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Explained: The rules for naming a baby in Denmark

Denmark is a country with a love of rules and naming a baby is no different. In order to protect children, there is a naming law, which requires names to be approved by a family court. Here are the details for naming a baby in Denmark.

A 3 week old baby with his family
Naming a baby in Denmark comes with a set of rules. File photo: Mathias Løvgreen Bojesen / Ritzau Scanpix

First of all, you must name your baby before they reach six months old, otherwise you face a fine.

Your baby must be given at least one first name and one surname. If the child has not been given a surname within the deadline, then the mother’s surname will automatically be given.

How to register your child’s name

Once you have settled upon a name, before your baby is six months old, you need to go to borger.dk and use your MitID to register the name. The application is processed at your local church parish, except in southern Jutland where it is through the municipality. 

You can also choose to register your baby’s name when they are baptised, if they are younger than six months old. There is an exception if you live in southern Jutland, where the baby’s name has to be registered at the municipality.

Many Danes baptise their babies before six months – they then get both a baptism certificate and birth certificate issued by the parish.

If you have registered your baby’s name digitally, you receive confirmation and a CPR number for your child in your Digital Post. You won’t get a certificate but you can request one using your MitID or by contacting your parish church, or for children born in southern Jutland, the municipality where the birth was registered.

What’s in a name?

A list of rules. In Denmark you can’t just pick any name you fancy.

There is a naming law (navneloven) which states that the name cannot be inappropriate or offensive or detrimental to the child, among other rules, so your choice of name has to be approved by the Family Court.

In 2006, the naming law was changed to allow for a much broader range of names so it is not as strict as you might think but it’s certainly not a free-for-all.

First name (fornavn)

The first name must indicate the gender of the child, although there are neutral names on the approved list.

The first name must also not be a surname, or be spelled in an unusual way or as mentioned above, inappropriate or offensive.

In principal, there is no limit on how many first names a child is given. You will often find people in Denmark have two first names rather than a first and middle name. For example Jens Peter, Sofia Marie. Some use both of their first names while others drop one of them.

Middle name (mellemnavn)

In Denmark, middle names are usually similar to surnames. People may choose a grandparent’s surname or one of their parent’s surnames to use as a middle name.

First names from the approved list can be used as middle names and you can have multiple middle names.

Surname (efternavn)

You can only have one last name. For example, if you have been given both your mother’s and your father’s surnames, the latter acts as a surname and the other as a middle name. But if there is a hyphen between the names, the two names can function as one name.

Surnames that are used by more than 2,000 Danes are called “free surnames” (frie efternavne“) and can be used freely by anyone who wishes, either as a surname or a middle name. You can find an overview of free surnames here, which include the familiar Juhl, Kristensen, Petersen.

If the surname is used by less than 2,000 Danes, these are called protected names, and they cannot be used if they are not from your direct family.

Picking the name

There are a total of 20,618 approved boy names, 25,316 approved girl names and 1,284 approved neutral names in Denmark, which you can find here.

According to Statistics Denmark, the most popular girls’ names in Denmark in 2021 were Alma, Ida, Freja, Clara and Ella.

The most popular boys’ name in 2021 were Oscar, Karl, William, Alfred and Oliver.

If you want a name that’s not on the list, you can apply for approval. You do this by going to your local church first, who then forward on the request to the Family Court.

If the name is approved, it is added to the official list and can then be used freely by anyone.

In 2021, there were 90 new names registered in Denmark. These included the names Africa, Berlin, Blue, Circel, Soya, Sne, Awesome, Human, Camel, Viking.

So let your imagination run free….and then double check the rule book.

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DANISH TRADITIONS

Why ceremonial pancakes are one of Denmark’s highest honors

Victorious athletes and visiting dignitaries in Denmark get their just deserts/desserts at Copenhagen City Hall — the "Rådhuspandekager" or city hall pancakes. But where does the tradition come from?

Why ceremonial pancakes are one of Denmark's highest honors

Sure, the fame and fortune are probably great, but Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard has a real honor headed his way on Wednesday. After his ceremonial ride through Copenhagen, the mayor will treat him to the plate of pancakes that has become a staple for celebrated individuals for 90 years. 

In 1928, when King Albert I of Belgium came calling in Denmark, a cook named Phillip Olsen at the historic Fredensborg Store Kro (that’s an inn) whipped up a new recipe he thought might appeal to a waffle-loving Belgian. The king was so taken by the dish that it’s been served to foreign officials, prize-winning artists, and victorious Danish athletes ever since.  

For an official reception, the town hall cafeteria churns out up to 1,000 pancakes, head chef Elisabeth Christensen told VICE in 2018. The team made 4,000 pancakes for Copenhagen’s Culture Night that year, she added. 

READ MORE: Denmark celebrates home-grown Tour de France winner Vingegaard

If you merit an invitation to town hall, don’t come looking for a flapjack — Rådhuspandekager look like a cross between a crepe and a cannoli. It’s a thin, crispy pancake rolled and filled with orange creme, topped with apricot jam and and toasted almonds. 

The town hall recipe remains secret, but after a Danish egg company popularised the pancakes in the 1960s they’ve become a household favorite.

If you don’t expect to win the Tour de France soon, here’s a recipe for how to prepare your own Rådhuspandekager. Or, gather a group and book a guided tour of City Hall, which includes a pancake and glass of sparkling wine (seems easier than all that biking). 

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