• Amy Haldane

Why do Icelandic Horses have such "funny" names?

So one of the things to understand about Icelandic horses is that they must all have an "approved" name to be registered on the international database of purebred icelandic horses known as "Worldfengur.com"


Traditionally Icelandic people as well as horses must comply with naming traditions of Iceland. There is a list of approved names on Worldfengur for the horses and if you wish to use something not on the list it will have to be submitted for approval.


A stallion/gelding must have a masculine name and a mare a feminine.


If you're not familiar with the Icelandic language our horses names can look very complicated and hard to pronounce. The letters C, Q, W and Z are usually missing from the Icelandic language unless used in words borrowed from other countries. Plus the Icelandic alphabet has a couple of extra "letters" including Æ, Þ, and ð to get your head around. They also put a different emphasis on sounds than we do, have 4 cases and 3 genders assigned to words so no wonder it's one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. Google translate really struggles too!


Once you get the general gist of what the Icelandic language and symbols sound like then it gets a bit easier. Sometimes the name looks pretty written down but the pronunciation isn't that nice or has a harsh meaning not appropriate to a cute little foal.

Luckily the Worldfengur database has soundbites for most Icelandic horse names so we can hear them and test them out before deciding.


The beautiful thing about Icelandic names are they are usually either traditional names, descriptive words or names of things. So a name for a foal might be chosen to honour a relative, describe the colour of the horse or something about it's character.

A couple of examples are :

Gleði - happiness/joy

Kerski - brisk or mischievous

Gráfaxi - horse with a grey mane ( faxi = mane in icelandic)

Ljósvængur - a name made up of light and wings - so "the wings of light"

Rauðstjarni - if you see Rauð at the start of a name it's probably red ( chestnut) and stjarni is star - so a chestnut horse with a star


You may also have noticed that the horses have very long names like " Haukur frá Stuðlum" or "Tandri von Roetgen" which basically tells you the horses name and what stud or farm they are from. Depending what country they were born in you'll see frá, von, vom etc... All ours are of course "from Haldane."


The Icelandic naming tradition is lovely because it does stop horses being called strange, silly and rude names at official events.


We named the first few crops of foals the most English sounding, easiest names to pronounce possible. Now we understand the language a little better we're more adventurous, (though we have serious doubts about how well we pronounce them too! )

In good old Aussie fashion they'll get their names shortened from Gullver to Gully, Æskurós to Rose and Morgundis is just known as my "fairy princess".


So do not worry if you look at an Icelandic horse name and go " How on earth do you pronounce that?" again. You're not expected to and it's ok. Just give it a crack & if you cant' do it, give them a sweet paddock name!

Warmest wishes from

Amy and the Herd

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