Baby Name Needed: How Do You Pronounce Ove?

A reader from Sweden is expecting a baby. If the baby’s a boy, she’s thinking of naming him Ove. Here’s what she’d like to know:

I want the name to be internationally viable and wonder how an American would pronounce it. Does it look strange to you or is it common?

[Before reading on: Please leave a comment with the way you pronounced Ove when you read it in the title of this post. Thanks!]

Ove is a very rare name in the States. I’ve never met anyone here with the name, and I’d imagine most other Americans are also unfamiliar with it.

My first instinct was to pronounce it OH-vay, with a long o (as in old) and a long a (as in day) — almost like a Spanish olé, but with the stresses swapped. I also think OHV (rhyming with stove) would come to mind for a lot of Americans, as we’re accustomed to silent e endings.

According to the Swedish pronunciation I found online, though, neither guess is correct. Ove is more like OH-veh. I don’t know how many Americans would get that right on the first try. (Then again, maybe I’m underestimating our ability to pronounce Swedish names…?)

This reader is also looking for a few name suggestions:

If you have suggestions for names that work in both Swedish and English, feel free to help!

Many of the top girl names and boy names in Sweden right now are also popular in the U.S., and elsewhere. I think these would be great options. Some examples:

Adam
Erik
Kevin
Leo
Lucas
Max
Viktor
Ella
Ellen
Emma
Hanna
Klara
Lilly
Sara

I’ve also written a few posts (here, here, here) about Swedish names that work well in English. These might be helpful as well.

Do you have any other name suggestions?

19 thoughts on “Baby Name Needed: How Do You Pronounce Ove?

  1. My first thought was the right pronunciation, but I’ve been influenced by living in Germany for a while. So my guess of OH-veh was a mix of German (two syllables) and English (v like in English) guessing.
    German has a few names kind of like Ove – say, Uwe and Otha – and although they are cool, sadly most English-speakers I know find them incredibly ugly. :(
    Looking at the Swedish top 100 I think most would work okay in English, with some exceptions. (I see Love on the boys’ list. That’s a big no!)

  2. I have a German husband and Norwegian ancestors with the names Olav, Oline and Ole, so my first guess would be OO-veh. I think most Americans would probably pronounce Ove as OH-vee.

    Suggestions for Swedish names that would work well in English:
    Ari
    Anton
    Boas
    Elias
    Felix
    Finn
    Gustaf
    Henning
    Kai
    Linus
    Mattias
    Nico
    Oscar
    Sander
    Sören
    Tor

  3. Julie’s comment got me thinking.

    The audio sample of Ove I found online did have a sort of “oo” sound at the beginning, like “OO-veh,” but it didn’t seem very pronounced.

    So I just went looking for another audio sample. I found this one: Jan-Ove Waldner interview [vid, at 0:03]. Definitely an “oo” sound there.

    So I’m thinking now that the correct pronunciation is somewhere in between “OO-veh” and “OH-veh.”

  4. I would say OH-veh if the O didn’t have an umlaut or slash. I just asked my mom and she said OH-vee.

    I do think that “name nerds” would have more knowledge of pronunciations and therefore would be more likely to say it correctly, but the challenge would be with everyone else. :-)

    Ideas not mentioned:
    Albin, Alvar, Anton, Aron, Arvid, August, Axel, Dag, Edvin, Elis, Emanuel, Finn, Halsten, Hugo, Kim, Klemens, Lorens, Mats, Niklas, Otto, Tomas, Torsten

    Alva, Elsa, Elva, Emelie, Linn, Linnea, Tessan, Tilda, Tova

  5. OH-vay, because I read it was Swedish. Otherwise, I’m thinking most people would say it like OVE, one syllable.

  6. I definitely thought “Oh-VAY” when I first read the name, before reading any of the other text. I don’t know what influenced me to put the accent on the second syllable, but I may have been unconsciously rhyming it with “Ole’ ” (a la the Spanish bullfighters).

    I personally love some of the other name suggestions here! I think many of them would make great Swedish/American names without having major pronunciation issues.

  7. I read it as OH-vay. And for the record, Uwe Rosenberg is a very well-known board game designer (Bohnanza, Agricola, Loyang . . .), so the name is not unknown here, at least among avid strategy gamers!

  8. And the name doesn’t seem very masculine to me, because it seems like a false friend for “ovum/ovulate.”

  9. I’ve never heard of Uwe Rosenberg [or any of those games…], but I have heard of Uwe Boll and his reputation for making awful films.

  10. I would pronounce it like Ovie, but I live in DC and there’s a certain hockey player who has made that a popular nickname.

    Based on other comments, I wonder if it wouldn’t be misheard as “Oi-Vay”.

  11. I think I first posted my answer in the wrong section. Sorry.
    My first thought was O-lay, accent like in Oil of Olay, o-LAY.
    Second thought, maybe, Ov, long O, but since it’s European, I think my first guess is closest.

  12. @Myrtle – Yup, the comment was attached to a different post. Here it is:

    My guess is O-vay, same accent as Olay or Spanish Ole, accent on lay.
    Ov, long O, is my second guess.
    Let the lady know it’s NOT common internationally and her child would have to explain the spelling plus the pronunication all his days. Not fun.

  13. My husband name is Ove, and is a family name cause several relatives have it, we pronounce it Oh-véh like the Spanish ole being strong at the end not Oh-vie which is how his American friend call him

  14. My maiden name was Ove. We pronounced it O-vee. Most don’t pronounce it this way though. My heritage is from Denmark and Sweden.

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