Häuser in Pont-Aven
Pont-Aven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s an inevitable mash-up of popular names, but claims botanical, artistic and Celtic roots, too.

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Aven as Name of the Day.

On television’s Gossip Girl, Matthew Settle is dad to the earnest Daniel and queen bee Jenny – both in their teens. In real life, he and wife Naama Nativ became new parents in 2009, to daughter Aven Angelica.

Aven has yet to appear in the US Top 1000, but she sounds like a riff on Top Ten Ava. She has much in common with plenty of popular picks, including Avery and Eden, as well as masculine Evan, occasionally bestowed on girls.

But there are three other possible origins.

First, Aven could be a trim Anglicization of Aoibheann, Aoibhín or Aoibhínn. They’re traditional Irish names that mean something like beautiful. The name surfaces in the sixth century, when the well-born Aoibheann was the mother of future saints Enda and Fanchea.

But before you call Aven a legitimate heritage choice, note that the usual Anglicization would’ve been Eaven, which more accurately reflects the pronunciation – EEV uhn or EEV ahn. Today, it is difficult to imagine an American girl not answering to AYV ehn or AY vuhn.

The second association is artistic. You’ll find the River Aven on the map in France. It wends through Brittany, lending its name to Pont-Aven. From the middle of the nineteenth century onwards, it became a favorite spot for artists. Paul Gaugin arrived in 1886 and while he didn’t stay long – apparently Pont-Aven was quickly overrun by tourists, tee shirt shops and Starbucks – the link remains.

Trouble is, Aven might bring to mind Biblical Beth-Aven or Bethaven, a hotbed of idol-worship in the Old Testament. Or not. The River Avon – a name shared by at least a dozen rivers – is so common because the Celtic abona meant river, as did the Welsh afon and Breton aven.

If you’re looking for a nature name link there is a stronger connection.

The third source comes from flowering plants found nearly everywhere. There are Mountain Avens and Creeping Avens, Purple, Yellow, White and Red Avens.

It’s said to be the flower that inspired Settle to choose the name. And so maybe she is simply a modern floral pick – less enduring than Rose, not quite as fashionable as Violet but certainly less over-the-top than Petunia or Azalea.

It’s a true rarity, though there are a few male Avens in the Census records. They may be wearing a surname – in the last spot, Aven can claim Dutch, French, German, English and Scandinavian origins.

A handful of women wear the Gaelic version of the name, even in recent years. Aoibheann Sweeney won rave reviews for her 2007 debut novel Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking. In 2005, the winner of the Rose of Tralee festival – a sort of Miss America for Ireland, but open to any woman with Irish roots – was Aoibhínn Ní Shúilleabháin.

Overall, Aven is intriguing. There’s more to her than you might think at first. Her similarity to other popular names could be a selling point.  But there’s no shortage of reasons to embrace Aven.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. I named my baby girl Aven last year, a last minute decision, as I had time to “Google” the name at work one day. In childhood it was my play name, I thought I’d made it up. I wasn’t satisfied with the other name choices we’d had for naming our second girl: Gwendolyn, Evelyn, Vera…and I thought: let’s just see what Aven means. I’m so happy we chose it; she is fair and radiant and oozes love 🙂

  2. I love this name, and am considering using it for my daughter when she is born.

    I just wanted to add ah-ven as a pronunciation. Pont-Aven (the French town you included a photo of in your post) is actually pronounced Pont-Ah-venne, it’s a proto-Gaelic word for river. I am a French speaker, and French A’s are never said like “ay.” The “n” is pronounced at the end, unlike other French words, due to the Celtic background of Brittany, the region where the town is in. So it sounds like “ah-venne.” Here is a source for the pronunciation: https://www.pronounceitright.com/pronunciation/pont-aven-8112

    Also, I believe the mountain flower is pronounced ah-ven as well: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/avens

    I have also found a Scottish Gaelic site where they say the old Gaelic word for river, is pronounced ah-ven: https://www.clanstrachan.org/history/pronunciations/

    Here is a quote from the above site, from Dr. Philip Smith, learned Gaelic speaker and professor of linguistics:

    “The word for “river” in Gaelic is abhainn /AH-ven/ so the “River Aven” is a reduplication — “River River.””

    So ah-ven is a legitimate English pronunciation, from what I can tell 🙂

  3. Our sweet little Aven just turned six weeks old. It took me some time to have the courage to select such an unusual name, but my husband and mom gave me the courage to go for it. We love the name and are surprised it isn’t more common.