Thurston was a shipwrecked billionaire, Thor is a Norse god, and Dustin was big in the 80s. Could this related name take off today?

Thanks to UrbanAngel for suggesting Thorsten as Baby Name of the Day.

You’ve probably guessed that Thorsten is derived from Thor, he of the hammer and the lightning-bolt. The -sten comes from an Old Norse word for stone – steinn.

Thor’s cult was widespread well before the Romans made it to Northern Europe. He outlasted their empire, too. When the missionary Boniface arrived in Hesse during the 700s, the Germanic tribes still held religious ceremonies around an ancient tree called Thor’s Oak. Boniface chopped it down, and is remembered as a saint.

But Thor won the baby naming game. You won’t find many little Bonifaces out there, but personal names related to the god are many. And that’s before we count place names and a whole day of the week – Thursday is named is his honor, too.

Among the variants of Thor- names that have survived into recent centuries, we find:

  • Thurston charted in the US Top 1000 in the 1910s and 20s. Besides Gilligan’s Island’s fictional billionaire Thurston Howell III, there’s Sonic Youth’s guitarist/songwriter Thurston Moore. Moore gives the name a far edgier, indie spin, but most people probably think of the television character first;
  • Torsten is harder to find in the US, but had at least some use and does appear in census records;
  • Sociologist Thorstein Veblen, known for his 1899 The Theory of the Leisure Class, was a Norwegian-American. Even if you skipped Econ 101, you’ll recognize at least one of his phrases – conspicuous consumption. His name is also sometimes spelled Torstein.

And then there’s Dustin.

Thurston or Torsten became Toustin in Old French. When the name made it to England, it became Tustin. The swap from a T to a D was part of the transition from Old High German to Middle German. Their (related) word for thunder evolved from thonar to doner and eventually donner.

Dustin caught on like wildfire in the 1960s, just as Dustin Hoffman’s career took off. Hoffman was born in 1937; it is often said that he was named after an actor, the silent film star Dustin Farnum, active in the 1910s and 20s. I’ve no clue where Mr. and Mrs. Farnum found their inspiration, but Dustin has been in sparing use as a surname, too.

Dustin peaked at #41 in 1984/85, after Hoffman won the Best Actor Oscar for Kramer v. Kramer, but before he won his second Oscar for Rainman. Since then, the name has fallen to #318 in 2009, and it seems likely he will continue to drop.

Today Dustin sounds unoriginal, even dated. But Thorsten and Torsten could very well revive the craze for names derived from Thor.

He’s a great Scandinavian heritage choice, but he also splits the difference between the aggressive Gunnar and boy band names like Jayden. Thorsten is a smidge softer; Torsten is also all boy, but gives you the nickname Tory.

If you want an underused name that will command respect in the sandbox but still wear well if your kiddo grows up to be a scholar, Thorsten and Torsten could be for you.

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. Somehow, I could see this work in the American South or in Los Angeles really well these days. Babies nicknamed, “Thor” still feel relevant today. I think it takes a brave parent to deal with the formal “Thorsten” yet it’s probably going to pay off!

  2. I was going to recommend Torsten as a NOTD!

    I really like the idea of Torsten, as it would honor my Norwegian heritage and it’s a name that’s pretty common in Germany (our kids will be German citizens too.) My only fault with Torsten is that it ends in -en, but that’s just a quirky prejudice of mine.

    I don’t like Thorstein and Thorsten as much, since most of the time they won’t be pronounced correctly in English.

  3. I once worked with two Torstens AND a Thoralf. This was not in Germany, and only one was German. It kind of suited all of them.

  4. I believe I have one or more distant relatives named Torsten. It’s my German connection, and the name strikes me as very, very German when pronounced the way my relatives do.

  5. I rode the bus to middle school with a kid a few years ahead of me – he was Thor (with a very German last name – used by Mike Myers when he hosted Sprockets in SNL skits). He had somewhat of a reputation for misbehavin’, wore skull and crossbone pants and looked really bad@$$ (or a few years from doing hard-time) to me (circa 11 years old). Whenever I heard a Thor name, I pictured him…. until now. Thorsten is awkward and evokes Mr Howell III more than lightening gods or the likes of the busmate bad boy.Honestly, I’m not a fan. I actually like the stormy, powerful Thor (particularly in the middle spot), but the -sten ending somehow nullifies or nerdifies it. I can’t say I really like any of the -sten, -stin names mentioned here.

    1. JNE, that is a great memory! And maybe a good reason not to name your son Thor. Of course, Thor is probably teaching middle school somewhere by now …

      1. Indeed. Few of us resemble our 12 year old selves – for better or for worse. But ‘tween Thor lives on in my memory!

  6. I used to work with a Tore, so now I’m wondering if it was short for Torsten. Nice name and write-up.

  7. Ethan goes to school with a Torsten. I find it clumsy sounding. It’s something of an eye-roller for me.

    1. See, my son Torsten would inevitably be called Tory. Which would probably have other people rolling their eyes asking why I named my SON after Tori Spelling. So … I wouldn’t go there. But I know a little Carsten, and I figure if you’re going to use an ends-in-en name, better one with roots than Jaylen or Xaydin.