Name Customs in Iceland
In Iceland, we still uphold the Old Norse tradition of identifying ourselves by our father’s or mother's first name rather than use surnames, as is traditional elsewhere in the world. Thus, our last name is most commonly formed from the first name of the father, but sometimes it is formed from the first name of the mother. This is rarer but has become more common over the last few years as well as identifying oneself by both parents Christian names.
The patronymic of the father's or mother's first name is used and the suffix son (e. son) or dóttir (e. daughter) appended. An example of this is Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir, who is the daughter of Bjarnhéðinn. If she identified herself with her mother, Margrét, her name would be Bríet Margrétardóttir. Leifur Eiríksson is the son of Eiríkur Þorvaldsson, who is the son of Þorvaldur. If Leifur identified himself with his mother, Þjóðhildur, his name would be Leifur Þjóðhildarson.
An Icelandic family can therefore have different surnames, which can be confusing for foreigners. Although, most Icelandic surnames are formed in the Icelandic manner, there are some Icelanders that do have traditional surnames, or family names, as is traditional elsewhere in the world. However, family names are very rare in Iceland.
In Iceland, we never use or address one another by last names alone. We would never address Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir as Mrs Bjarnhéðinsdóttir or Bjarnhéðinsdóttir. However, it is custom to say Mr President or Madam President when introducing the President at formal occasions but we always address our Ministers and our elderly by their first name. Last names are therefore less important than what is customary elsewhere in the world.