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.

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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What do you think?


  1. This program has been brought to you by the letter “V.”

    Anyway, I wouldn’t ever pronounce “Valen” to rhyme with “failin'” unless that is his/her preferred pronunciation.

  2. my son’s name is Valen (short “a” sound so more like Fallon with a V, NOT Vay-lon sounding) and was born in 2010 so i guess he is one of the five!!!! we call him Val a lot too. the name has gotten a lot of compliments but is often mispronounced with the hard “a” sound at first. i kinda hope the name stays few and far between…

  3. It’s funny, but just the other day I mentioned Valentin (nickname Valen?) to my husband. An old neighbor has a child named Valentina and while she was usually called by her full name, some of the other children called her Valen (pronounced like Fallon.)

    Valentin is sort of a smush of grandfathers’ names (osVALd and EdwiN), plus my MIL (ErnesTINe.) I’m still not sure about it… but it’s on the short list.

    1. I too pronounced Valen like Fallon when I first saw it listed. VAY-lin honestly didn’t occur to me. I actually quite like the idea of this on a boy, I’m not so sold on it as a girl’s name.

  4. Not too fond of Valen, when I first saw this, I thought that it looked like something out of Star Trek. I guess it isn’t too far removed, what with the battlestar galatica connection 🙂 it also does sound too trendy and made up like Jayden and that sort.
    However, I do like Vale. There’s Mason Vale Cotton and the name has a nice, obscure nature connection for me.
    Van Halen- definitely!

  5. I don’t know how familiar you are with the Society for Creative Anachronism, but I think you would find it fascinating name-wise. They reeneact certain parts of the middle ages and practice a lot of the arts and sciences that they used during that time period. Everyone chooses their own name, most often first and last to fit the country and time period their persona is from. I knew a man who chose Valens for himself.

    Here’s a link to the royal lineage of the kingdom that covers much of the midwest if you’re interested in seeing more of the names. https://www.calontir.org/crown/royal-lineage.php

  6. I saw a little boy with this name in the Bonds Baby Search … I just don’t know which list to put him on now.

  7. Oh, and as for Ritchie Valens… Valenzuela is a diminutive of Valencia, which is from the Late Latin ‘valentia’.