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, along with a few other possible forms.
Von serves as a German equivalent. Except the German Von tends to imply nobility. If you’re seen Jill Kargman’s Bravo series Odd Mom Out, you may know this. During the first season, half of the status-sensitive family adds “von” to their surname “Weber,” while Jill and her husband decline.
Van carries no such meaning, though sometimes I wonder if Americans perceive it that way. Blake Lively played Serena van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl, the daughter of a long-established and very wealthy New York City family.
Then again, 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.
Boy Names Containing Van: Top 250
Evan – At #67 in the US, Evan ranks highest of any of the boy names containing Van. That said, I’ve yet to meet an Evan who shortened his name. Evan ultimately comes from Welsh, one of the many forms 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 – Speaking of John, the Italian form of the name is near an all-time high in the US of #130. And, sure enough, it could also shorten to Van.
Ivan – And now let’s look at the Slavic form of John! Ivan ranks #138 in the US. (Along with Jack and Jackson, these three names help make the case that John remains the most influential name for boys today.) While Ivan requires no nickname, perhaps the most famous Van started out George Ivan Morrison.
Boy Names Containing Van: Top 500
Donovan – 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. At #282 in the US, it feels familiar, but not overused.
Sullivan – Speaking of Irish surnames, Sullivan seems like a fun choice for a child. At #459, it’s less familiar as a first name than Donovan, but still plenty wearable. A bonus for kids? Disney character James P. Sullivan of Monsters, Inc. fame.
Boy Names Containing Van: Top 1000
Vance – At #759, Vance might feel like the kind of name you know exists, but never really hear. It’s a place name and surname, originally from an Old English word meaning marsh.
Van – Just Van has been bestowed as a given name, at least some of the time, for years. Like Vance, it has remained relatively uncommon. And yet, it could be a substitute for current favorites like Jax, or even a brother name for Max. At #826, Van is unusual, but not unknown.
Jovan – You might know that Jovan is yet another member of the John family. At #963, Jovan traditionally comes from Serbia, Macedonia, and the surrounding areas. But it might appeal to parents seeking something a little edgier than Jack.
Boy Names Containing Van: Rare
Estevan – The Spanish form of Steven is nearly always listed as Esteban, with a b. But I’ve seen Estevan a handful of times, too. If boy names containing van are cool, this one belongs on the list. 106 boys were given the name in 2015; but from the 1970s into the 2000s, Estevan appeared in the US Top 1000.
Evander – Evander sounds like an Evan-Alexander smoosh, but that’s not the case. The name comes right out of ancient myth, the name given to a hero of the Trojan War. 99 boys received the name in 2015.
Vander – If Xander appeals, 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. There were 44 newborn Vanders in 2015.
Cavan – Cavan sounds an awful lot like Kevin, a name that has faded in recent years. But Cavan comes from an Irish surname, possibly a cousin to Kevin. It’s rare, but not unknown, in the US and Europe. Just 43 boys were named Cavan in 2015 in the US. Pronunciation varies; but since it is also the name of a county in the Republic of Ireland, I suspect this is correct. It sounds more like Gavin with a hard C sound.
Sylvan – 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 sits in style limbo. With just 25 boys named Sylvan last year, this name remains rare.
Are there any boy names containing Van that I’ve missed? What are your favorites?