The surname Svanström is a Swedish compound svans-ström, meaning "river of the swans". Many unrelated families share this name. In Sweden the usual spelling is Svanström, but some families use the antique spelling Swanström. In North America, the surname Svanström typically became Swanstrom, or less frequently Swanström.
Swedes originally used patronymic surnames. In that system, each person added -son or -dotter to his or her father's given name. For example, Carlsson or Carlsdotter, Johansson or Johansdotter, and so on. There were no hereditary surnames except among the nobility.
Beginning in the 19th century, Swedish craftsmen adopted a special surname after they had passed the qualifying piece of work (gesällprovet) required to enter their trades. Such names were often constructed by combining two short words taken from nature or topography. Sometimes the first part of the compound referred to the family's place of origin. The surname Svanström is an example of a craftsman's surname.
The same type of surname was often adopted by middle class Swedish families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly after Names Adoption Act was passed in 1901. The Act abolished patronymic names and required everyone to adopt an hereditary surname. Many unrelated families adopted the surname Svanström.
One Swedish noble family adopted the surname Svanström. Augustin Larsson was ennobled by Queen Christina on 16 April 1647 (No. 397). The family became extinct at the death of his son Frans Ludvig Svanström in 1678.