There’s something about boy names containing Van.
Or maybe it’s just Van itself.
It translates to of or from, so Rembrandt van Rijn means “from the Rhine.”
The prefix occurs frequently in Dutch surnames, and sometimes it’s Van Der or Van Den.
The German equivalent, von, often suggests noble birth.
While Van carries no such significance, Americans might perceive it that way. Think of Blake Lively’s Serena van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl, the daughter of a long-established and very wealthy New York City family.
Van Morrison takes the sound in an edgy, rock and roll direction.
Let’s take a closer look at all of the boy names containing Van.
We love Irish surname names. Donovan also boasts ties to the British singer-songwriter – think “Mellow Yellow.” It shortens naturally to Van, and might honor a grandpa Donald or aunt Donna. It feels familiar, but not overused.
The most popular of any of the boy names containing van, Evan is a Welsh form of John. It’s appeared in the US Top 100 since 1993, a staple name for a son made cooler by the letter V.
GIOVANNI and JOVANNI
Speaking of John, the Italian form of the name is near an all-time high in the US of #120.
And now let’s look at the Slavic form of John, a steady Top 200 choice in the US. While Ivan requires no nickname, perhaps the most famous Van started out George Ivan Morrison.
Another upbeat Irish choice, Sullivan has risen steadily over the last two decades. A bonus for kids? Disney character James P. Sullivan of Monsters, Inc. fame.
Just Van has been bestowed as a given name, at least some of the time, for years. It might substitute for current favorites like Jax, or even a brother name for Max.
Originally from an Old English word meaning marsh, Vance is the kind of name we all recognize, but seldom hear.
RARE BOY NAMES CONTAINING VAN
Cavan could be a distant cousin to Kevin, and the two names share a lot of sounds. But while Kevin is a fading favorite, Cavan is a fresh, new Irish heritage pick. Pronounce it like the county in Ireland: Gavin, with a hard C sound.
The Spanish form of Steven is nearly always listed as Esteban, with a b. But Estevan is occasionally heard, too. If boy names containing van are cool, Estevan qualifies.
This name sounds like an Evan-Alexander smoosh, but that’s not the case. Instead, Evander comes right out of ancient myth, where he’s a hero of the Trojan War.
Yet another member of the John family, Jovan is traditionally heard in Serbia, Macedonia, and the surrounding region.
Like Sylvester and Silas, this name comes from the Latin silva – wood or forest. Silas ranks among the most stylish boys’ names of our moment, while Sylvester waits in style limbo. As for Sylvan, it’s just downright rare.
If Xander works, why not Vander? It could be a contraction of any of those Dutch van der surnames; or maybe it’s just a cool, modern sound.
What are your favorite boy names containing VAN?
First published on October 7, 2016, this post was revised and re-published on November 17, 2021.
Our first son born in 2012 is Evander and goes by Van. There was a time when he was a baby that I had regretted it and wanted to go back and just name him Van. But Evander does mean Good Man, so I guess that’s better than a name meaning “of” or “the vehicle we now drive as a family of 7” lol.
Our second child was going to be Dagny if a girl, or Gabriel if a boy. He ended up being Gabriel but called Gabe most of the time. That started my husband on his concrete-can’t-be-broken-no-exceptions naming rule: three syllable full name with one syllable nickname. (for boys, girls can have a two syllable nn)
Now we have Evander, Gabriel, Eliza (Liza or Lizy as she calls herself), Aviya (Avi), and Maccabee (Mac), even though I sooo badly wanted him to be named Boaz. It worked out though because there were two babies named Boaz in our tribe the same year.
If I could do it over again, Evander would have a Hebrew name as well. Good man in Hebrew is Ishtov, and we could call him Tov for short. We’d still have the cool V sound, but we wouldn’t have the three syllable ball and chain.
I’ve been obsessed with the idea of Evangelii as a gender neutral with nickname Van for a potential boy. We love Evangeline, and Jubilee is a valid name, so why not Evangelii?
I literally couldn’t believe my eyes on your description of Donovan. My son’s name is Donovan, and I had him 1 year after my father passed away. I named him Donovan because my Dad (his grandpa) was named Donald. Your description was perfect for our scenario! He is the only Donovan around in our area and we call him Van for short. Thank you for compiling this list some years ago!
Jessica, that’s SO cool! Thanks for commenting, and glad to hear the name is wearing well.
C in DC says
My cousin’s son is Cavan. He turned 18 this weekend. He’s named for the county.
I’m sure it’s not popular, but for some reason Vanguard seems like it could be a strong “Van” choice for a boy. It sort of feels like Remington to me and the word means “leading the way.”
I fought for Evander when I was pregnant with my son (born 2015, could have been 100 boys!) but I couldn’t get my husband on board. We named our son Maxwell, but I would push for Evander again were we to have another boy.
I absolutely love the name Ivan, but only with the Slavic pronunciation Ee-VAHN. The Anglo EYE-vinn really throws this beautiful name away. I love the cute nickname Vanya, and all the superdiminutives, like Vanyechka, Vanyushka, and Vanyushechka. From your list, I also adore Giovanni.
I have a female cousin named Cavan, after the Irish county where my aunt’s maternal side came from. We all thought it was an odd choice at first, but after 19 years, we’re all used to it.