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Iceland Names, Personal

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Iceland is the only country in the world that continues the use of patronymics. Icelanders are recognized by their given names. The modern Icelandic telephone directory, for example, lists people alphabetically by their given name. People in Iceland with a surname (as we understand the meaning of the word) are in a small minority and these people must also use their patronym.

There are laws governing the naming of babies and changes of names. An Icelandic Naming Committee (Mannanafnanefnd) maintains a list of names accepted and rejected (in Icelandic, updated regularly). According to Article 5 of the Personal Names Act, given names not already on the official approved list must be first approved by the committee. The name approval is contingent on how easily the name can be incorporated into Icelandic, if it will cause embarrassment to the bearer, and how compatible it is with Icelandic tradition. Also, a name must only contain letters found in the Icelandic alphabet, have grammatical gender and change its form according to the case system.

For a further discussion of family naming conventions in Iceland, see Scandinavian Patronymics.