Personal Names Act, No. 45 of 17th May 1996
In case of any discrepancies between the original text in Icelandic and the translation, only the original text as published in the Official Gazette of Iceland (Stjórnartíðindi) is authentic. Please note as well that amendments may have been made since the translations were prepared.
Personal Names Act
No. 45 of 17th May 1996
Section I. Full Names. The Giving of Names.
Article 1. A person’s full name consists of his forename or forenames, his family name, where such exists, and his surname.
The total number of a person’s forenames, plus his family name, may never be greater than three.
Article 2. A child must be given a name within six months of its birth.
A child may acquire a name through baptism in the National Church of Iceland or a registered religious denomination, or through notification of the giving of a name made to the [National Registry] 1), a minister of religion or the head of a registered religious denomination.
1)Act No. 50/2006, Article 13.
Article 3. If a child is to be named at a baptism which is to be performed by a minister of the National Church of Iceland or the head or minister of a registered religious denomination, the child’s custodian shall inform that person at the time of the request for baptism of the name or names which the child is to be given. If a forename or family name which the child is to be given is not on the Personal Names Register (cf. Article 22), then the minister or head of the religious denomination may neither approve it provisionally nor give it to the child at baptism; instead, the matter shall be referred to the Personal Names Committee (cf., however, paragraph 3 of Article 6 and Articles 7 and 10).
If the National Registry receives notification of a forename or family name which is not on the Personal Names Register, the name shall not be registered on a provisional basis; instead, the matter shall be referred to the Personal Names Committee.
Section II. Forenames.
Article 4. Every child shall be given one or more forenames, but not more than three.
The guardians of a child shall have both the right and the duty to give it a forename in accordance with this Act.
Article 5. Forenames shall be capable of having Icelandic genitive endings or shall have become established by tradition in the Icelandic language. Names may not conflict with the linguistic structure of Icelandic. They shall be written in accordance with the ordinary rules of Icelandic orthography unless another orthography is established by tradition.
Girls shall be given women’s names and boys shall be given men’s names.
A forename may not be such as to cause its bearer embarrassment.
Section III. Family Names.
Article 6. A child may be given one family name in addition to its forename or forenames. A family name can be given to either a boy or a girl.
Family names shall be derived from Icelandic roots or shall have become established in the Icelandic language by tradition, but may not have genitive endings. Names that are established by tradition solely as men’s forenames or women’s forenames may not be used as family names. The name of one of the child’s parents, in the genitive case, may, however, be given as a family name. Family names formed in the same way as patronymics or metronymics (cf. paragraph 3 of Article 8) shall not be permitted.
A family name that deviates from the provisions of paragraph 2 shall be permitted when one of the full siblings of the person who is to bear it, or one of the person’s parents, grandfathers or grandmothers, bears, or bore, the name, either as a forename or a family name.
Family names shall be written in accordance with the ordinary rules of Icelandic orthography unless another orthography is established by tradition.
A family name may not be such as to cause its bearer embarrassment.
Article 7. A family surname may only be used as a family name in the cases covered by this Article.
Any person who bears a family surname according to the National Registry may change it into a family name (cf. Article 15).
Any person who does not bear a family surname, but has the right to do so, may bear it as a family name.
A person may bear a family surname as a family name if one of his or her full siblings, parents, grandfathers or grandmothers bore it as a forename, family name or family surname.
A person shall also have the right to take his or her spouse’s family surname as a family name. He or she shall also have the right to take the name as a family name if the spouse bears it as a family name under paragraph 2 or 3.
Section IV. Surnames.
Article 8. Surnames are of two types: patronymics or metronymics and family surnames.
All persons shall bear patronymics or metronymics unless they have the right to bear a family surname and choose to do so (cf. paragraph 5). It shall furthermore be permitted to bear both a patronymic and a metronymic or to bear a family surname, when one has the right to do so, in addition to a patronymic or metronymic. A child whose paternity has not been established may bear a surname based on its grandfather’s name.
Patronymics and metronymics shall be formed as follows: after a person’s forename or forenames, and family name, as appropriate, shall stand the name of his or her father or mother, in the genitive case, with the suffix son in the case of a man or dóttir in the case of a woman.
If a person wishes to bear, or to have his or her child bear, a surname derived from a foreign parent’s forename, the Personal Names Committee may make a ruling adapting the surname to the Icelandic language.
A person who according to the National Registry bears a family surname on the date of commencement of this Act, or who bore a family surname during the period of validity of the Act No. 37/1991, may continue to bear it. The same shall apply to his or her descendants, in both the male and female lines.
A person who according to the National Registry bears his or her spouse’s patronymic or metronymic on the date of commencement of this Act may continue to do so.
No new family surnames may be adopted in Iceland.
Article 9. Icelandic citizens may not adopt their spouses’ family surnames.
A person who, on the date of commencement of this Act, bears his or her spouse’s family surname, may continue to do so. He or she may continue to bear the former spouse’s family surname after dissolution of the marriage. However, a person shall be able to demand that the Minister of Justice issue a ruling that a former spouse is no longer permitted to bear his or her family surname after the spouse marries again. If the person concerned is deceased, his or her surviving spouse shall have the same right to make this demand. The demand shall be made within six months of the marriage of the person involved. The Minister of Justice shall base the ruling on an assessment of which are the more important: the interests of the former spouse in retaining the name or the reasons which are advanced for his or her ceasing to bear the former name.
If either spouse adopts the other’s patronymic or metronymic when living abroad, he or she shall be obliged to discontinue its use on returning to Iceland. The same shall apply to their descendants.
Section V. Rights of Persons of Foreign Origin regarding Names.
Article 10. The provisions of Articles 2 and 5 shall not apply to a child in Iceland if both parents are foreign nationals. The same shall apply to the child of a foreign mother if the child’s paternity has not been established.
If either of a child’s parents is or was a foreign national, the child may be given one forename and/or family name that does not conform to the provisions of Articles 5-7 if it can be demonstrated that the foreign name is valid in the home country of the foreign parent. In all cases, however the child shall bear one forename that conforms to Article 5.
Article 11. If a person with a foreign name acquires Icelandic nationality by an act of law, he or she may retain his full name without any changes. He or she may, however, adopt a forename, family name and/or surname in accordance with this Act.
The provisions of paragraph 1 shall also apply to the children of a person who acquires Icelandic nationality by an act of law and who acquire Icelandic nationality together with him or her (cf. paragraph 3 of Article 6 of the Act No. 100/1952).
The provisions of paragraph 1 shall also apply to persons who acquire Icelandic nationality under Articles 2-4 of the Act No. 100/1952.
Persons who acquired Icelandic nationality subject to requirements regarding changes of their names prior to the commencement of this Act may, by permission of the Minister of Justice, re-adopt the names they bore previously and/or discontinue the use of the names that they were required to adopt, though with the condition that the total number of their forenames and family names may not exceed three (cf. paragraph 2 of Article 1). The same shall apply to their descendants.
Article 12. A foreign national who marries an Icelandic citizen may adopt his or her spouse’s surname. He or she may also adopt a patronymic or metronymic based on the name of the spouse’s father or mother, adding the suffix dóttir, in the case of a woman, or son, in the case of a man, to the genitive form of the forename.
Section VI. Changes of Name.
A. Forenames and family names.
Article 13. The Minister of Justice may permit a person to change his or her forename and/or family name according to Article 6, including adopting a name or names in addition to the name or names he or she bears or discontinuing the use of a name or names he or she bears if there are reasons to be considered for so doing.
The change of the name of a child under the age of [18 years]1) shall be subject to the condition that, if two persons exercise custody of the child, they both make the request regarding the change of name. If a person who exercises custody of a child presents a request regarding a change of the child’s name and there has been a change in the arrangement regarding the custody of the child since it was given a name, then the approval of the parent who exercised custody at the time of the previous giving of a name shall be sought, where this is possible. Nevertheless, the Minister of Justice may authorise the change of name, if this is unequivocally in the child’s interest, even if the approval of that parent has not been obtained.
If a child under the age of [18 years]1) is adopted after being given a name, it may be given a name or names in the adoption permit instead of the name or names it has previously received.
A change of the forename or family name of a child under the age of [18 years]1) shall be subject to the approval of the child itself if he or she has reached the age of 12 years.
Changes of name shall be subject to the condition that the new names are on the Personal Names Register or are approved by the Personal Names Committee (cf., however, paragraph 3 of Article 6 and Articles 7 and 10).
1) Act No. 150/1998, Article 1.
Article 14. This Article applies to changes of surnames of children under the age of [18 years].1)
If the mother of a child whose paternity has not been established marries, the child may be given a name based on the name of its stepfather.
A child whose paternity has been established may, with the permission of the Minister of Justice, be given a name based on its stepparent’s name. The approval of the child’s non-custodial biological parent shall be sought, where this is possible, before a decision is taken regarding such permission. If the biological parent does not approve of the change of the child’s surname, the Minister of Justice may nevertheless permit the change if special circumstances apply and if it can be considered that the change is substantially to the child’s advantage.
Decisions under paragraphs 2 and 3 shall be subject to the approval of the stepparent.
Subject to permission from the Minister of Justice, a foster-child living in permanent fosterage with its foster-parents may be given a name based on the name of one of the foster-parents. The approval of the child’s biological parents shall be sought, if possible, before a decision is taken regarding such permission. Even if one of the child’s biological parents does not approve the change of the child’s surname, the Minister of Justice may nevertheless permit the change if special circumstances apply and if it can be considered that the change is substantially to the child’s advantage.
If a change to a child’s surname is requested by which the child is to receive a family surname which it has the right to use, or if it is to be named with a metronymic instead of a patronymic, or vice versa, and the parent after whom the child has been named up to that time is opposed to the change, the Minister of Justice may permit the change if special circumstances apply and if it can be considered that the change is substantially to the child’s advantage.
When a child is adopted, it shall be given a surname associating it with one of its adoptive parents unless the adoptive parent wishes the child to retain its previous surname.
A change of the surname of a child under the age of [18 years]1) shall be subject to the child’s approval if it has reached the age of 12 years.
1)Act No. 150/1998, Article 2.
Article 15. Any person may discontinue the use of a family surname he has borne, or adopt it as a family name (cf. paragraph 2 of Article 7), and adopt a surname as provided for in paragraph 3 of Article 8.
Article 16. The Minister of Justice may permit a person older than [18 years]1) to adopt a new surname if there can be considered valid reasons for doing so.
1)Act No. 150/1998, Article 3.
Article 17. Changes of name under this Act, whether in the form of changes reported to the National Registry or changes made with the permission of the Minister of Justice, may only be made once unless special circumstances apply.
Section VII. Registration and Use of Names.
Article 18. The provisions of paragraph 3 of Article 8 shall be observed when a child’s surname is registered in the National Registry unless it is stated in the notification to the National Registry that the child is to bear a family surname (cf. paragraph 5 of Article 8).
All changes of names under this Act that are not subject to permission from the Minister of Justice shall be reported to the National Registry.
A change of forename, family name or surname under this Act shall not take effect until it has been entered in the National Registry.
Article 19. Personal names shall be written in all official registers and official documents as they are recorded in the National Registry at any given time.
In dealings with official bodies, the making of contracts, both written and oral, and in all transactions in law, people shall state their names in the form in which they are recorded in the National Registry at any given time.
Article 20. [The National Registry may authorise a change in the orthography of a name in the National Registry without this constituting an actual change of name. Such a change in orthography shall be made in accordance with rules set by the Minister of Justice in consultation with the Personal Names Committee. Each individual may only have such a change made once unless special circumstances apply.] 1)
1)Act No. 50/2006, Article 14.
Section VIII. The Personal Names Committee.
Article 21. The Minister of Justice shall appoint the Personal Names Committee for terms of four years at a time. The committee shall consist of three members and the same number of alternates. One member shall be appointed in accordance with a nomination by the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Iceland, one in accordance with a nomination by the Faculty of Law of the University of Iceland and one in accordance with a nomination by the Icelandic Language Committee. The alternates shall be appointed in the same way. The members of the committee shall decide on the division of responsibilities between themselves. The costs of the work of the committee shall be paid by the State Treasury.
Article 22. The Personal Names Committee shall have the following functions under this Act:
1. To compile a register of the forenames and family names considered permissible under Articles 5 and 6; this is referred to in the present Act as the Personal Names Register. The committee shall publish the register, publicise it and made it accessible to the public, and also send it to all parish priests and the heads of registered religious denominations. The register shall be revised as necessary and shall be published in full not less often than every three years.
2. To act in an advisory capacity to ministers of religion, the heads of registered religious denominations, [the National Registry] 1) the Minister of Justice and persons who exercise custody over children regarding the giving of names and to deliver rulings on matters of opinion and disputes concerning names under the present Act..
3. To rule on other matters of opinion or disputes that may arise regarding the giving of names, the writing of names, and other similar matters.
No appeals against rulings by the Personal Names Committee may be lodged with higher authorities. The committee shall publish its rulings every year.
1)Act No. 50/2006, Article 15.
Article 23. The Personal Names Committee shall deliver rulings on matters referred to it under Article 3 and paragraph 4 of Article 8. It shall deliver its rulings as quickly as possible, and never later than four weeks after receiving cases for adjudication.
Section IX. Miscellaneous Provisions.
Article 24. If a person is able to demonstrate that another person is using his name, or a name that resembles it so closely that there is a likelihood of confusion, he may bring an action before a court requiring the other person to discontinue the use of the name.
Article 25. If a child is not given a name within the period specified in paragraph 1 of Article 2, , [the National Registry] 1) shall draw the attention of the legal guardians of the child to that provision of the Act and call upon them to give the child a name without delay. If the legal guardians do not comply with this request within a month and give no valid reasons for the delay in giving the child a name, [The Minister of Justice] 1) may, after repeating the request in writing, impose per diem fines of up to ISK 1,000 on the child’s guardians, which shall be applied until the child is given a name. The maximum amount of these per diem fines shall be based on the Consumer Price Index for January 1996 and shall be revised in accordance with changes to that index. Per diem fines shall be paid to the Treasury, and shall be subject to collection by enforcement measures.
Other infringements of this Act shall be punishable by fines unless heavier penalties are provided for in other statutes.
1)Act No. 50/2006, Article 16.
Article 26. The Government of Iceland may make agreements with other states concerning the boundary between Icelandic and foreign legislation on personal names.
Furthermore, the Minister of Justice may issue regulations on the boundary between Icelandic legislation on personal names and the legislation of other states in this area.
Article 27. The Minister of Justice shall be in charge of matters concerning personal names, and may issue regulations containing further provisions on the application of this Act.
Article 28. This Act takes effect on 1st January 1997.
I.When this Act takes effect, the National Registry at Statistics Iceland shall set rules on the registration of names when it proves impossible to register a person’s full name in the National Register and no agreement can be reached on the measures to be taken.
III. ... 1)
1)Act No. 50/2006, Article 17.