She’s a three-syllable, ends-in-y rarity with a pleasing literary pedigree.
Thanks to Jennifer for suggesting Valancy as our Baby Name of the Day.
Lucy Maude Montgomery is best known for her Anne of Green Gables series. I suspect she’s a closet name nerd. Hearing Anne wish to have a more exotic name, like Cordelia, strikes me as proof enough, but she’s named some great characters, too.
In 1926, she penned a very different novel, one aimed at an adult audience. The book is called The Blue Castle, and while it is far less well known, it has some very passionate fans.
In brief, the story opens with Valancy Stirling, an old maid by the standards of her day, unhappy at home with her small-minded family, consoling herself with books. At the age of 29, she finally rebels after a doctor tells her that she has a serious heart malady, and just a few months to live. Valancy goes to live with an old friend and meets the eccentric Barney Smith.
Cue the romance between Valancy and Barney, but it isn’t a happily every after. Valancy doesn’t have long to live, and Barney has secrets. Until it turns out (spoiler alert) that her heart condition isn’t serious, and Barney is both secretly rich and secretly the author whose books Valancy has long-loved. After a few more twists, all ends well.
It’s a great literary name, but where did Montgomery find Valancy?
She must have borrowed Valancy from Isabella Valancy Crawford, a successful freelance poet in the 1870s and 1880s, a time when such a thing was rare. Born in Dublin, she lived her adult life in Canada, eventually settling in Toronto. While she wasn’t a superstar in her lifetime, a 1923 compilation of her work put her back in the spotlight – just in time for Montgomery to write The Blue Castle.
But how did Crawford come by her middle name? Little is known of her early life in Dublin, but it feels like Valancy must be a surname. Vallance is another surname, found in English and Scottish families, and connected to the French place name Valence. Like Valencia, Valence is tied to the Roman family name Valens, derived from the Latin valentia – strength, capacity.
Given the story of Montgomery’s heroine, it seems like a fitting choice, doesn’t it?
One other literary reference, though this one is obscure: one of the first women to write science fiction was Zenna Henderson, and in her stories about The People, one of her characters answered to Valancy. Could Henderson have read Montgomery’s novel, or was she inspired by valence bonds in chemistry? The concept also comes from the Latin valentia, and while it is straight out of a textbook, it isn’t a bad reference.
Is Valancy wearable? Fewer than five girls received the name in 2011, and there have only been a few women to receive the name at all. Still, plenty of rare ends-in-y or -ie names are wearable, and Valancy sounds something like Valerie. If you don’t mind explaining the origins of your daughter’s name a few dozen times, this could be a great option for parents seeking something original and strong.
Emily Sanghera says
Discovering this post — and this website! — brought me so much joy! We are currently coming up with our list of potential names and I, like so many others here, fell in love with Valancy Stirling’s character in The Blue Castle. But I’m very glad to discover that it’s pronounced VAL-an-see and not Vuh-LAN-see, because I didn’t love how it sounded in my head but LOVED the character. This post has made my day! Valancy is moving to the top of my list-for-a-girl!
My name is valancy (val-an-see) and my dad actually got it from an old movie called “The People”. There are very few of us around and I love the uniqueness of my name. But, to make things easier on society I go by Val. I hate being called Valerie…so, if your considering Valancy for your daughter, be prepared for a lifetime of mispronunciation, explanations, and for her to simply go by Val 😉 …or be called valerie.
Valancy Bastian says
My name is Valancy (middle name is Dawn), and I have always had very positive reactions from people when I tell them my name. Usually they say something like, “Valancy? Valancy. That’s such a pretty name. Where did your parents get it from? I’ve never heard that.” Or just “What a beautiful name.” I like it and agree that it is a very beautiful name, although in my adult life (ever since I was in the Air Force) I’ve mainly been known as “Val” (much to my mother’s annoyance). I actually prefer Valancy, but Val is easier for people to remember. Then, when they’ve only known me as Val and they introduce me to someone else, they just assume my name is Valerie. I’ve had people call me “Valerie”, “Valentine”, or “Valancia” or variations of pronunciation like “Vuh-LAN-see” (most common mispronunciation by far). My name is pronounced “VAL-an-see”. When people ask how it is spelled, I sometimes say “Like vacancy with an L instead of a C.” In fact, as a child when we would pass motels on our long road trips, I always used to think they had my name up in lights, except they misspelled it of course! I loved to see “VACANCY” in bright lights all across the country. Lol
I think this book, “The Blue Castle”, is where my mother got my name. I read the book in high school after one of my friends told me about it. I had already been an LM Montgomery fan since childhood, so of course I loved it. I have never personally met anyone else named Valancy in all my 40 years, although I have seen a few Valancys on Facebook. And I have never met anyone else who has ever met a Valancy either. So, I feel that I have a pretty unique name. I wish I had given it to my daughter as a middle name. I have never had the feeling of it being a surname, and it never crossed my mind to think of it as masculine. In fact, it seems like a very feminine name to me. Anyway, I love it, in spite of how many times people mispronounce it. I would love to someday meet a little Valancy somewhere!
I wonder if you could get by with the nickname Nan for this name since it sounds so much like Nancy to me. I wanted to name my daughter Nan but at the same time I am one of these people that doesn’t go for nicknames on birth certificates (even though I know of a Nan that isn’t a nickname) and I don’t really like Nancy and I don’t see the point of naming a girl Anne and calling her Nan when they are the same length and don’t really take any more work to say (another reason why I find the whole John/Jack thing odd.) The Blue Castle is probably on my top 5 favorite books so I totally could see me using this name.
Incidentally, my name is Adelissa and my mother got the idea from an ancient ancestor of some royals http://fabpedigree.com/s057/f002555.htm She was looking for a variant of alice to honor her grandmother but something different. Valancy Adelissa is pretty, I think.
The Blue Castle is by far my absolute favorite book. I even have a first edition framed in my front room and I’m working on an embroidered piece to frame to hang with it. I’m pregnant with a girl at the moment and have considered it solely because I love the book so much. I just don’t know if I love the name. I’m stuck on Vivienne right now, though my husband disagrees.
I just found out this is where my parents got my name. Although it is spelled differently. I have never met another Valency.
I named my daughter Valancy, which I liked both because of The Blue Castle and because of Isabella Valancy Crawford. It seemed a very Canadian name.
Valancy Jane says
I think it should be obvious that I adore this post.
I am the youngest of six and my mother named me Valancy. I am the only one in the family that has an unusual first name. I do go by Val, but it really irritated my mom.
Sara A. says
Montgomery was a TOTAL name nerd! Several of her characters muse on names in different stories and there was a mother in Anne of the Island who was very insistent that her son Jacob St Claire ___ be called St Claire. The boy was very insistent that he should be called Jacob by his teacher and Jake by the boys.
All of her characters are beautifully named and characterized to the point where she imbues classic, ordinary names like Matthew, James, and Paul with glamour from the strength of the people she imagined would wear them. Valancy even has a character arc of shedding the awful nickname of “Doss” and emerging as Valancy Stirling.
I love Valancy, but only because of “The Blue Castle” – otherwise I’d probably think it was a pretty strange name.
I went to university with a Valencia, and sometimes I itched to re-name her Valancy.
I also new a Valencia in highschool which is probably why Valency isn’t so off the wall for me. I’m also a chemist so the chemistry term is familiar as well.
Charlotte Vera says
Off topic, but didn’t you do a post on Madison a while back? I can’t seem to find it.
Here she is: https://appellationmountain.net/baby-name-of-the-day-madison/
@Jordanna – Oh, that quote. How glorious! Thanks for sharing.
I adore Valeria/Valeriya, and I love Vivien and Viveca… but I can’t quite get into Valancy.
Of course I loved some LMM character names… Marigold, Rosemary, Cecilia, Cordelia, and one throw away line that was intended to be dismissive, in Magic for Marigold:
“Names have really nothing to do with romance,” said Uncle Klon.
“The most thrilling and tragic love affair I ever knew was between
a man named Silas Twingletoe and a woman named Kezia Birtwhistle.
It’s my opinion children shouldn’t be named at all. They should be
numbered until they’re grown up, then choose their own names.”
But I really actually love Kezia and Silas, even though they’re held up as the ultimate in clunk.
I would rather see Valerie or Verity, too. Valancy reads as the word valiantly in my brain for some reason. I really have to struggle to see it correctly. I agree that it does seem a bit on the masculine side, too.
Charlotte Vera says
I love Valancy — but as a boy’s name. Somehow, and my apologies to Montgomery on this, Valancy reads masculine to me. DH and I even considered it briefly as a boy’s name for this LO. . .until Mark realised the nickname would be “Val”, which he does consider too feminine (I see it as a unisex, but oh well).
Vance or Lance also make for good nickname options. 😀
Charlotte Vera says
Good point! But I know he won’t be able to get “Val” out of his head now.
C in DC says
I know one male Val (and there’s always Val Kilmer). I too see Val as unisex.
I feel like Valancy should work. It’s kind of a mash-up of Val and Nancy, not too far removed from Valerie or Valentine. Although for the life of me, it looks a lot like “vacancy” at first glance.
I’ve read “The Blue Castle”- it’s been several years, but I recall it being a wonderful story and Valancy as a courageous heroine. I definitely recommend it.
Very interesting post!
My first thought was “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence”. So I thought boy name, but I can see Valancy on a girl. And I loved the Anne of Green Gables series as a girl (it’s part of the reason I like James so much). I’ll also have to pick up The Blue Castle.
Anyway, I’d really like to meet a Valancy. 🙂
From a brief perusal of FamilySearch, it appears to be a surname. I dislike using a surname unconnected with my family as a first name, the more so as I’ve no idea what Valancy means.
Give me Verity or even Valerie any day!
Three syllable ends in y or ie names are usually right up my alley, but no so much with This one. I can’t get past the curtain connection. I do find the story behind it neat though.
The chemist in me wants to pronounce this (VAY len cee) but the southerner in me wants to pronounce it (Vuh LAN cee). Either way it is a beautiful name 🙂 I’ll have to add The Blue Castle to my to-read list.