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?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. 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. 🙂

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. 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…

  7. 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)