icelandic language Declension Icelandic grammar
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Icelandic Naming Committee
Icelandic: Mannanafnanefnd
Committee overview
Formed1991 (1991)
Parent CommitteeMinistry of Justice

The Icelandic Naming Committee[1] (Icelandic: Mannanafnanefnd;[2] pronounced [ˈmanːaˌnapnaˌnɛmt])—also known in English as the Personal Names Committee[3]—maintains an official register of approved Icelandic given names and governs the introduction of new given names into Icelandic culture.

Composition and mission

The Naming Committee was established in 1991[2] to determine whether new given names not previously used in Iceland are suitable for integration into the country's language and culture. The committee comprises three appointees who serve for four years, appointed by the Minister of Justice—one to be nominated by the Icelandic Language Committee, one by the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Iceland, and one by the university's Faculty of Law.[3]

A name not already on the official list of approved names must be submitted to the naming committee for approval. A new name is considered for its compatibility with Icelandic tradition[4] and for the likelihood that it might cause the bearer embarrassment.[5] Under Article 5 of the Personal Names Act,[5] names must be compatible with Icelandic grammar (in which all nouns, including proper names, have grammatical gender and change their forms in an orderly fashion according to the language's case system). Names must also contain only letters occurring in the Icelandic alphabet, and with only occasional exceptions, a name's grammatical gender previously had to match the sex of the person bearing the name.[6]

In 2019, changes were announced to the laws governing names. Given names will no longer be restricted by gender. Moreover, Icelanders who are officially registered with non-binary gender will be permitted to use the patro/matronymic suffix -bur ("child") instead of -son or -dóttir.[7]

As of the end of 2012, the Personal Names Register (Mannanafnaskrá) contained 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names.[8]


Jón Gnarr

Jón Gnarr, former mayor of Reykjavík, protested the committee's denial of his request to legally drop "Kristinsson" from his name despite his desire to disassociate himself from his father. Jón pointed out that if Robert Mugabe moved to Iceland, as a foreigner he would be allowed to keep that non-conforming name, but that native Icelanders were not allowed to have non-conforming names.[9] He was also unable to legally name his daughter "Camilla" after her grandmother; it was instead spelled "Kamilla" because C is not part of the Icelandic alphabet.[10] Jón was allowed to legally change his name in 2015.[11]

Blær Bjarkardóttir Rúnarsdóttir

Passport of Blær Bjarkardóttir Rúnarsdóttir, using Stúlka (Icelandic for "girl") in place of her real given name

The committee refused to allow Blær Bjarkardóttir Rúnarsdóttir (born 1997)[12] to be registered under the name given to her as a baby, on the grounds that the masculine noun blær ("gentle breeze" in Icelandic) could be used only as a man's name. Blær—identified in official records as Stúlka[12] ("girl" in Icelandic)—and her mother, Björk Eiðsdóttir, challenged the committee's decision in court, arguing that Blær had been used by Nobel Prize–winning Icelandic author Halldór Laxness as the name of a female character in his 1957 novel The Fish Can Sing (Brekkukotsannáll).[13][14][15] One other woman in Iceland was already registered at the time with the name Blær,[6] and two declensions (sets of case forms)—one masculine and one feminine—exist for the name.[16]

On 31 January 2013, the Reykjavík district court ruled in the family's favour and overruled the naming committee, finding that Blær could in fact be both a man's and a woman's name and that Blær had a constitutional right to her own name, and rejecting government claims that it was necessary to deny her request in order to protect the Icelandic language.[17] After the court's decision, Iceland's interior minister confirmed that the government would accept the ruling and would not appeal the case to the country's Supreme Court.[18][19] The chair of the naming committee, as well as a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, said the ruling in Blær's case could prompt the government to revisit the current laws on personal names.[1]

Duncan and Harriet Cardew

The committee refused to accept the names of Duncan and Harriet Cardew—Icelandic-born children of a British father and an Icelandic mother—because their names did not meet the criteria for being added to the registry of approved names.[20] The children had originally used passports with the substitute names Drengur (boy) and Stúlka (girl); however, in 2014, Icelandic authorities refused to renew Harriet's passport at all without a legally acceptable name.[21] Since the Cardews were about to travel to France, they obtained emergency British passports for Duncan and Harriet; the parents also announced they would file a formal complaint objecting to the naming committee's rejection of their children's names and the passport office's refusal to renew their Icelandic passports.[22] The Cardews announced in June 2016 that they had won their case and their children's names would be recognised.[23]


  1. ^ a b "State Not to Appeal in Iceland Name Case". Iceland Review Online. 5 February 2013. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b Barker, Simon (2 September 2009). "What's in a Name? – Part 1: Naming and Historicity". Iceland Review Online. Archived from the original on 17 January 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Personal Names Act (No. 45)". Iceland: Ministry of the Interior. 17 May 1996. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  4. ^ Úrskurðir og álit [Decisions and Opinions] (2010). "Meginreglur um mannanöfn" [Principles Governing Personal Names] (in Icelandic). Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Name giving". Þjóðskrá Íslands [National Register of Iceland]. 2010. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b "What is the general census (sic) in Iceland about the name issue of Blær?". Iceland Review Online. 10 January 2013. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  7. ^ Kyzer, Larissa (2019-06-22). "Icelandic names will no longer be gendered". Iceland Review.
  8. ^ "Icelandic girl fights for right to her own name". Denver Post. 3 January 2013. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  9. ^ Cox, Patrick (1 July 2014). "No longer mayor of Reykjavik, Jón Gnarr can restart his career as a comedian. Not that he ever stopped". Public Radio International. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  10. ^ "Jón Gnarr Criticizes "Stupid Law Against Creativity"". The Reykjavík Grapevine. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Blær Bjarkardóttir Rúnarsdóttir's 2011 Icelandic passport shows her birthdate and uses Stúlka in place of her real given name.
  13. ^ "Icelandic teenager sues state for right to use her name". The Daily Telegraph. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Icelandic girl wins legal right to use her given name". CBC Radio. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2015. Interview with Blær Bjarkardóttir Rúnarsdóttir (in English).
  15. ^ "A Girl Fights To Be Called By Her Name In Iceland, Suing Government". NPR. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  16. ^ As a masculine name, Blær is declined in Icelandic grammar as Blær (nominative), Blæ (accusative/dative), and Blæs (genitive). As a feminine name, the declension is Blær (N), Blæ (A), Blævi (D), and Blævar (G). See "What is the general census (sic) in Iceland about the name issue of Blær?". Iceland Review Online. 10 January 2013. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  17. ^ "Réttur Blævar ríkari en samfélagshagsmunir" [Blær's rights outweigh community interests] (in Icelandic). RÚV. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  18. ^ "Blær gets to keep her name – Government does not appeal". News of Iceland. 1 February 2013. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  19. ^ "Blær Bjarkardóttir celebrates the court's decision". News of Iceland. 4 February 2013. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013. At the end of this article, there is a picture of a poster with the grammatical declension of Blær as a feminine noun.
  20. ^ "Icelandic girls can't be called Harriet, government tells family". The Guardian. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  21. ^ "Girl denied passport because name is 'non-Icelandic'". London Evening Standard. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  22. ^ "British Passport Granted To Harriet Cardew". The Reykjavík Grapevine. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  23. ^ "Victory for the British-Icelandic siblings named 'girl' and 'boy' on passports". Evening Standard. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2016.