Laken may have royal roots, but the name was launched by a 1980s soap opera.
Thanks to Min for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Laken: Fit for a Queen
Long before this was a given name, Laeken was home to the Belgian Royal Family. It’s a town in northwest Brussels, complete with a palace built in the 1780s.
King Leopold I became the first King of the Belgians in 1831; the current monarch is King Philippe I. Every royal has used it as a residence at least part of the time, though there’s a second Royal Palace of Brussels in the city for handling official business.
The palace is known for its extensive park and gardens. The picture above is taken from the roof of one of Laeken’s royal greenhouses.
It’s spelled both Laeken and Laken, and my attempts to find the name’s origins were unsuccessful.
There’s no reason to believe that it’s related to the word lake, but that seems to be part of the reason for the name’s appeal. Lake comes from the Latin lacas, and could make this name a cousin to Lochlan.
What’s clear is that this became a given name thanks to the soap opera Santa Barbara.
In July 1984, the show introduced Laken Lockridge. She was one of the first teenaged characters introduced to Santa Barbara, and would be part of the cast, on and off, through 1991.
Soap operas have boosted names before, but it was a good moment for a girls’ name ending in ‘n’. During the 1980s, we were naming our daughters Megan, Lauren, Kristen and Kristin, and Allison. Laken fit right in.
19 girls were given the name in 1984, the year Miss Lockridge debuted on the small screen. It peaked in 1991, with 232 girls given the name.
This name might have started out feminine, but it’s been adopted by boys, too.
In fact, it’s gaining momentum as a boy’s name. In 2014, there were 108 newborn girl Lakens, and 97 boys – close to even!
One of the early boy Lakens was Laken Tomlinson, who currently plays football for the Detroit Lions.
A small number might be wearing a family surname. Both Laeken and the simplified spelling are sometimes seen as last names, sometimes combined with van.
Laken: Spelling Counts
There’s more than one way to spell this name. So far I’ve counted:
- Lakyn – given to 112 girls and 5 boys in 2014
- Laikyn – given to 70 girls and fewer than 5 boys in 2014
- Layken – given to 66 girls and 15 boys in 2014
- Laiken – given to 64 girls and 20 boys in 2014
- Laykin – given to 37 girls and less than 5 boys in 2014
- Laekyn – given to 12 girls and fewer than 5 boys in 2014
There are other possibilities, too. McKinli, the blogger at Mommy’s Little Sunshine, has a daughter called Laikynn, which was given to 15 girls and fewer than 5 boys in 2014.
Maybe it’s the lack of a clear meaning and roots for the name. Maybe it’s the many possible spellings. But Laken tends to feel invented, and parents often prefer names with a more satisfying backstory.
And yet, Laken has an appealing sound and ties to the natural world. There’s reason to believe that it will continue to be in use.
Do you like Laken better for a boy or a girl? Which spelling do you prefer?