Baby Name of the Day: Valen

by appellationmountain on March 29, 2012


V by Aunt Owwee via Flickr

There’s something incredibly appealing about the letter V.

Thanks to V for suggesting her middle name as our Baby Name of the Day: Valen.

Valen has plenty of possible origins, including:

  • The simplest answer is that Valen is a short form of any of the Valentine names, like Valentino or Valentina.  If this is the case, then Valen means strong, from the Latin valens or valentia, and is related to a third century saint.
  • As a surname, Valen probably relates to an Old Norse term for shallow water, making it a habitational name.  But I’ve also seen Van Valen, suggesting that there’s a Dutch origin, too.
  • Valens was in use in the later years of the Roman Empire.  Notable figures included an Eastern Roman Emperor who reigned from 364 to 378, when he died in battle.  I assume that Valens was also related to the Latin valentia or valens - strength.

Valens also brings to mind the late Ritchie Valens, he of “La Bamba” fame and a tragically short life.  Valens was born Richard Valenzuela, so despite the similarity, there’s no connection.

While it is tempting to link Valens and Valen, I suspect most of would pronounce the first to sound like gallon, while Valen probably shares the long a sound of Jayden and Kayla.

The logical short form is Vale, which brings to mind famed ski resort Vail, Colorado as well as the archaic term for valley, and a poetic term for farewell.  At least a handful of men and women have answered to Vale and Vail over the years.

Valen got a tiny boost from sci-fi franchise Babylon 5.  Despite appearing in only one episode of the televised series, the character is an important figure off-screen.  He’s a religious leader, who led his people out of warfare and into a peaceful existence.  There are tons of plot twists, and we later learn that one of the main characters actually played a critical role in Valen’s development.

Valen might feel more familiar, but he was given to fewer than five boys or five girls in 2010.  Speaking of gender, plenty of places consider Valen a short form of Valentina – a thus a girl’s name.

Looking at the boys’ Top 1000, it is easy to imagine Valen as a brother for Kaden, Jaylon, Ryder, Braxton or Kai.  Or maybe a sister for those same names, slightly edgier than Rowan or Linden, but not any more unwearable than Aven or Avalon.

All of this makes Valen perfectly wearable in 2012.  If you fret that he’s a little bit on the nouveau side, the links to the surname and the saint’s name should ease that worry.  But ultimately, Valen is likely to appeal to those hoping for a modern name that has a straightforward spelling and an engaging sound – for a son or a daughter.

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