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Norway Explained For Members

Why are certain children's names banned in Norway?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Why are certain children's names banned in Norway?
The Norwegian Population Register receives between 50 and 100 unusual naming proposals from all over Norway. Around half of these names end up being rejected. Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Until recently, Norway had very strict rules on names you could give your children. What are the current restrictions?

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Up to the early 2000s, Norway would regularly pop up as an example in discussions about restrictive naming regulations, as its old laws (from the 19th century) were quite unforgiving when it came to picking out names for children that fell outside of what was considered the social norm.

However, the country's new naming law from 2002/2003 changed that, and today, even non-typical Norwegian names are highly likely to be approved.

That doesn't mean that anything goes – there are still some limitations in force that apply to picking a name for a child or changing your name as an adult.

The changes brought about by Norway's 2003 naming law

While naming practices have been significantly relaxed in 2003, there are still restrictions in place that make it hard for a name to be accepted if there is a chance that it could pose substantial difficulties to the person in question or if there are other compelling reasons to do so.

According to the newspaper Nettavisen, the Norwegian Population Register receives between 50 and 100 unusual naming proposals from all over Norway each year.

Around half of these names end up being rejected.

Ivar Utne, a name researcher at the University of Bergen, who is often asked to advise on contentious naming cases, told the newspaper that names that can provoke negative associations usually aren't accepted.

"These are names that would be a significant disadvantage for their bearer or (out of consideration) for society or people around the person," he said.

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How does the process of getting a name approved work?

In Norway, the Tax Administration at the Population Register is in charge of processing all first-time name applications and name change requests. Both types of applications can be submitted to the authorities electronically or in paper form.

When it comes to applying for a name for a child, parents need to submit a notice of initial choice of a name before the child turns six months old.

Children under the age of 16 – or their parents – have to submit a "Notice of change of name" if they want to change their name. Furthermore, from the moment the child turns 12, the child also must consent to the name change.

If the person who wishes to change their name is over 16 years of age, they need to submit a "Notice of change of name" on their own accord.

You can find the necessary forms and more details on the process on the website of the Tax Administration.

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Which names are likely to be rejected?

In practice, names associated with swear words, titles (such as king, queen, or princess), medicines, diseases, and instances where the first and last names are the same are rejected.

There are additional guidelines in place for first names and last names.

According to the 2003 naming law, first names have to be gender-appropriate. It is not permissible to select a boy's name for a girl or vice versa.

However, a wide range of names is acceptable for both genders, providing flexibility and choice within the naming conventions.

There are also several things to keep in mind when it comes to last names. You are free to choose a last name if it is used by more than 200 people in the country.

However, there is also a category of last names considered protected, and it applies to last names in cases where less than 200 people have the last name.

In order to use such a protected last name, you'll need to prove that you actually have a connection with it – usually through family ties.

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Potential challenges related to foreign names

Utne pointed out that issues can arise in naming cases where a name has two different meanings – one in Norwegian and another in a foreign language, especially if the meaning and associated connotations in Norwegian can inconvenience the bearer.

In such cases, the relevant body usually informs the person in question about the meaning in Norwegian as a well-intentioned warning.

While there are some cases of parents who want to give their child a somewhat unusual name, often a foreign one that has a specific meaning or connotation in Norwegian, most "problematic" applications that Utne gets to deal with as an adviser are from adults who want to change their name.

There are even instances of people applying to change their name as a result of a challenge or joke, but, in the end, they often revoke such applications.

"Everything you can think of when it comes to names for male and female genitalia, or variations thereof, has been applied for. However, such applications are usually just for fun and often withdrawn while being processed," Utne explained.

Note that you can appeal the decision on the registration of a child's name to the County Governor in your county of residence. However, you'll have to send your appeal via the Norwegian Tax Agency's website.

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Unnamed children

According to the naming regulations, every child must have a name by the time they are six months old. The child needs a name to get a place in Norwegian registers and systems.

For example, should they be left out of such systems, they might not get the right to nursery and school places, a passport, or a bank account down the line (as banks tend to link an account to a name).

According to 2023 figures, just under 300 children over six months old aren't given a name from year to year.

In such cases, children will be registered under their mother's name. If Kari Hansen has a child and is unable to decide on a name within the deadline, then the child will be named Kari*Pike Hansen (if it's a girl) or Kari*Gutt Hansen (if it's a boy) in the Population Register until it gets a name.

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