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Surnames act like a bridge to connect us with our ancestors and unravel our family’s past. They also serve as an essential part of our identity by adding themselves to our first names. Finnish names are similar to many Scandinavian titles, whereas Finnish family names are rooted in a historical or linguistic tradition. Varying trends for Western Finnish and Eastern Finnish names and diverse rules for Finnish nobility, clergy, and the military make Finland’s most common last names sound more exotic than their Danish or Swedish counterparts. Read on to find interesting information on Finnish last names that give valuable insight into the Finnish naming tradition.
A surname in Finland has either an ethnic, toponymical, patronymic or occupational origin. Many Finnish surnames can be ornamental, adopted, or inherited, while parents usually choose given names. Finnish surnames ending with -nen indicate a place of belonging. Locals adopted many of these names during the 19th century. The Finnish language is a Uralic language, and Finnish last names are part of the Scandinavian name family. Although the other Scandinavian countries follow the Nordic language as their mother tongues, there may be considerable overlap between Swedish, Finnish, Estonian, and Latvian languages. Therefore, Finnish names often have Eastern European and Nordic influences.
As per the Finnish naming convention, surnames are patrilineal in nature or referred to the family occupation or the place where they lived. The Eastern Finnish surname tradition dates way back to the 13th century but was also adopted in the West in the 1800s and became immensely popular. The Eastern Finnish last names were mostly hereditary by the mid-16th century. New names began to emerge as people combined their current living place with a common suffix in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many families chose surnames made of a natural feature with the suffix –nen in the Finnish national romantic period of the 19th century.
As most Finland was an agrarian society until the 20th century, surnames signified belonging to a farm or a homestead where a family lived. Hence, the last name of a person could change every time someone moved to a different farm. Korhonen, Virtanen, Nieminen, Mäkinen, Hämäläinen, Koskinen, Heikkinen and Järvinen are the most common surnames in Finland. In the absence of a personal surname, one could use their homestead title. Since the inhabitants of a homestead would often include family, farmhands, and other workers, different suffixes or prefixes added to the surname gave them an identity of their own.
In Finland, the given first name is followed by a surname, and one can have up to four given names before their last name. The first national act on names in Finland arrived in 1921 when the usage of surnames became “mandatory.” A Finnish woman needed to adopt the last name of her husband after marriage. Moreover, the Swedish-speaking middle and upper classes used German and Swedish surnames, and Latin titles were often reserved for clergy members. This well-researched inventory of Finnish last names will help identify an individual and trace the place of origin and ancestral profession.
100 Finnish Surnames or Family Names With Meanings
A strong surname can grab immediate attention and establish your child’s identity. If you’re a parent looking for a surname that incorporates a special meaning and honors your ancestral heritage, here are some common Finnish last names to choose from:
Deriving its name from the Finnish word “Aalto,” Aalto has an ornamental origin and means “wave.”
“Aho” is an ornamental name meaning a “forest clearing” or “glade.”
Derived from the word “Aho” meaning “glade,” Ahonen is a common Finnish last name meaning “small glade.”
This Finnish name “Anna,” meaning grace, beauty, and favor, is combined with the “la” suffix to form the toponymic surname mainly found in Ostrobothnia.
The habitational surname is a combination of “Antti” with the “la” suffix representing an individual who either works or resides at a farm called Anttila. Antti means “warrior; man; manly.”
Aarnio is a common surname that comes from the word “aarniometsä”, meaning a forest that is untouched by humans.
This Finnish surname means “abandoned; an unused field; an abandoned farm.”
This Finnish habitational surname comes from “Courie,” the name of several small places located in France.
Derived from the word “Elo,” meaning “harvest,” “grain,” or “life,” this surname has an ornamental origin.
This habitational surname originates from the farm name “Erkkila.” It also comes from the personal name “Erkki” combined with the “la” suffix.
Derived from the name of a farmstead, “Eskola,” this surname is formed by combining “Esko” with the “la” suffix.
This Finnish surname means “sand,” referring to someone residing at or working at a farmstead with a sandy area.
Halla in Scandinavian means ‘heroine’.
This Finnish surname means “hay.”
This Finnish surname means “pine tree.”
This Finnish surname means “from the hall,” referring to someone who lived near the town’s great hall.
This Finnish surname means “of the battle; strife.”
This Finnish surname means “from the gracious God,” referring to those from a religious leader’s family or those from a prosperous background.
Hamalainen refers to people from the region of Hame province within central Finland.
Heikkinen means “of the ruler of the estate; home-ruler,” referring to a child or heir of a person named Heikki.
This Finnish surname means “fallow field; frost.”
Harju means ‘ridge’ in Finnish.
This Finnish form of the Germanic personal name Heinrich or Henry is an ornamental name derived from heinä ‘hay’.
This Finnish surname means “lake,” referring to an individual who lives along the shore of a lake.
Derived from the Latin ‘iustus,’ Justi means ‘rightful, legal, fair, honest, equal, impartial.’
Derived from the personal name Jut (t)i, Jutila comes from Johannes or John, the local suffix -la.
This Finnish surname means “of the river.”
This Finnish surname is a combination of Jarvi, meaning “lake” and ‘-la’ suffix.
This Finnish surname means “river,” referring to an individual who lives along the banks of a river.
This Finnish surname means “from the gracious God;” It is a variant of Johannes.
Kalas comes from the ethnic Turkic people named Kaliz. Kalas means ‘warrior’ in Sudanese.
This habitational name comes from koivu ‘birch tree’ combined with the local suffix-sto, meaning ‘birch wood or forest.’
This habitational name comes from the Finnish Koti for ‘home’ with the locative suffix -la.
Derived from the Finnish word “kallio,” meaning “rock,” this toponymic surname may have also been ornamental.
Keto means ‘meadow’ or ‘grassy field’ in Finnish. This habitational name refers to someone from a farmstead.
Derived from the old Finnish personal name Kyllia, Kylla, Kylloi, Kylio is a shortened form of Kyllonen, a combination of Kyll(i)a/Kyllo and common surname suffix –nen.
Kangas comes from the Finnish word “Kangas,” meaning “fabric” or “cloth.” The occupational name refers to a family of textile merchants or garment manufacturers.
Derived from the Finnish word “Kanto,” meaning a “stump.”
Derives from the word “Kari,” meaning “sandbar,” “small island,” or “stony rapids,” this surname has a toponymic and ornamental origin.
Derived from the Finnish word “Karja” meaning, “cattle,” This occupational surname refers to those who have worked as cattle farmers or herdsmen.
Finnish surname means “alley,” referring to a family living on a farm or home on a country lane or alley.
Derived from Finnish kangas, meaning ‘pine heath,’ this habitational name refers to someone from a farmstead.
This Finnish surname means “grassy mound.”
This Finnish surname means “courteous,” which comes from the name Kurt.
This Finnish surname comes from the Finnish word “Kotka,” meaning “eagle.”
This Finnish surname means “spruce.”
This Finnish surname means “stone,” referring to those living at a stony farmstead.
Kivi means ‘stone’ or ‘rock’ in Finnish.
This Koskinen means ‘Small rapids.”
Derived from the Low German word “Korb,” Korpi means “basket.” Korpi is an occupational surname used for a maker or vendor of baskets.
Kanerva means ‘heather’ in Finnish.
This Finnish surname means ‘Small grove’ or ‘forest.’
“Laakso” in Finnish means a “valley,” referring to those who lived in or along a valley.
Derived from the Finnish word “lahti,” which means a “bay” or a “cove.”
Derived from the Finnish word “laine,” Laine means “ocean wave.”
Laitinen derives from “Laiti,” a Germanic personal name combined with the “nen” surname suffix.
This Finnish surname means “alder tree,” referring to someone living or working at a farmstead or who lives on an alder tree forest border.
Lassila comes from the Swedish personal name Lasse or Lassi, which, when combined with the local suffix -la, means ‘Lasse’s place.’
This ornamental name comes from the Finnish lehti ‘leaf,’ combined with surname suffix –nen form Finland’s twelfth most common family name.
This habitational surname means ‘grove.’
Derived from some medieval Germanic given name, leino means “sad” or ‘weak.’
Combined with the locative ending –sto, Lepisto is a Finnish plural for leppa ‘alder tree’.
Derived from the Scandinavian root, Linna means “lime or linden tree.”
Luomi means ‘creek,’ or ‘small river’.
This Finnish surname means “alder tree,” referring to an individual living or working at a farmstead or who lives on the border of an alder tree forest.
This Finnish name means ‘top’ or ‘source of a river.’ Added with the local suffix -la, this habitational name refers to someone from a farm or village.
This name of Latin origin means “laurel or sweet bay tree; the symbol of victory.”
This Finnish surname means “sausages.”
This Finnish surname of toponymic origin comes from the Finnish word “maki,” meaning “hill.”
Derived from the Finnish word “maja,” this Finnish surname means “hut “or “cottage.”
This Finnish surname comes from the Icelandic name “Manni,” meaning man.
This Finnish surname means “mainland” or “continent.”
Maki in Finnish means “hill.”
Nieminen derives from “Niemi,” a Finnish word meaning “peninsula.”
Nikula comes from the Finnish name Nikku, derived from Nicholas, meaning ‘victory of the people.’
It is the Finnish word for “pasture” or “grassland.”
The Finnish word “oja” means a “dike” or a “ditch.”
This Finnish surname means “creek; stream.”
Partanen was originally a nickname derived from “parta,” meaning “beard” in Finnish.
Derived from “Puro,” Peura is a Finnish word that means “stream” or a “creek.”
This Finnish surname means “mattress.”
Derived from the Finnish name “Pieti,” Pietila comes from the personal name “Peter.”
Derived from the Finnish word “ranta” meaning, “shore” or a “beach,” this surname has a toponymic origin.
This occupational surname means “smith” or blacksmith in Finnish.
Derived from the Finnish word “Rinne,” which means “slope” or “hillside,” Rinnie has a toponymic and ornamental origin.
Derived from “ruona,” meaning “alluvial land” or “creek,” this surname is a diminutive of Ruonala, Ruonakangas, and Ruonakoski.
Ruoho means ‘grass’ in Finnish.
Saari in Finnish means “island,” referring to ‘someone who lived on an island.’
This Finnish surname means “smith; blacksmith.”
Saksa derives from “Sachs,” a Germanic word meaning “Saxon.” Saksa likely has an ethnic origin referring to the German traders.
This surname comes from the Finnish word “salo,” meaning “forested wilderness.”
Seppanen originates from “Seppa,” which means “smith” in Finnish.
This Finnish surname means “hope.”
The surname derives from the Finnish word “taka,” meaning “behind,” “back,” or “rear,” indicative of a distant or faraway farm location.
Derived from the Finnish word “toivo,” meaning “hope,” Toivonen is an ornamental surname.
Tuomala is a combination of the personal name “Tuomas” and the suffix “la.” It is a variation of Thomas meaning ‘twin’ in Hebrew.
Vanhanen derives from “Vanha,” a Finnish word meaning “old.”
Vitta comes from the Old German word “vitu,” meaning “forest.”
A variant of Virtanen, Wirta is a Finnish surname that means “river” or “stream.”
A variant of Finnish Vuollet, this ornamental surname comes from vuolle, meaning ‘current.’
This list of authentic Finnish surnames attempts to give information on the historical practices and recommended best practices of recording Finnish last names. Some Finnish immigrants to the United States have maintained all or part of their Finnish names to make it easier for their non-Finnish neighbors and associates to identify them. Siblings could have different surnames while others abbreviated their family names. Regardless of the conventions, understanding surnames is important in understanding the genealogy of a particular family and encourages parents to select one for their beloved child.