I have always been fascinated by historical nicknames. First, because it’s interesting to learn how people define themselves or others. Second, because language evolves and when we look back into history, we can’t always be sure those nicknames mean what we think they mean.

Which brings us to Harald Bluetooth. Because Harald lived and died more than a thousand years ago, we don’t know everything about him. Although it’s possible he was born in 910, we don’t know that for sure.

We do know that Harald’s father was the first King of Denmark in a new line and his name was Gorm. Ok, that’s not really important to this story, but the name kinda makes me giggle, so I wanted to share.

Harald in 987, circa 1685. Source
Bildarchiv Austria via Wikimedia Commons.

Back to Harald. The accepted history about Harald is that he unified Denmark, and then Norway (for a short time), under a single ruler. During his time as ruler, he also promoted conversion from the old Norse gods to Christianity among his people.

Harald died in 986 (or 985, or 987), fighting a rebellion led by his son Svein Forkbeard.

The baptism of Harald Bluetooth. Detail from baptismal font from circa 1100 in
Tamdrup Kirke, Denmark. Photo by Sven Rosborn via Wikimedia Commons.

So why was he called Bluetooth? This seems to be an issue of language. Harald probably had a rotten tooth, in the front where it was highly visible, that had turned black. The word used originally may have just meant that it was dark rather than blue.

One more thing about Harald. More than one thousand years after his death, in the late 1990s, some businessmen were inspired by Harald’s ability to unite people and named their company Bluetooth in his honor. They even used the runes for his initials, HB, and combined them to use as their logo.

If you’re interested in more nicknames, check out this previous post, “A Rose By Any Other Name: 3 Intriguing Historical Nicknames”, about Ivar the Boneless, Edward, the Black Prince, and Henry the Impotent.