Origins of Olaf

dog-186224_640Olaf the Husky has been sweeping Instagram and Twitter. An all-white Husky owned by Pentatonix’s Kirstin Maldonado, the handsome pup has won the hearts of nearly 100,000 people worldwide and now appears alongside his little brother, Pascal.

As for Olaf’s name, it clearly comes from a love for Disney. Released in 2013, Frozen took the world by storm with its incredible graphics and unforgettable songs. One of the characters, Olaf, is a cheery snowman that dreams of enjoying the summer months. Olaf the puppy was born in late 2014 with a white coat reminiscent of snow. However, the story of the name Olaf doesn’t start with Disney.


As Old As Language

Unlike many names that can be traced back to Latin, Olaf is actually an ancient Norse name, coming from what is known as Proto-Norse. Spoken throughout Scandinavia in the first centuries CE, it eventually evolved into what we know as Old Norse languages around 800 CE with the rise of the Vikings. Some of the earliest recordings we have of it date back to the early 2nd century.

During this time, the words Anu-laibaz and Ǣlāf appeared. In translation, anu stood for an ancestor or grand-father while laibaz stood for descendant or heirloom. In short, it simply denoted a person was a descendent of someone. That someone was then usually mentioned in the last name.

Over time, it took on the more recognized form of Olaf and became an incredibly popular name for kings. For a full century, almost all of the Norwegian kings were named Olaf. Even today it ranks as the 60th most popular name in Poland.

Interestingly enough, Olaf was such a popular name that it spread across the European continent. In Estonian, it is Olev, the Irish use Amhlaoibh and the Scottish use Aulay, among other variations. It is arguably one of the most widespread names with the broadest differentiations in spelling around.


Modern Olaf

As of today, Olaf isn’t as common as it was but is still widely enough used that those that come across it can easily identify it as a Scandinavian name. Lemony Snicket was probably the first major writer to put the name back into popular use by giving his villain said name. Then, following Disney’s release of Frozen and Olaf’s strong role, the title once again took off in popularity.

Though not in the top 100, Olaf is still a popular puppy name for various reasons. Be it the owners really like the name or, like Olaf the Husky, their white fur reminds them of a goofy snowman, it’s a name that pops up regularly for those on the hunt for the perfect puppy moniker. In addition, like so many other puppy names, the fact that Olaf has survived history can only mean that it is built to last.

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