Norway | what does the name of the country really mean?

A loved child goes by many names, says a Norwegian expression. This certainly applies to the country Norway. But what does the name really mean?
Norwegian landscape - mountains, water, and a lush green forest. Loelva, Loen, Stryn, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. | Photo: Sergey Bogomyako - adobe stock - copyright.
Norwegian landscape - mountains, water, and a lush green forest. Loelva, Loen, Stryn, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. | © Sergey Bogomyako - adobe stock - copyright.

Pronunciation

Norge – Noreg

The Kingdom of Norway

Today, the official name of the country is The Kingdom of Norway. But let us start by looking at what the Norwegians themselves call their country:

  • Norge – Bokmål
  • Noreg – Nynorsk
  • Norga – Northern Sami
  • Vuodna – Lule Sami
  • Nöörje – South Sami

In English, the name is Norway, in German Norwegen, in French Norvège, in Spanish Noruega – and in Italian Norvegia, just like the most excellent Norwegian cheese.

The land to the north

The most common interpretation of the name is the land to the north, the northern route – or – the route leading north. By looking at Norway on a map, with its long-stretched coastline leading north, such a meaning makes much sense. However, according to linguists, there is also a possible second and third option.

The land of the narrow fjords

In 1847, the student Niels Halvorsen Trønnes claimed that Norge is based on the Old Norse word nór, in this context meaning narrow inlet or channel. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the word inlet is a narrow strip of water that goes from a sea or lake into the land or between islands. When we think about Norway, with all its fjords, such an interpretation certainly makes sense too. In recent years, this second meaning has gained support.

Or was it named after King Nor?

Einar Haugen’s dictionary translates the Norwegian dialect word nor into the English word mite – as in an infant or small child. Michael Schulte, a linguist at the University of Agder, opens up a possible connection between (1) this meaning of the word nor – (2) the name Norge – and (3) the mythological King Nor. King Nor was a short man: a nor – a childlike man in size. According to the History of the Earls of Orkney – King Nor was the founder of the first Norwegian kingdom. Maybe it was a reference to his land that was the origin of the name Norge?

The exact connection we may never know, but the above snippets of information and theories will nevertheless help tickle our imagination.

Main source: Store Norske Leksikon – snl.no – Michael Schulte, Ernst Håkon Jahr and Dag Gundersen.

Our most recent posts
Norway time
The Kingdom of Norway
A kipe is a tall, woven basket, often made of twigs from the birch tree. It was carried on the back, and typically used when carrying loads in a landscape full of steep fields and paths.
When humankind first appeared in the Norwegian landscape – sometime after the last ice age – the search for food was their primary motivation.
In 1997, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway came to the Norwegian Sami Assembly with an essential and overdue apology.
Uff da! is a Norwegian interjection, often used to express sympathy. For example when a child falls over: Uff da! Slo du deg? - meaning Poor you! Did you hurt yourself?
A kjenge is a drinking bowl used in the old Norwegian farming society – usually with two handles - carved and hollowed out from one piece of wood.
1769 was the year of the first complete Norwegian census. Today, Norway has a population of more than 5 million, in 1769 the number was 723,618.
This beautiful oil painting by Johan Christian Dahl says a lot about generations of Norwegians - and the landscape and the skills they knew.
Do you know the name of Norway’s capital city? Test yourself, friends, and family in this 10 multiple-choice questions quiz vol. 1. See the correct answer below each photo.
When the ice melted after the last ice age, herds of reindeer followed in its wake. And with the animals came their main predator: the humans.
The Norwegian farm horse was a reliable and powerful companion. But by the late 1960s, they were almost all gone. Enjoy this video-collection of wonderful vintage photographs.
The old Norwegian farming society was a self-sufficient and balanced world. Coins and notes were all but an alien concept.
Whether it be on a rainy day - or a beautiful summer’s day like this one - the coastal paths take us through some pleasing stretches of Norwegian scenery.
Bergen is Norway's second-largest city and one of the country's oldest urban locations. The first post-viking king, Olav Kyrre, gave it market-town-status around AD 1070.
The majestic Norwegian mountains can be treacherous - and they steal human lives every year. Study the Norwegian mountain code - and be prepared for your next journey.
The Norwegian landscape is wild and beautiful. And it is a lot more than just fjords and mountains.
On the historical Norwegian farm, the skoklefallsday is the last day of planting in the spring. Literally, it means the day that the shafts attached to the workhorse's harness come off.
At Easter in 1906, renowned Norwegian photographer Anders Beer Wilse took this series of photos on a trip with a group of friends.
Watch some lovely vintage photos of mankinds's many good friends.
Once upon a time in the distant past, imagine yourself sitting in a small boat, facing this mighty gateway into the bowels of the land.
Skodje sogelag and Louis Giske wrote the history of the two Sortehaug farms and its inhabitants back in 1986.
With the Bronze age came a new and important phase in human history and development: mankind learned how to make tools and other objects from a metal they called bronze.

Follow us on social media