English: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail, Colo...

There’s a new baby in town, and she comes with a brand new name.

With congratulations to NBC News journalist Savannah Guthrie and Michael Feldman, our Baby Name of the Day is Vale.

Vale: Novel Word Name

Vale has so little history as a given name that we’ll have to start with the word instead.  There’s plenty of reason to imagine Vale – and Vail and maybe even Veil – making the leap from dictionary to birth certificate.

Vale is an archaic – and poetic – way to refer to a valley, from the Latin vallem.

Speaking of archaic, vale had a second meaning – farewell, as in the Latin valere – be well, which was used as a parting phrase.  A valediction is a formal address of farewell, something like a benediction, but without the religious overtones.

Valere also leads to valiant, and Valor – another word recently borrowed for a name.  In this case, valere means to be strong.  Mix in some French influence, and you have valiant.

While we’re talking valere – it ultimately gives us the names Valerius, Valeria, and Valerie.

Whip smart girl reporter Vicki Vale almost uncovered Batman’s secret identity in comics back in the 1960,- and in the 1989 movie version, with Kim Basinger in the iconic role.

From Vale to Vail …

Actress Vail Bloom has appeared on the small screen over the years, including a stint on The Young and the Restless, for which she earned a daytime Emmy nomination.

Vail is also a town – and a ski resort – in Colorado.  They take their name from Vail Pass, named for Charles Vail, the engineer who routed the highway through the area in the 1940s.  The photo is from the Colorado location.

As a surname, Vail could link back to Paul, via the Scottish Macphail, son of Paul, which sometimes became Mcvail.

Wait, there’s more – Vail can also mean worth, which ties this spelling back to vale, via an outdated meaning for the word valor.

How ’bout Veil?

Then there’s veil, from the Latin velum – a sail or cloth.  It was first used to refer to the head-covering worn by a nun.  It can now refer to nearly any head covering worn by a woman – to be veiled is to be concealed, though in some cases – like a bridal veil, they’ve become symbolic rather than functional.

Which reminds me – I long thought the phrase was “veil of tears” – sadness that obscures your face.  But no.  It’s a vale of tears – a valley of sorrow.  Not the most appealing meaning, but one more for the list …

Vale: A Friend for Ava & Vivienne

Leaving aside the list of all the ways that Vale can be read, let’s consider her sound:

  • V is one of those high-value Scrabble letters so in favor right now.  Vale will fit right in with kids called Xander, Vivienne, and Zoe.
  • Oh, that bright long ‘a’ sound, shared by Mason and Ava and Abigail!
  • Short, single-syllable names for girls are quite stylish, from classics like Jane and Claire to newcomers like Sloane and Wren.

But it’s Wren that points to Vale’s most compelling characteristic.  She’s a nature name, through and through, a little bit green and leafy, but still tailored.  Take Lily and Violet, mix in a healthy dose of Madison and Avery, simmer and reduce.

Vale also follows in the footsteps of Brooke, a wildly successful twentieth century innovation.  Brooke ranked in the US Top 100 most years between 1979 and 2011.

Overall, it is a daring choice for the Guthrie-Feldmans, but a delightfully on-trend one, too.  And while Vale and Vail are rarer than rare – 8 girls were named Vail in 2013, and fewer than 5 were called Vale – here’s guessing that we’ll hear more of both in the years to come.

What do you think of Vale?  Do you prefer Vale or Vail?  Do you think we’ll hear more of this name in the coming years?

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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What do you think?


  1. I never heard of this as a name before, but it’s so on trend I’m now surprised I never heard of it before. Move over Ava and Everley!

  2. Interesting that she named her another geographical term, like Savannah, and also the Vicki Vale reference–she’s also a journalist. I doubt Savannah Guthrie is thinking “It’s all about me!”, but those are funny similarities.

  3. I love Vale. I’ve had it on my list since I spotted one in a birth announcement a while back. It was used as a middle -Barbara Vale & Calista Vale-, but I thought it would make a great first. I’ve also seen it used on a boy – Vale Joseph and I do think it could work on both.

    Great write up as usual.


  4. I love this name.

    Love. It.

    It’s one of those names that makes me think, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”. Yes, I agree, Abby. This one could have legs and really fits the era.

  5. I think it’s rather charming that a woman named Savannah has a daughter named Vale. In a themed sibset fantasy, I can imagine her with another daughter named Briar and a son named Forest.

    I have considered Vale as a middle name for a boy or girl– I love the letter v and the meaning. I don’t think I would ever use it as a first name though, since I can’t imagine shouting it at a playground or in my backyard. That’s my go-to test these days.

    1. Oh, I love the idea of Vale and Briar and Forest – it is ready-made for a fairytale!