Fotografía de Viggo Mortensen en la presentaci...
Viggo Mortensen, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s a Norse name worn by a Hollywood leading man.

Thanks for Fran for the suggestion – and to everyone for voting!  Our Baby Name of the Day is Viggo.

If you think that Viggo is one of those singular appellations along the lines of Oprah or Cher, you’re forgiven.  He’s never featured in the US Top 1000, and in 2010, a mere 41 boys received the name.

Then again, 41 surprised me – and suggests that there’s more to it than one actor.  Indeed, Taylor Hanson of the musical family, named his youngest Viggo Moriah in 2008.  (Older siblings are Jordan Ezra – known by his middle name, Penelope Anne, and River Samuel – Taylor and wife Natalie seem to have become bolder as they’ve added to their brood.)

Turns out that Viggo Mortensen is actually a junior.  His unusual given name is on his birth certificate – he’s a junior.  Viggo has been acting steadily since the 1990s, but his big break was The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Since then he’s racked up an Oscar nomination and plenty of other successful films.

Viggo Sr. was Danish by birth, and met his American wife in Norway.  Those Scandinavian roots get credit for the father-and-son duo’s name.  The Old Norse Vigge is a common element.  It’s filtered into more familiar choices – think of Louis‘ Germanic forerunner, Ludwig or Ludvig, or Harry Potter’s snowy owl, Hedwig.

Vig or Wig translates to battle, so those are some pretty fierce appellations.  There are a few other possible origins – like a pet form of Victor or maybe another Old Norse or Icelandic name.  And there’s a hint of nature name about him, too – in Swedish, vigg means thunderbolt.

He’s reasonably popular in Sweden today, ranking in their Top 50, right between Noah and Max.

Scandinavian notables who have worn the name include:

  • Prince Viggo, born in Denmark in the late 1800s.  In the 1920s, he married an American and renounced his royal title.
  • Norwegian mathematician Viggo Brun made several contributions to number theory in the early twentieth century.
  • Viggo Hansteen was a Norwegian government official who stood defied Nazi ruled during their World War II occupation of Norway, and paid with his life.

So he’s an impeccable Scandinavian heritage choice, but what else makes him a possibility today?  The popular ends-in-o sound, shared with stylish names from Leo to Arlo, makes him feel quite current.  It also appears that Viggo wasn’t used in this form until sometime in the nineteenth century, and was most popular in the late 1800s, making him prime for revival right about now.

Viggo also has a rough edge, between his warlike meaning and his first syllable.  He’s a brother for Gunnar, Axel, and Lars – or even Cannon.

If the littlest Hanson can rock Viggo, why not your kiddo?

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. In Norwegian, Viggo is pronounced sort of like “VEE-goo”. Sort of looks silly, but it’s got a nice sound.

    1. It isn’t, actually. The vowel-sound in NOrwegian pronunciation at the beginning is very short, like the pronunciation of “twig”. In fact, it is the British who tend to elongate the initial vowel-sound and say “veeg”.

  2. Viggo, Arlo and Jethro are three “end-in-o” names that I like. Definitely IS fun to say.