If girls born on December 25 are christened Holly and boys arriving on March 17th known as Patrick, why is that Valentine remains an obscure choice for both genders?

Sure, the name conjures up pink teddy bears and big sales at Victoria’s Secret, heart-shaped chocolates and cupid-themed Pez dispensers.

But it’s also an ancient name, with the appealing meaning “healthy, strong” and a saint who is patron to bee keepers, travelers and young children, as well as those in love.

Valentin is in use in Russian, French and a host of Slavic and Scandinavian countries, and ranked #911 for boys in the US in 2006. The Italian version, Valentino, came in at #967. Valery and Valeri are also popular variants elsewhere on the map, though not in the US.

The related name Valerie was once all the rage, back in the 1950s and 60s. The Monkees had a top ten hit with Valleri in 1968. Today, it is still in steady use, charting at #127. The more dramatic Valeria ranks #90.

The historical Saint Valentine is an obscure figure, and his link to romance is vague at best. Valentine almost certainly lived and was martyred in the third century, but the Feburary 14th holiday is a relatively modern invention. Geoffrey Chaucer is credited with linking the saint with true love, in an era when courtly love was as much an obsession as reality TV is today.

Regardless of the holiday’s origins, it must be said that it falls at a moment in the calendar when many of us could use a little love – the coldest, grayest month of the year.

So if your bundle of joy arrives the same week as a flurry of red foil-wrapped candy and conversation hearts, perhaps Valentine offers an interesting naming choice for a daring parent.

Or, better yet, Valentine makes a great middle name substitute for parents weary of Katherine and Elizabeth, but not bold enough to choose Blue or Romilly.

Now we’re off to open our love letters and do something about those dozens of bouquets piling up in the foyer here at ApMtn. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

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 think Valentine is actually really sweet… it reminds me of the good natured sister in the book Ender’s Game.


    1. Gosh, it has been YEARS since I read Ender’s Game, though I sometimes see a kid named Ender and think really?

      I don’t remember his sister’s name being Valentine … neat!

  2. I keep toying with the idea of using Valentine in the middle for another girl, possibly. My Dad was born on Valentine’s Day in 1936 and my Grandmother always said he was the best Valentine’s Day present she ever got! They’re both long gone (Dad & Grandma) and while I’ve got a name that honors her, and my daughter has one that honors her mother, my dad was given the trendy Wayne (compared to his brothers more classic James, Theodore & Richard) and he hated his name in an era when most guys didn’t particulalrly care one way or the other. He was always better with us girls, hence, Valentine, for him, on a girl. Somehow, I think he’d rather enjoy the thought.

  3. I know! It’s funny, because there were more Kate-type names in my school than Jessica’s, Ashley’s, or Tiffany’s? I was really lucky. If my mother had had her way, I would have been either Allyn Elizabeth, or Gretchen Allyn. (My dad’s middle name is Alan). Allyn aside, at least my mother has pretty classic taste in names. My dad would have named me Anna Katherine.

    Luckily, my sister was always going to be Amelia Margaret. It’s so pretty! Amelia is my great-grandmother’s middle name (Lois Amelia), and my grandmother’s name was Margaret.

    If there had been a third kid, she would have been Wilhelmina Gretchen. They’re nice enough names, but really clunky together.

  4. 1986 – shouldn’t your name be Tiffany, Ashley or Jessica? 😉 You’re right – Katherine is amazingly restrained, considering.

    Ah, but Amelia – that’s a lovely name!

  5. I used to hate my name as a kid because I went to school with a kazillion Katherine’s, Kathryn’s, Caitlin’s, Kathleen’s, Kate’s, Katie’s, etc. (I was born in 1986, so while none of those names were top ten, the Kate-type names added up!) I was one of six Kate’s in my freshman English class. It sucked.

    Now that I see all the crap names my mother could have picked, I’m really pretty thrilled. I’m still jealous of my sister’s name: Amelia Margaret. She was born in 1991, when the name wasn’t even top 100. She hated it, of course, because she wanted a popular name.

  6. I grew up with a girl called Abigail Valentine, actually, so maybe that’s why it sounds so familiar to me. I love the sound of Genevieve Valentine.

    And I’m very jealous of your classic given name!

  7. As a Katherine Elizabeth, I hope nobody’s tired of my name! *wink*

    I have to say, I don’t like Valerie or Valeria. Valerie sounds dated and somehow off to me. Valeria reminds me of the word galleria, and it makes the name an odd choice to me.

    I do like Valentine in theory, though. I think it’s a tough line to walk, though. It’s a bit too masculine sounding for a girl, and too associated with love and teddy bears for a boy. Valentina sounds too frilly for my tastes, although I think it wouldn’t be a bad choice for the people that keep using names like Ariana and Precious. I like the idea of Valentine for a girl’s middle name a lot. I think it would be a cool, daring sort of middle name. I particularly like the sound of Genevieve Valentine and Anna Valentine. They’re a bit too out there for me to actually use, and I think they toe that way too edgy line, but I like the sound of them.