Demographics of Iceland

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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Iceland, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Most Icelanders are descendants of Norwegian settlers and Celts from Ireland and Scotland, brought over as slaves during the age of settlement. Recent DNA analysis suggests that around 66 percent of the male settler-era population was of Norse ancestry, whereas the female population was 60 percent Celtic.[1] The Icelandic population today is remarkably homogeneous. According to Icelandic government statistics, 99% of the nation's inhabitants live in urban areas (localities with populations greater than 200) and 60% live in the greater Reykjavík Area. Of the North Germanic languages, the Icelandic language is closest to the Old Norse language and has remained relatively unchanged since the 12th century. Because of its small size and relative homogeneity, Iceland holds all the characteristics of a very close-knit society.

About 84% of the population belong to the state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, or other Lutheran Churches. However, Iceland has complete religious liberty, and other Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations are present (about 3.5%), along with small communities of major world religions. The most notable new religious community in Iceland, and in 2003 the fastest-growing one, is the Ásatrúarfélagið, a legally recognized revival of the pre-Christian religion of Iceland.

Most Icelandic surnames are based on patronymy, or the adoption of the father's first given name, followed by "son" or "daughter". For example, Magnús and Anna, children of a man named Pétur Jónsson, would have the full name Magnús Pétursson and Anna Pétursdóttir, respectively. Magnús's daughter Sigríður Ásta would be Sigríður Ásta Magnúsdóttir, and would remain so for the rest of her life regardless of marriage. An Icelandic patronymic is essentially only a designation of fatherhood, and is therefore redundant in Icelandic social life except to differentiate people of the same first name — the phone directory, for example, lists people by their given name first, patronymic second. Thus it has little in common with traditional surnames except for its position after the given name. It is legally possible in Iceland to rework the patronymic into a matronymic, replacing the father's name with the mother's. Use of the patronymic system is required by law, except for the descendants of those who had acquired family names before 1913 (about 10% of the population). One notable Icelander who has an inherited family name is football star Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen.

See also: Icelandic naming conventions

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