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.