Baby Name of the Day: Inga


Capital Letter I & Star (Falmouth, MA)

Capital Letter I & Star by takomabibelot via Flickr

She’s a Scandinavian import worn by legendary actress, and one very memorable character invented by Mel Brooks.

Thanks to Carrie for suggesting her daughter’s nickname as our Baby Name of the Day: Inga.

Ing and Yng show up in lots of German and Scandinavian names. That’s because, back in the day, it was a name for a Germanic god. Depending on the account you’re reading, Yngvi is either another name for the god Freyr, or an earlier god absorbed by Freyr. Either way, he’s the legendary ancestor of the Kings of Sweden.

As for the names that contain the element Ing, here are just a few:

  • Ingamar and Ingmar
  • Ingeborg
  • Ingefred

While some of those are familiar, thanks to Ikea and the movies, none of those are easily worn in American English. There’s at least one Ing name that translates gracefully, though – the lovely Ingrid.

Add Inga to the list. She appeared in the US Top 1000 every year from 1880 through 1908, but her history is far, far older. She’s been in steady use in Sweden, appearing their Top 100 of most common names, though she’s not currently in the Top 100 for newborns.

One legendary Inga was actress and opera singer Inga Åberg, from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Rumor has it that she was the granddaughter of Beata Straas, an Åberg by marriage, and another famous actress.

Fastforward to the 1900s, and there’s Inga Tidblad, another successful actress, known for her performances at the Sweden’s leading theaters, in plays ranging from Shakespeare to contemporary productions. She also appeared in Swedish films, winning a Best Actress Guldbaggen – their equivalent of an Oscar – late in her career.

Name your daughter Inga today and all of that Swedish heritage comes through. But so might another association – Inga from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.

The blonde, buxom Inga grew up a farm girl in Transylvania, earned a science degree, and got herself hired by Igor as a lab assistant for Dr. Frankenstein. She spends the film trying to win the affections of the doctor, and both the movie and musical versions end with the pair tying the knot. Teri Garr played the part in the 1974 movie; Sutton Foster originated the role on Broadway in 2007.

If not the lab assistant, you might think of Inga Swenson, the actress better known as Gretchen, the German cook on long-running 1980s sitcom Benson.

According to Nancy, 18 girls received the name Inga in 2009.

Inga takes on a more global vibe thanks to:

  • A genus of trees and shrubs by the name, most found in tropical locales;
  • Colombia’s Inga people. It is also the name of their language;
  • You can find Ingá on the map in Brazil, where a huge stone covered with glyphs was discovered.

All of this moves Inga one step closer to wearable for non-Nordic types.

Inga is, at once, feminine and edgy. She’s a possible alternative to Eva or Hazel. While Helga seems stuck in fashion limbo, if Olga can sound fresh again, why not Inga?

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20 Comments

My cousin named her daughter Inga; she is about 10 years old now, I think. Not a name that I would choose, but it has a very sweet connotation to me. 🙂

Ingrid is in the top 10 in Norway, so I suppose Norwegians don’t find Ingrid dated. Not sure about Inga. I prefer it as a nn.

Not a fan of Inga, and even less of Ingrid. Though I readily admit there is a strong aversion thanks to a certain middle school tragedy. (shudder)

Also, as a big Young Frankenstein fan (quotes regularly pop up in conversation around here), all I can think is “Roll, roll, roll in zee hay” the second I hear Inga. hehe.

Feeling some Inga love over here! I’ll add it to the list of creative choices I give to my pregnant friends to broaden their horizons.

other names from the 2010 swedish list: juni, minna, evelina, siri, tindra, elvira, cornelia, ida. for boys: anton, edvin, ludvig, viggo, leon, sixten, fabian, elias, arvid, mio.

Minna is great! And Anton has always been a favorite – I far prefer it to Anthony. I wonder what the origins are of Tindra? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.

there’s a reason inga is no longer in the swedish top 100. it was popular enough 50-60 years ago that it now feels quite dated, like cheryl or patricia. modern swedish girls are named maja, alva, nellie, wilma, and linnea…

Inga is very sweet, I would be thrilled to meet a little one someday.

I wanted use Ingrid as a middle name for our littlest one, but then her initials would of been MISS, so “I” names were out.

Another Ing- name I like is Ingali/Ingalie (ING-gah-lee)

I love Inga, I think it’s sweet and fresh sounding. My cousin used this 12 years ago on her daughter, and I thought it was such a bold and lovely choice!

My grandmother’s name is Ingeborg, and she goes by Inge. Same name I think. I’ve never actually cared for these types of names.

I love the “Ing-” names, and I really wanted to name our little one, either Maria Ingny or Maria Ingrid. Unfortunately, that would of made her initials MISS, so “I” names were out.

Inga is really sweet and I would love to to meet a little one with the name.

I really like Inga, but I love Ingrid more! I like the idea of Ingrid nicknamed Inga; it takes away a bit of Ingrid’s harshness.

I like Inga and Ingrid a lot! And they’d totally be on my list except we have a family friend named Ingo (born in Germany) and it would totally go to his head since he’d think we’d named the baby after him.

As a non- Scandanavian, Inga feels a bit incomplete to me. My Great Grandmother was German but she’s the only one on the tree. Ingrid nickname Inga works for me, but I’m not likely to use Ingrid myself. I like her but do not love her.

And why, oh why did my brain yell “Benson!” when I saw Inga? I have to go look that up after breakfast. (Yep, vacation week and I slept in a bit). 😀

Inga strongly reminds me of all the German names in my family. My great grandmother was named Olga. She had my grandmother Hertha (pronounced hare-tah), Asta, Ilsa, Hugo, and Dorothy. Dorothy was the youngest and was given an American name because this was during WW1. All the older kids had a hard time in school because of their German names and so they begged great-grandma Olga to give their sister an American name… Even though great-grandma Olga barely spoke English.

I like Inga, though mostly as a nickname for the fabulous Ingrid. I just can’t get past my feeling that these names belong on a tall, cool blond and thus, not my children. =)