Finland, a person must have a surname and 1–3 first
Surnames are usually inherited patrilineally,
while first names are usually chosen by person's parents.
come from a variety of dissimilar
traditions that were consolidated only in the early 20th century.
The first national act on names came into force in 1921, and it
made surnames mandatory. Between 1930 and 1985, the Western Finnish
tradition whereby a married woman took her husband's surname was
mandatory. Previously in Eastern Finland, this was not necessarily
are not used. They were
forbidden until recently, and are in practice handled like
additional first names, i.e. one must still have a surname.
Finnish first names are often of Biblical origin (e.g. Jukka from
Greek Johannes), but Finnish and Swedish origins are
Pronunciation of Finnish names is according to Finnish phonology
. The letter 'j' denotes
[j], as in English
. For example, the two different names Maria
are pronounced nearly identically. The letter
'y' denotes the vowel [y], not found in English, but similar to
German 'ü' and French 'u'. 'R' is rolled. The stress is always on
the first syllable. For example, Yrjö Järvinen
pronounced ['yr.jø 'jær.vi.nen]. Double letters always stand for a
geminate or longer sound, e.g. Marjaana
has a stressed
short /ɑ/ followed by an unstressed long /ɑː/. When writing Finnish
names without the Finnish alphabet
available (such as in e-mail addresses), the letters 'ä' and 'ö'
are usually replaced with 'a' and 'o', respectively, e.g.
. This is not the
same, but visually recognizable. Finnish has a long bilingual
history and it is not unusual for Finnish speakers to have Swedish
surnames or given names. Such names may be pronounced according to
Finland has two predominant surname traditions: the West Finnish
and the East Finnish
. Until the early 20th century,
Finland was a predominantly agrarian
society and the names of West Finns
were based on their association with a particular area, farm
, or homestead
("Jaakko from the farm of Jussi"). Farm
names typically had the suffix -la
and could refer to the
husband (like Jussila
) or describe the location (e.g.
"large clearing"). This name could change every
time the person moved to a different farm. Farm names, patronyms
and village names could be used to disambiguate between different
people, but they were not true inherited surnames. For example, in
the novel Seven Brothers
Kivi, 1870) the character Juhani
was officially summoned
as Juhani Juhanin-poika Jukola, Toukolan kylästä
son of Juhani, from Jukola farm, Toukola village".
On the other hand, the East Finnish surname tradition dates back to
13th century. There, the Savonians
necessitated moving several times during a person's lifetime. This
in turn required the families to have surnames, which were in wide
use among the common folk as early as the 13th century. By the
mid-16th century, the East Finnish surnames had become hereditary.
Typically, the oldest East Finnish surnames were formed from the
first names of the patriarchs of the families, e.g.
. In the
16th, 17th and 18th centuries, new names were most often formed by
adding the place name of the former or current place of living
(e.g. Puumalainen Puumala).
the East Finnish tradition, the females carried the family name of
their fathers in female form (e.g. Puumalatar
). By the 19th century, this practice fell into
disuse due to the influence of West-European surname tradition.
Also, women did not change their surnames with marriage.
In Western Finland, the agrarian names dominated, and the last name
of the person was usually given according to the farm or holding
they lived on. In 1921, surnames became compulsory for all Finns.
At this point, the agrarian names were usually adopted as surnames.
A typical feature of such names is the addition of prefixes
(Sub-) or Ylä-
(Up-), giving the location of
the holding along a waterway in relation of the main holding (e.g.
). In Pohjanmaa
, there are similar prefixes
"downstream" and Latva-
Common suffixes are -nen
(in oblique form -se-
e.g. Miettinen - Miettisen "Miettinen's"), which was probably a
suffix and -la
meaning "place of", which comes from louko
, a loanword
from Proto-IE "glade" (*loukoz
). The most common surnames
in Finland are Virtanen
A third, foreign tradition of surnames was introduced in Finland by
-speaking upper and
middle classes which used typical German and Swedish surnames. By
custom, all Finnish-speaking persons who were able to get a
position of some status in urban or learned society, discarded
their Finnish name, adopting a Swedish, German or (in case of
surnames. In the case of
, the new
name was given regardless of the wishes of the individual.
A set of graves in Tampere, showing
the Swedish surname ‘Kyander’ as well as the Fennicized
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the overall modernization
process and especially, the political movement of Fennicization
caused a movement for adoption
of Finnish surnames. At that time, many persons with a Swedish or
otherwise foreign surname changed their family name to a Finnish
one. The features of nature with endings -o/ö
"point") are typical of the names
of this era, as well as more or less direct translations of Swedish
names (Helleranta Hällstrand
). Fennicizing one's
name also concealed non-Finnish origin. For example, Martti Ahtisaari's grandfather was
Adolfsen from Norway.
Nevertheless, Fennicization was not mandatory and thus it is common
to find entirely Finnish-speaking families with Swedish surnames;
having a Swedish name does not imply that one would speak
An effect of industrialization was that large numbers of people
moved to the cities and towns and had to adopt a surname. Missing
an inherited surname, they invented one from scratch. Initially,
these were in Swedish, and they were not very stable; people called
them "superfluous names" (liikanimi
), and a person could
change one's surname several times during their career. Later,
Finnish became the preferred language, and themes were taken from
nature. The most common examples of this type are Laine
"grove". When applicable, -nen
could be suffixed, e.g. Koskinen
Unlike in Swedish, Finnish patronymics are not used as surnames.
Thus, the Finnish situation differs considerably from e.g. Sweden
with hundreds of thousands of Anderssons etc. Patronymics are
considered additional given names. An exception is Icelandic citizens
Finland, who are allowed to follow the Icelandic name
The most common surnames
In 21st-century Finland, the use of surnames follows the German model
. Every person is legally obliged to
have a first and last name. At most, three first names are allowed.
A Finnish married couple may adopt the surname that either spouse
had as non-married, in which case this name will be the surname of
their children. A spouse changing his or her name may decide to
consisting of his or her former and current official
surname. In the case where both spouses keep their names they may
choose either name for their children, but all siblings must share
the same surname.
All persons have the right to change their surname once without any
specific reason. A surname that is un-Finnish, contrary to the
usages of the Swedish or Finnish languages, or in use by any person
resident in Finland cannot be accepted as the new name, unless
valid family reasons or religious or national customs give a reason
for waiving this requirement. However, persons may change their
surname to any surname that has ever been used by their ancestors,
if they can prove such claim. Some immigrants have had difficulty
naming their children, as they must choose from an approved list
based on the family's household language.
Surnames behave like regular words when forming grammatical cases.
Thus, for example, the genitive of Mäki
just like regular mäki
"hill" becomes mäen
The native Finnish tradition of first names was lost during the
early Christian period, and by the 16th century, use of Christian
first names was dominant. The popular names were usually the names
of saints whose cult was wide-spread. This resulted in some
differences between the Western and Eastern Finnish first names, as
the names in Eastern Finland might have had forms derived from
or Church-Slavic, instead
of Swedish and Latin forms. The most important source for
researching the name forms actually used by the Finns themselves in
the 15th to 18th centuries are the surnames preserved in written
sources, as these often are formed on the basis of a first name.
The first names themselves are usually given in Swedish or Latin
forms, as these are the languages used in the sources. The name
actually used was a Fennicized form of the name, which might change
as the person became older. For example, a person given the name
in the parish register might be called
as a child, Kusti
as an adolescent,
as an adult and Kyösti
an old man.
early 19th century, almost all Finnish first names were taken from
the official Almanac, published by the
Royal Academy of Turku, later
The names were mostly names of the saints
whose cult had been popular before the Reformation
, but the Almanach also
incorporated a number of names from the Old Testament
, which were added to certain
days during the 17th and 18th centuries. During the 19th century,
the Finnish forms were gradually added to the Finnish Almanach,
while the Swedish and Latin forms were removed. At the same time,
the vicars gradually started to use Finnish name forms in parish
registers. This in turn, cemented the Finnish name forms used. By
the 1930s, the use of Finnish names was stabilized and most of the
popular names were noticed in the Almanach. Since then, the
Almanach has been gradually changed to include new, popular names.
At present, all names which have at least 1,000 bearers are
incorporated into the Almanach of the University of Helsinki and
given a "name day" ( ). At present, 792 of the 35,000 first names
used in Finland are listed in the Finnish Almanach.
Since the digitalization of the Finnish national population
database in the 1970s, the most popular names in Finland (of all
Finnish residents or citizens who have lived after that point) have
Of the names listed, Kalevi
are forms taken from the Kalevala
or other Finnish mythology
At present, the Names Act ( ; ) of 1985 requires that all Finnish
citizens and residents have at least one and at the most three
first names. Persons who do not have a first name are obligated to
adopt one when they are entered into the Finnish national
population database. Parents of new-born children must name their
child and inform the population registry within two months of the
child's birth. The name may be chosen freely, but it must not be
- a name used primarily by persons of the other sex
- a name foreign to Finnish or Swedish language
- a surname, except a patronymic as last given name
- a name already used by a sibling, if this is to be the only
Waivers may be granted if valid family, religious or ethnic reasons
give grounds to use a name contrary to these principles. Persons
may change their first names once without a specific reason. For
subsequent changes, valid reasons must be presented.
- Nimilaki (694/1985) § 26. Retrieved
- The whole section is based on the article Paikkala, S. Sukunimet sukututkimuksessa. Retrieved 11-6-2007.
- Sukunimien muutokset
- Equality in Finland. Information for
Immigrants. Ministry of Labour. Page 2. Retrieved 3-11-2008.
- Nimilaki (694/1985) § 2, 7, 8a. Retrieved
- The information here is taken from the Finnish Nimilaki (694/1985) (Name Act). Retrieved
- Sarilo, M. Nimien alkuperä. Campus. University of
Tampere. Retrieved 3-11-2008.
- Yleisimmät nimet. Retrieved 3-11-2008.
- Almanakkatoimisto. Kysymyksiä ja vastauksia. Retrieved
- Nimipäivän vietto. Research Institute for the
Languages of Finland. Retrieved 3-11-2008.
- Nimipalvelu. Väestörekisterikeskus. Retrieved
- Suomalaisten nimien alkuperä. The equivalent
names of the saints are taken from the list in this source.
Retrieved 3-11-2008. Juhani
- Nimilaki (694/1985) §§ 1, 32a. Retrieved
- Nimilaki (694/1985) § 32b. Retrieved