Name of the Day: Freya

Who’s the fairest of them all? In Norse mythology, it’s a goddess with an intriguing name that just might wear well on a modern girl.

Thanks to Mariuccia for suggesting our Name of the Day: Freya.

Calling your daughter Aphrodite is probably a mistake. And Venus is a lot to live up to, because of the gorgeous Roman goddess of love and the tennis star.

Then there’s Freya. Freya is Aphrodite’s equivalent in the Norse pantheon. Sure, she’s also depicted as a stunner. But Norse mythology is far less well known – and so the pressure to be a beauty queen diminishes.

The Old Norse spelling is Freyja, and you’ll usually find the “j” version of the name used in mythology. Her name comes from words meaning either lady or woman. The Germanic frau probably shares the same roots. Freyja’s twin is Freyr and they’re usually interpreted as lord and lady – among the most important of the gods. The name for day of the week Friday is traced back to these figures.

Most of her stories are known through collections of minstrel poems dating to the 1000s, and some even earlier. While she’s always described as beautiful, in many tales, she’s also a bloodthirsty warrior goddess, lending Freya a bit more edge than her Greek and Roman equivalents.

She’s also a snappy dresser. Her gold and amber necklace – the Brísingamen – is so famous it earned a mention in Beowulf. She also sports a falcon-feather cloak and sometimes is depicted traveling in an ornate chariot pulled by a pair of skogkatter – bushy tailed cats native to the forests of Scandinavia.

There are at least two valid pronunciations: FRAY uh and FREE yah. I’ve also heard FRY yah, but that seems to be a mistake. The name is not common enough in American English to determine which option is dominant.

Freya’s never ranked in the Top 1000 in the US, but she’s quite popular in the UK, flirting with the Top 25 in recent years. With a slightly different spelling – Freja – she’s among the Top Ten in Denmark, and gaining in Sweden, too.

There’s a little known botanical link to Freya. In Scandinavia, milkwort was traditionally known as Freyja’s hair. Once Christianity gained hold, all references to the goddess were considered taboo, and instead the plant’s name was changed to honor the Virgin Mary.

While Freya’s pronunciation could cause some stumbles, overall she’s an appealing choice. The goddess might not be as widely known as Athena or Artemis, but she’s a major mythological figure in her own right. Freya could be an interesting way to honor Scandinavian heritage.

But we don’t think she’s limited to blonde, blue-eyed children. Freya’s sound is vaguely exotic, making her wearable for any background. And because she’s relatively short, Freya could present an alternative for parents who like the sound of Hannah or Emma but are seeking something far less common.

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18 Comments

This name has become quite popular in the UK over the past few years.
I was at school with a Freya, the only one I’ve ever known. I assume her mother admired the novels of the British writer Dame Freya Stark.

I found this site doing a bit of research on “Freya”. I wrote a short play (perhaps “skit” would be a more appropriate word) a month ago with two strong women characters, which I named “Minerva” (yes, that one’s obvious) and “Freya.” I had read a sentence or two about Freya in a book about cats (cat-lover, I am). I turned to mythology and pagan ideas for these names because, it seems to me, as soon as monotheism came on the scene, the “stories” (Bible, etc.) no longer showed strong women. Instead they became possessions with no voice. For fun, my skit has these strong women dance off stage while “She’s a Bad Mamma Jamma” plays and in the background is an image of a huge female spider compared to a tiny male spider. Ha! Take that arrogant males!
Should I ever have a female child (unlikely, since men here in the South (Bible Belt of USA) like “their” women traditional and not very intimidating), I would have no problem naming her Freya (or Freyja). The goddess has so many attributes (including warring) that the whole beauty-pressure thing could be de-emphasized.

I fell in love with the name whilst pregnant, and the idea of it being unusual and pretty really got me. Then 3yrs later she started pre-school- with another Freya!

Lydia, thank you for visiting – and commenting!

And thanks for the tip about the lingerie brand. That’s the kind of thing that can make a child’s life difficult. It might not be well known now, but can’t you just imagine Victoria’s Secret buying the label and poor little Freya walking past a store in every shopping mall? Then again, Victoria has done quite well despite the brand – or maybe because of it!

Christina, I *love* your Wonder Woman category – what a nice mix!

And Kate, I think you’ve hit on an interesting idea. History is one thing, but I’ve learned that I can dig up information on nearly any name. A consistent history of *use* as a given name is something entirely different.

Love the input on UK celeb baby names, too! I’m starting to recognize more of them as time goes by, but I really do need to read Hello!, don’t I?

Emma, I’m a sponge like that too and I can also tell you that the comedienne Jennifer Saunders has a daughter called Freya as does the newsreader Kirsty Young! Actually, I had a ‘Freya’ phase a few of years ago when she appeared on my lists for a bit, I’m over that now though…

I think I was enchanted by her fresh yet old feel but the thing that attracted me to her is the very thing that has put me off. She just feels too modern in that vintage revivial way that Ava, Isla and Chloe also feel. They have more history that their recent meteoric rise in popularity would suggest but feel intrinsically linked to these times because of it (as Shannon has already mentioned Freya is by no means unusual in the UK anymore, standing at no 27).

Secondly and more importantly, it would feel unnatural for me to choose Freya, the name of a beautiful goddess in Norse mythology. I’m with Lola that this seems a lot to live up to but it’s more than that, I have no link to Norse mythology, no story to tell that would link to the choice of such a name and would always feel far removed from her because of that.

Verity, in response to your question – my Wonder Woman Category is composed of
1. Goddesses and muses from different cultures
2. Names meaning

Yet another one of those names that I should like but don’t. She has everything going for her — she’s a goddess, she’s uncommon but simple, and she’s a two-syllable A-ender like so many on my list.

I’ve always pronounced the name as FRAY-uh. I am slightly more drawn to the FREE-uh pronunciation.

I love Freya! I love her simple and refreshing sound. Her slightly unfamiliar vibe that still rings completely warm and feminine. I wouldn’t put Freya in the Aphrodite/Venus category simply because the actual name is so much simpler and breezier (is that even a real word? ;)). Aphrodite sounds lofty and out of reach, Freya has a much more appealing sound, and so I don’t think anyone would expect goddess-like beauty. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I would applaud anyone who would use the name, though I know it’ll never get through the veto process in this house. All the more’s pity for me. I adore Freya (which, by they way, I say Fray-uh. Free-uh is too freesia for me).

LOL, Emma – I know exactly what you mean about retaining useful info.

I’ve been known to read romance novels – I had something of an addiction at one point – and among my favorite series is Mary Balogh’s Simplies, about the Bedwyn family – six siblings who all, of course, fall in love in predictably unpredictable ways. Freya is my favorite character – she’s the not-quite-beautiful sister with nerves of steel.

But I couldn’t ever name a child after a romance novel heroine – could I? 🙂

Donna Air is a fairly unknown TV presenter even here (England) but I do know she has a daughter named Freya as I am a sponge for information like that! I may not remember anything appropriate for my College exams but I remember ‘famous’ people’s children’s names! Anyway, in theory I should love Freya as it is just my style and I adore Freda, but in practice I do not have any liking for it because of a bad association. I do think it is nice on other’s children, though.

Freya is on my “intriguing name that I probably would not use myself list.” It seems it has been quite popular in England lately (just looked at a list). I agree that most people know little about Norse mythology, so a girl named Freya won’t have to live up to an image of beauty. A lot of people would think you made the name up. I like spellings Freja and Freyja but people would get confused.

So glad you did this one! I’ve heard a lot of people considering it lately and wondered where it came from. I thought I knew something about mythology, but I guess not Norse. It might be my lack of familiarity with the god, but I don’t think Freya would have to be a beauty queen to pull off the name. It’s got such a simple sound it balances out the whole beauty thing. Plus the fact that she’s a warrior, too, makes it a little bad ass. Actually I feel like more people would expect a Freya to be a bit of a Plain Jane than would expect her to be gorgeous. Again, this is because I’m not familiar with Norse mythology, but neither are very many people.

Anyway, this is longer than I meant it to be and I’m babbling and not paying attention to what I already wrote because I’m sick. The main point is that I quite like Freya and would love to meet a little one. And it’s been really popular on the boards lately, but I doubt that will translate into real life any time soon, so I’m sure she’ll be rare for quite a while.

Hi, I’ve been lurking on this site for quite a while. I’ve been reading quite faithfully but it’s taken some time for me to muster up the nerve to comment. 😀

I love Freya’s sound, and despite being a mythology buff as well as a Christian (some of my more conservative peers frown upon the practice of giving Christian children mythological names, but I see no problem with it), the mythological associations don’t hold me back. However, there’s a UK-based lingerie brand with the same name, and that is ALL I can think of whenever I see the name, so I couldn’t use it myself. I’m not sure of how well-known the brand is in the UK, but it isn’t that well-known here in the US, so I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem for most American parents. A sweet little girl named Freya would probably make the underwear association go away. 🙂

Lola, I don’t believe you. Josie is a doll! 🙂

I think you’re right, Paige – it’s a goddess name without being aggressively goddess-like.

Christina, I’m dying to know what other names are in your Wonder Woman category?

Freya is one I’ve been recommending on the boards for those who don’t want something popular. She has the final -a that gives her a feminine touch; yet she’s not at all frilly or frou-frou. They mythological connection puts her in my Wonder Woman category.

Freya is exotic but not very frilly, and goddess-like without setting expectations TOO high. I prn it Fray-uh, and it is high on my short list.
I would name a daughter Freya, but out of cowardice I’d most likely tuck it in the middle. Still, who knows!
Thanks for the info, Verity, about this wayy underused name.

I know a little dark haired, dark eyed 6 year old Freya! She’s adorable and has a Danish Mom. Still, I find Freya as pretensious as Venus & Aphrodite. Ease of spelling does not distract this mythology buff. I do like Freya in theory, but alll I see with it is the beauty thing and my brain says “what if she isn’t?”. Possible in this house. I’m no stunner; height and horsiness passes for style but handsome is the word even my Pop used for me. Josie might end up beautiful but not I. I probably wouldn’t mind there being a few more Freyas running around but I’m quite pleased with the one in the neighborhood and hope it won’t ever reach Ava proportions!