Baby Name of the Day: Soren


Soren, Ga'Hoole: La leyenda de los guardianes ( Lechuza común, Tyto alba )

Soren, Ga'Hoole from elcoleccionistadeinstantes via Flickr

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.

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21 Comments

My son, Soren, just graduated from high school. We gave him two more common middle names (Andrew and Casey, his grandfathers) so he could use them if he did not like the more unusual one. He loves the name Soren. He likes the uniqueness and the ethnicity of it. He is a tall, lanky, easy-going guy though he does have a more “severus” side as well 😉

My son who will be 2 this August is Soren Jens William. Yes, 2 middle names. My husband and I both picked one. He’s the only Soren we know, people like his name and it suits him well along with his Nordic white hair and light blue eyes.

In Norway Søren is acctually used as sort of a “cuss” word, well not quite but it’s like the equivalent of damn. It’s still used as a name I think but it still makes me cringe everytime I see a little boy Søren or “Soren”.

Really? That’s fascinating … but then, I guess the same thing has happened to given names in the US, too. Little boys named Richard come to mind …

I knew a red-headed Soren growing up – he was probably 5 years younger than me, so born sometime in the 90s? A great kid with a lot of personality. So I’ve always had a soft spot for the name. Lovely to know it’s history!

The most famous literary Soren if you go down under is in the classic children’s fantasy The Changeover, by Margaret Mahy (a New Zealander). Soren (called “Sorry”) is a sexy teenage warlock who helps the teen heroine, a budding witch, save her little brother from a demon. It was basically Twilight in Australia in the 80s.

I really like the Danish spelling and pronunciation, but I know that would be hard to transfer to the USA. 🙁

I like it in the same way I like Maren for a girl. But probably wouldn’t use it because the nickname would be Sore.

Sören (or Soren) is a firm like for me. Warm, travels well, is handsome & fun. What’s not to like? Well, for starters, we’re Scots and Soren paired with our Scots surname feels kinda lopsided. 😀 Charming, but it makes my head hurt. But I would die from happiness if it mainstreamed.

I also love the link of Soren to Eglantine. Sweet, delicate Eglantine. Pretty flower, too. 😀

Eglantine is definitely one of my favourites. Too bad she begins with “eg[g]” — I can see quite a bit of teasing potential in that first syllable. Still, I love it.

I LOVE this name. I even love it on a girl. I would love to use it, even though I am not at all Scandinavian and neither is my husband.

I have ancestor from 16th century Norway named Syver, so Sever, Siver and Severin have been the go-to names in the my dad’s family (my uncle is Joseph Severin.) I’ve considered Soren, since it doesn’t quite scream SCANDI! like Ole, Thor and Bjorn. But my family would pronounce it SORN and hubby’s family would pronounce it ZOO-ren and I’d rather not fight the pronunciation issue.

Mark suggested Soren when we were digging around for boys’ names we both liked. This time I was the one to pull the veto card. For some reason that I have yet to understand myself, it’s pretty rare that I like a name beginning with s. Furthermore, this one felt a l little too Scandinavian for our cultural heritage. Still, I’ll not be upset if Soren continues to pick up speed and edge its way closer to Jayden.

Sören (sort of pronounced ZOO-ren, but not quite) is my high school German teacher’s son’s name. I’ve always thought it was really cute!

Thanks for this sweet comment, Lauren. I was just checking something about my son’s name, since he asked.