During the olden times, people were only given one name. This is what they carried with them throughout their life. After a while, the problem of differentiating people who carried the same given name was seeking a solution. The answer was to add another name that would describe what kind of a person an individual was, or where he was originally from. John the Strong or Olof of Lida are just some examples of these additions. If we notice in the bible, a lot of names there follow the same practice as well, such as the names Jesus of Nazareth and Joseph the Carpenter.
A lot of cultures then adopted the practice of making use of the name of the father as a way to differentiate two people, and avoid any sort of confusions regarding the real identity of the person carrying the given name. An additional name coming from the father of the person, or an ancestor from the father’s side of the family was done through adding a prefix or suffix that meant the “son.” This is referred to at present times as the “patronymic name.” This is also the system practiced for Swedish last names.
The Patronymic Names
In Sweden, patronymic surnames have been commonly used during the early times, with the first name of the father added to be a part of the surname of his children. For instance, if Anders Karlsson sired a son whom he has named Edvard, his complete name would be Edvard Andersson, the “son” at the end, meaning son. The same follows for a daughter, referred to as “dotter.” Anders Karlsson’s daughter Cathrine would carry the complete name, Cathrine Andersdotter. For this reason, you will find that “ss” is present in “son” names. The patronymic last name follows to the succeeding generation as well. With the method of patronymic naming, an individual’s first name would be his most essential means of identity. His last name serves only as an indication of his relationship among his siblings.
The use of patronymic surnames was used constantly in the rural areas of Sweden, as well as among those who worked in the urban centers before the 1860s. During that period it was a popular practice for these groups of people to take on the surname of a family and hand it down from generation to generation. Most families would adopt names that had a connection to where they came from or those that were associated with nature. Generally though, the patronymic surname was maintained a family name.
Common Swedish Last Names and What They Mean
In Sweden, most of the common last names at present are those with “son.” Among them are Johansson and Andersson. Those that have no “son” include Lindberg and Lindkvist, among others.
Swedish last names carry with them a meaning or a reason for the name. Some of the more common ones include Adolffson, meaning the son of Adolf; Ahlgren for alder branch; Bergfalk for mountain and falcon; Blomgren for flower and branch; or Bengtsdotter, meaning daughter of Bengt. Frisk is another Swedish last name that came from the German word, “vrisch,” meaning fresh and healthy. This name was handed out in order to avoid any type of confusion within the army. Norling was originally given to signify that the person carrying the name hailed from the north.
We do not really know when exactly it was the people began to adopt family names. Nevertheless, it appears that adding family names began in places that were highly populated. This was where first names were not sufficient to distinguish one person from another. Various cultures saw the need for some kind of distinction at different times. Just the same, family names do serve one good purpose, a chance to find out where we came from, who are our ancestors were, and our main source of livelihood.