Lars Ulrich
Lars Ulrich of Metallica; Image via Wikipedia

Laurence wears a bowtie, but this Scandinavian variant is pure heavy metal.

Thanks to Kristin for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Lars.

I’m quite fond of the story of Saint Laurence. The name probably started out as a reference to Laurentum, an ancient city pre-dating Rome. The city likely took its name from the laurel. Laurence and company have been common for centuries. In the 200s Saint Laurence was martyred after being ordered to round up the riches of his church and hand ’em over. Laurence gathered the poor and presented them as the true wealth of his faith. Legend has it that he was roasted alive.

Despite this gutsy and grisly tale, Laurence feels like an academic today – an English professor, or maybe a banker or a graphic designer. Larry – a short form that was a Top 20 pick from 1937 through 1955 – is your grandpa, or maybe your neighbor who can fix anything, the one whose kids are all in high school or out of the home.

As for medieval diminutive Larkin? He could be spotted on a boy, but Lark is almost certainly a new baby girl.

Then there’s Lars. He has a long history of use in Scandinavia, where he’s not a nickname – he’s just the Swedish and Norwegian and Danish form of Laurence. He’s also heard in Dutch, and popular in Belgium and Germany.

Like the white-hot Axel, this import has a certain heavy metal undercurrent.

  • Guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen’s given name was Lars.
  • Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen was born in California, but his mom was born in Denmark.
  • Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich truly puts the heavy metal umlaut in Lars. The Danish-born drummer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has had a successful career since the early 1980s. Metallica has racked up nine Grammy awards – and I have to add this: they’ve just collaborated on a new album with Lou Reed called Lulu.

In 2007, quirky little indie flick Lars and the Real Girl made waves. Danish film director Lars von Trier has been sparking controversy and winning accolades since his career took off in the late 1980s. Von Trier’s latest film, Melancholia, helped Kirsten Dunst nab a best actress award at Cannes.

All of this lends Lars some serious edge. But in the US, his sound is slightly out of step with current trends. In fact, Lars did appear in the Top 1000 steadily from 1958 through 1976, and a few times before and since. His last appearance was 1984.

Overall, this makes Lars a heritage choice with a certain offbeat vibe. His sound is masculine, but not nearly as aggressive as Slade or Cannon. Thanks to his saintly origins, Lars has a certain evergreen quality that makes him a good choice for parents who want unusual something that screams tough guy while still staying within the lexicon of established appellations.

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. my son was born in 1982, and is a Junior. His father and I discussed from the beginning our first son would be a Junior. My son’s father is named Lawrence Dean, but goes by Larry.

    My name was so popular in the sixties and seventies that when we were told to sit in alphabetical order, there were 5 of us with the same name. My brother’s name was so common that every male (except my father) was named the same name – extremely confusing.

    So I desperately wanted names for my children that would be unique enough to let them “shine” yet not too weird that they would be teased. Their last name is polish. In the sixties and seventies, polish-jokes were so common, I worried when I got pregnant that we had to name the children names that would make their last name not the name that stuck.

    I did not want to call him Little Larry, Little Lawrence or Larry Junior. My name is Laurie-Anne which has the same meaning as Lawrence. So after some long discussions, it was decided to make him a Lawrence Junior and call him Lars, as it is the Norwegian form of Lawrence/Laurence.

    When my son was in school, some of the kids tried to say Lars from Mars, but that was just teasing. He was hurt by this teasing, and for a few years as an adult he would go by Lawrence. But today, he is Lars AGAIN.

    He has decided it is a strong name for a Man, but still soft enough to not make him feel too tough.

    It should be noted that my son is well over 6 foot tall, and has a 22 inch neck. He has been in the US Army for 19 years, and is a First Sergeant.

    He has spent the majority of his career in combat zones, and so he is accustomed to having his last name most commonly used.

    So at home, with family and friends Lars is much preferred.

    Fast forward to 2015, my son and his wife are pregnant and they discover that they are having a son. Lars said from the beginning that if he had a son, it would be the Lawrence Dean, III. So back to the name to call this little one. Well, that was also predetermined in the early days -it would be Trey.

    I cannot help but wonder if Trey will use Lars when he is older, for professional purposes or use Lawrence.

    Only time will tell.

    But naming a child is really important. That name has to fit a little innocent baby, yet be strong enough to be professional.

  2. I love the name Lars! So much in fact we named our first son Lars, born in 2010. My husband is of Dutch and Danish heritage although the name was picked as we both liked it many years before we got married and had our son. He suits the name very much and we have had a lot of comments on what a great name it is and how much they like it. I couldn’t picture him with any other name, but the hard part is now to come up with a sibling name (not sure yet if we are having a boy or girl) that is as unique (in Austalia) yet not too off beat…

  3. our 3 yr old son is named lars, short for larsen. lars larsen is a name on my mother’s side. i think its an amazing name. we love his name, never have to worry about him being confused with another lars at school, for sure. and are searching for something just as interesting for our 2nd, due in october.

  4. Update: We had a baby boy and while my husband favored Lars throughout my pregnancy, after watching me having a natural birth, he was in awe and would have named him anything I wanted I think!:) Actually, after meeting him and sleeping on it for a night, we both decided he was more of a Hugo. So little Hugo Kenneth it is.
    I think Lars is a great choice if you have Scandinavian heritage (which we don’t) and want a unique name (it’s not in the top 1000 in the U.S).

  5. I *want* to like Lars — though, while I am a huge fan of Metallica’s music, I generally dislike Lars Ulrich as a person. 🙁 He taints the name for me, which is sad because I’ve been in love with Loren/Lauren and Laurie for boys since I was in grade school. Larkin is nice too. Lawson is my aunt’s maiden name.

    This also brings to mind tennis player Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss-born son of a German-born man of Czech ancestry, whose surname is a Polish form of Laurence. [Interesting tidbits: his sisters are Djana

  6. Thanks for profiling–I’m the one who wrote to you about this name.
    Well, my husband and I are expecting our second baby (gender a surprise) any day now. My husband loves the name Lars while I prefer Hugo. I like what you wrote about Lars and it definitely makes me like the name more. I find the name sounds weird coming out of my mouth and I can’t get over that it rhymes with Mars. I wish there was a third name that we both love. I’m thinking this all might mean we are having another girl in which case her name is settled:)

  7. Funny, the only L@wrence I know is my husband’s 14 year old nephew and he does not wear a bowtie, haha! I know he was named for his grandfather, and his 12 year old sister has a much more modern sounding and trendy name (Bre@nna).

    I really do like Laurence but I absolutely love Lars. It’s too bad we don’t have any Nordic heritage, I would love to have a little Lars and a little Ingrid. I do think though, that if paired with a non Scandinavian sibling name that Lars really isn’t too out there. In fact, I would love to see brothers named Lars and Conan 🙂

  8. Lars is my father’s middle name. I’ve heard him comment in the past about how his middle name seems out of place amongst the rest of his family’s more traditional German-Canadian-names-from-the-fifties (e.g. Harry, Peter, Charles, Betty, etc.). I’ve always liked Lars, but it’s a bit too short for me to consider as a first name.

    One story my dad’s family likes to tell is of when someone once asked my dad what his middle name was. He responded with something like, “It rhymes with a planet and begins with the letter L.” The person then began guessing, “Lercury? Lupiter? Luranus?” If I remember the story correctly, they never did come up with Lars and had to be told the name.