He’s a Scandinavian import with a meaning that might surprise.
Thanks to Tracy for suggesting Soren as our Baby Name of the Day.
In American English, he’s just plain Soren, sounding something like soaring, without the final g. Head to Stockholm and he’s Sören, and in Copenhagen, he’s Søren. His pronunciation varies slightly based on place. You can listen to two versions here and another here. He’s also heard in Norway and Germany and elsewhere in Northern Europe, but he’s pretty rare elsewhere.
Or make that he was pretty rare in the English-speaking world. Soren has been discovered in recent years, entering the US Top 1000 in 2003, and edging up to #728 in 2010. That’s not exactly Jayden, but he does fit with the style of names we favor for sons these days.
It’s a far cry from an earlier era. I did find Sorens in the US well before the last decade or so, but it appears to have been a name quickly shed for something more American. My favorite? Soren Sorensen Adams, born in Denmark, moved to the US as a child, and went on to found a successful novelty company in New Jersey – answering to the very American name Sam.
These days, we all recognize Soren thanks to an intellectual heavy-hitter and a string of pop culture uses of the name.
Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was named after his maternal grandfather, just like his older brother, Peter, was named after their paternal grandfather. This tracks with other records that suggest Soren was used in Scandinavian languages as early as the sixteenth century.
Soren comes from the Latin Severus, Severinus, and Severinius – family names from the word for strict, stern. It’s also the root of our word severe. A handful of early saints answered to the names. There’s a bishop from Barcelona said to have been martyred under Diocletian in the 300s, and another in Naples a century later. The name continues to be used, at least within the church, for a few centuries more. Plenty of European languages have their own version of the name: Severin, Severino, Severine.
He lost a syllable on his way north, and picked up a whole other vibe.
Trekkies might hear Soren and think villain, thanks to the 1994 Star Trek: Generations. The bad guy was Dr. Tolian Soran, usually referred to by his surname only.
Then along came:
- A character in the Underworld series of vampires versus werewolf films.
- 2004 romance The Prince and Me included a loyal servant called Soren.
- Animated children’s series Charlie and Lola includes Lola’s imaginary friend, Soren.
- And then came the owls.
The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series spanned fifteen books, most about a Barn Owl named Soren, who proves himself quite heroic. Kathryn Lasky penned the series. It became a feature film in 2010 as Legends of the Guardians. Lasky is a capable namer, christening her owls everything from quirky, elegant human names (Eglantine) to more predictable appellations for fictional owls (Noctus, Twilight).
Add it all up, and there’s no wonder Soren is finding favor with modern parents. He’s crept into our awareness, a stylish Scandinavian appellation that fits right in today.