How would you pronounce the name Leif?

Some background: My husband's name is Klaus and he loves having a unique but easy-to-say name. We both like Leif but are unsure about pronunciation and whether or not it is too off-the-wall for our Midwest/Southern-ish American family and friends! (ok, MY family.. his family is obviously ok with it, seeing that his name is already different!)


NOTE FROM THE MODS: This post is originally from December, 2012. It was recently revived by someone with a child with the name Leif. Feel free to discuss the name in the abstract, but keep in mind that the original subject of the post has likely long-since been named.


December 13, 2012 3:44 PM

Leif is pronounced with a long eee sound, like the leaf on a tree.

It's a great name - definitely hits that spot of unique but easy to pronounce.

December 13, 2012 3:45 PM

Well, that's a somewhat complicated answer. I would now say Layf, but growing up and only ever seeing it written, I would have said Leef. And apparently in certain languages it's said more like Life. If you want an intuitive-to-pronounce name, this likely isn't it unless you are surrounded by people familiar with the name.

Here is how people from various countries say the name.

December 13, 2012 3:51 PM

Leif is a Scandinavian name, and it is definitely not pronounced like leaf.  If you listen to the site Karyn noted, you will hear slight differences according to which modern Scandinavian language the speaker uses.  I myself would go with the Icelander.  For native speakers of English Layf is close enough.  If you want a name with -ee-, use Leaf as a nature name.

December 13, 2012 5:59 PM

With no knowledge of Scandinavian pronounciations, I would have guessed Leaf.

December 13, 2012 7:09 PM

I know it isn't really correct, but I'd probably say Leif the same as Leaf, especially if the owner of the name was not Scandinavian.  It's just how I've always heard the name said.  If the owner of the name was from Scandinavia, I'd probably be unsure until I heard the person introduced (or asked for clarification).


December 13, 2012 10:35 PM

Leif Garrett, the B-celebrity on the show "America's Dumbest...", pronounces it LAYF.

December 13, 2012 11:48 PM

As someone with Norwegian ancestors, I'd say it like Lay at the front.

I don't really know if that's correct, but it's how my family pronounced it. The Viking is the famous one.

At any rate, I think the issue is that it's clearly going to be pronounced wrong at least some of the time.

Whether you would find correcting folks bothersome, is entirely up to you!

As to being to, "Out there," my personal observation since my boys have started school is that we've entered an anything goes era! You get groups of Jalen, Phoenix, Dottie, and Oliver all mixed up in a happy hodge podge. And families almost immediately learn to love even names they aren't wild about. I know ours did.

December 14, 2012 1:06 AM

I really like Leif as a boy's name - it is in my top names for our son due in May.  I would definitely pronounce it as LAY-F.  I have to say that even if you try to spell something to make sure everyone "gets it" - they don't.  My other son's name is Teague.  I thought that would be so normal to look at and pronounce - just like "league" but with a "T" instead - thought about so many different spellings, but that seemed so obvious.  Well I still find myself explaining it or correctly pronouncing it for people.  Annoys me, and probably will annoy Teague someday too!  =)  So, I say go ahead and name your child what you want, pronounce it how you want, and there will be some correcting a long the way.  Good luck.

December 14, 2012 3:48 PM

Thanks, everyone!! I do like the "LAYF" pronunciation better, it seems more authentic or something...

December 14, 2012 8:48 PM

/layf/ sounds really very lovely.  

But having gone to public school in the south (US), we definitely learned to pronounce Leif Erikson as Leaf.  So there's that to deal with.

December 14, 2012 8:57 PM

Yup, that's where I got my understanding of the pronunciation from.

December 15, 2012 8:44 AM

Maybe you could spell the name differently, so the pronounciation is clearer?

Laif, Laiph, Laef, Laeph (or something like that) for "Layf" pronounciation

Leef, Leeph, Leaf, Leaph (or something like that) for "Leaf"

Or any spelling that better promotes how you want the name to be pronounced could fix the problem quite easily.

By the way, Irrelivant, but: the spelling Klaus makes me think of the Series of Unfortunate Events character, & the association with "Santa Claus" isn't as easy to notice.

December 17, 2012 10:25 AM

My husband is constantly correcting people about the pronunciation of his name. "It's Klaus, rhymes with house," he always says! He DOES get "santa klaus" a lot, too! So I guess i'll have to ask him how he feels about the leaf/layf thing. We've talked about it but not in regards to his own experiences. Now that I think about it, it would be very similar circumstances. Thanks to everyone for their input!

December 17, 2012 4:27 PM

I grew up hearing Leaf sometimes, but being told Layf was the correct pronunciation.  I also know a Lief pronounced Life (who lives in the Midwest). After the initial explanation, people all seemed to get his name right, and liked it.

December 18, 2012 4:32 AM

I've always known it to be pronounced LAY-f.  I would immediately go with that pronunciation unless I was told otherwise. I think it's a name that will get various pronunciations and you will get the odd 'leaf' like a tree comments, but I don't think that is an insurmountable problem if you really like the name.

December 18, 2012 4:06 PM

I agree. I have a good friend with this name and I've only ever heard it pronounced LAY-f. I'm sure it will be unfamiliar to some people and your son may have to get comfortable correcting people, but who cares? I have a commonly mispronounced name and it's really not that big a deal. I think it actually taught me to be more assertive as a child because I had to learn to speak up for myself when adults said my name wrong.

December 18, 2012 10:06 PM

I'm 3/4 Norwegian and grew up in an small midwestern town where Scandinavian names are not unusual... Leif is pronounced like LEYF.

February 13, 2018 12:24 PM

Contrary to some other posts, the correct Norse pronunciation is LAYF. And it’s been a perfect name.

February 13, 2018 12:34 PM

The name is used in several Northern European countries, and there is regional variation in pronunciation. Layf is perfectly acceptable (seems to be standard in Sweden), but so are a couple of other pronunciations (something like Life seems to be common in Norway and Denmark). You can hear people of various nationalities pronouncing the name at Forvo. In any case, it's a great name.

Also, a note to future visitors: This is a thread from late 2012, so the original child in question has long since been named.

February 15, 2018 1:49 AM

I've always said it "leaf" (I'm American, from the northeast)

February 15, 2018 3:10 PM

I really like this name, in fact, it was on our short list for my son. I would pronounce it LAYF.

Even if you run into a few pronounciation issues, the name is short enough that people will easily remember the correct pronounciation. If you and your husband like it, I say go for it!

February 15, 2018 3:40 PM

Note from the Mods: This post is originally from December, 2012. It was recently revived by someone with a child with the name Leif. Feel free to discuss the name in the abstract, but keep in mind that the original subject of the post has likely long-since been named.