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.
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?
We have a Laken (son) born 2020 and people we know just named there son Laiken born 2021. Both in Tasmania Australia
I am a Laken. My mom got the name from watching the soap opera credits one day in 1986. I’m female so naturally I only associate it with females. I’ve met a male Larkin but never a Laken.
Lori Bairas says
My son is 9. Born in 2007. It is spelled Laken. I like that it simply means “of the lake.” One of the reasons I chose it is because it didn’t have any religious meaning and I wanted something completely different. To this day we have never met another Laken and we live in the suburbs of a large city.
We just welcomed a little girl in January named Lakeyn! We chose her spelling because my name has a similar -eyn ending. All of our family and friends have began to call her by the nickname Lake. 🙂
We are expecting our third child this month and Lakin is one of our top choices for a girl. I like this spelling as I’ve seen it as a surname (actress Christine Lakin) but i am a little hesitant because like you stated I too like names with real meaning and roots.
It may be corny and cheesy bit this baby was conceived by a Lake so I think that’s one of the main reasons I like it.
I’ve seen Lakynn most locally.
I like it better on a boy, myself. For a girl, I’d drop the N and just use Lake.
Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any Dutch cities named this, so my etymological dictionary of the place names of the Nethelands provides no clue to origin…
Based on the postal code, it looks like it’s officially part of Brussels … I took your tip and tried Google book searching it, hoping there would be something from the 19th century, but zip, zilch, nada … So either the Santa Barbara writers pulled it out of think air, or one of them had just returned from a visit to Belgium … both seem equally likely!
Sorry to necro this, but I couldn’t not let you know. Did some research for you, found it pretty quickly. Reading Dutch helps, as do Latin, German and French. The town is first mentioned in 1081 (1) in Marianus Scottus, Chronikon (MGH SS V 562) (2). That text speaks of a Heinricus of Lacha (3), which is identified as Laken (Dutch), a.k.a. Laeken (French), and identifies Hermann of Salm (4) as his nephew or uncle (my Latin is rusty). A connection to Dutch “laken” (noun: cloth) cannot be demonstrated, but is possible. Etymologically this connection is unlikely, since Lacha is attested centuries before laken, and because that ch sound is not found in the earliest attestations of laken. Another possible connection is to medieval Latin “lacha”, which is apparently attested only once (5) and supposedly meant lacquer. Most likely in my view is that it is descended from proto-Germanic *lakō, from which lake is the English descendant, but more significantly laak (pond) is an archaic Dutch descendant and Lache (puddle) is a German descendant. The old-Dutch reconstruction is *laka, which very well may have had a regional variation with a ch-sound in it (pronounced somewhat like a kh-sound in English).
All in all, if the name is in any way connected to Laeken, Belgium (which I did not check), there is likely still a link to the word lake.
1 1080 according to Wikipedia, but I was not able to verify that. It could be here, but I have no access to that source: Ameeuw, Bruxelles au fil des jours et des saisons, LASNE, Édition de l’ARC, 1996, 30e éd., p. 404
3 possibly this man: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_of_Laach