KalanInvent a name, and you might find it surprisingly rich with meaning.

Thanks to Melissa for suggesting her son’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Kalan.

I went looking for Kalan in the east, but I found him more places than I’d have ever guessed.

Melissa wasn’t certain of the name’s origins, and he’s often listed as an invented name.  There’s probably something to that.  We’re quite fond of Cal-/Kal- names nowadays.  Kalel – as in Superman’s birth name – currently ranks in the US Top 1000, thanks very much, Nicolas Cage.  And Callen and Callan both chart in the Top 1000, too, so Kalan’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from those choices.

But what could Kalan possibly mean?  It’s an international smorgasbord of possibilities:

  • There’s an interesting use of Calan in Welsh.  Calan Mai is May Day; Calan Gaeaf is Halloween; and Dydd Calan is New Year’s Day.  In Cornish, the same word is spelled Kalan.  I might not have the translation right, but it refers to first – first day of May, first day of the year, and, in the case of Halloween, first day of winter.  So that’s a celebratory, poetic meaning, even if it isn’t a traditional given name.
  • When naming places, there’s a custom in India of using the word Kalan – big – to denote the larger of the places with the same name, like Birote Kalan – Greater Birote.  It’s been in use since the Mughal Empire in the 1500s, and comes from Persian.  Again, it’s an appealing idea.
  • This one’s murkier – Kalan may be used as the name of a god in some places.  Again, we’re in India.  Kalantaka is an aspect of the Hindu god Shiva, but I can’t pin down exactly when or where or by whom Kalan might be used.
  • As a surname, Kalan has Slavic roots.  First, in Slovenian, kal refers to a swamp or a pool.  In Czech, Kalan can come from a word meaning “young man” in a dialect.
  • Germany adds Kalen and Kahlen to the mix, place names both.
  • Then we get to Ireland, where Callan means “descendant of Cathal.”  Or possibly comes from Mac Cailean – son of Colin.
  • Speaking of Cailean, that’s the original spelling of Colin, a name meaning pup.  Or, possibly, a diminutive for Nicholas.  Kalan could be a spin on Colin.

So that’s a lot of globe-trotting, and yet it doesn’t show much use of Kalan as a given name.

For that, we’ll have to go to Canada.

Kalan Porter won Canadian Idol in 2004.  He’s among the show’s most successful alumni, though he’s still not a household name.

But there are more Kalans that you might expect.  The name was first given to more than five boys born in a single year in the US back in the 1970s.  By the the late 1980s, there were 20 to 40 newborn boys called Kalan every year.

In addition, 2013 saw the arrival of:

  • 426 boys named Callen
  • 284 newborns called Callan
  • 111 boys named Kallen
  • 79 named Calen
  • 47 called Calin
  • 33 named Calan
  • 32 called Kallan
  • 9 named Kallin
  • 7 named Calon and another 7 named Calyn
  • 5 called Callin and another 5 named Callon

That’s a lot of affection for the Cal- sound and the -n ending, and not much consensus on spelling.

And so Kalan’s strength – his pan-global vibe, the sense that he might have been borrowed from elsewhere – is also his shortfall.  He’s tough to pin down, and therefore, a potential spelling challenge.  But if you’re after something that feels right for a little citizen of the world, Kalan has potential.

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. My son is named Kalan Brown Jansen. The first name is historically Gaelic in my family. The middle name is a surname from my Irish ancestry (originally spelled Browne). However my lineage includes the following clans; Campbell, Gordon, Harris, Thomas & Wallace. Jansen is his father’s last name which is a Germanic derivative. As a family we’ve traced the name Kalan to the latter part of the 1700’s in Ireland, Scotland & Wales – with brief vestiges to England. This isn’t a “new” name. It’s been around for hundreds of years that I can trace. I’m happy to see that it’s recently gained more popularity.

  2. How would you pronounce that name? I originally thought KAY-lan, but after reading the article I was tending towards KA-lan or Kah-LAN.