Interesting fact about Icelandic phone books

iceland phone book
The Icelandic phone book is sorted by first name instead of by last name.

Did you know that the Icelandic phone book is arranged alphabetically by first name?

It’s true.


Because in Iceland, home to only about 320,000 people, most surnames are actually patronyms consisting of one’s father’s name plus either “son” or “dóttir” (depending on one’s gender). They aren’t passed from one generation to the next.

“Jón Einarsson’s offspring, for example, might be Ólafur Jónsson and Sigríður Jónsdóttir.”

If I’d been born in Iceland, my last name would’ve been something along the lines of Jósefsdóttir, for “Joseph’s daughter.” My father’s last name, in contrast, would have been Jónsson, as my paternal grandfather’s name was John.

How about you — what would your patronymic surname be?

Source: Icelandic girls can’t be called Harriet, government tells family
Image: Adapted from Iceland phonebook is sorted on first names by Selmer van Alten under CC BY 2.0.

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