ValoIt’s a seldom-heard ends-with-o name that could wear well in 2013.

Thanks to Kayla for suggesting one of her favorites for a son.  Our Baby Name of the Day is Valo.

I first heard Valo as a girl’s name, but Valo is slightly more common for boys.

That isn’t saying much.  It’s a rarity among rarities.  In 2005 and 2008, five or more boys were given the name.  That’s yet to happen for girls born in the US.

There are two possible meanings and origins, plus one association that might inspire:

  • Valo is the Finnish word for light, putting this name in the company of Luz and Lucius, as well as lots of other pleasing, light-related names.
  • It’s the Malagasy word for eight.  Malagasy is the language spoken by the Malagasy people of Madagascar.  Despite the success of the animated animal flicks, it is a little known language.
  • One last reference: in Iguape, Brazil, there’s a channel called the Valo Grande.  Iguape was once tremendously wealthy, first from gold, and then from huge rice plantations.  In an effort to ship cargo more efficiently, Iguape’s civic leaders attempted to connect their river directly to the sea.  But the Valo Grande ultimately failed, damaging the port and bringing the city’s brief period of prosperity to an end.  I guessed that valo must mean channel or connection, but it is sometimes called Canal do Valo Grande.  Instead, valo might mean to scour, but I’m not certain.  There’s also a neighborhood in São Paulo called Valo Vehlo – Old Valo.

There’s no evidence that any of those uses have inspired parents to use Valo as a given name.

Valo is a surname.  This leads us to a funny little corner of pop culture, and one possible explanation for the name’s occasional use.

Brandon Margera – better known as Bam – is a professional skateboarder turned general daredevil and reality star.  Margera isn’t exactly a role model: he made his name on MTV’s Jackass.  But he is well known, and in 2003, he played a character named Valo in Haggard, an indie flick about a bad break-up.

We can assume that Margera was inspired by his pal Ville Valo, a Finnish singer-songwriter, best known as frontman of heavy metal band HIM.  The pair appear to be close – Ville and Bam even have matching tattoos, and the Finnish rocker has made guest appearances on Bam’s various shows.

Then there’s the Hungarian connection.

Elmer Valo was a former baseball star, born Imrich Valo.  Valló is a Hungarian surname that could mean shepherd.  Since Imrich is definitely Hungarian, this takes Valo in a different direction once more.  I also found a Slovenian film director from the first half of the twentieth century named Valo Bratina.

There’s also the Albanian male name Valon and modern virtue name Valor.

While Valerie and Valentina make Val lean feminine, that’s not enough to call it.  With so many ends-with-o names popular for boys, Valo fits right in with Arlo and Leo and Matteo.  Add it up, and Valo is a modern shape-shifter, a name with no real history of use, and yet one that feels grounded nonetheless.

Original photo credit: ansik via Flickr

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. Hello, just wanted to say that my surname is Valo and it’s Slovak. As far as I know it’s a slavification of Valentine. Also, Elmer Valo was Slovak altough many slovaks have hungarian names due to history.

  2. I was pronouncing it VAH-low. I like its sound but I don’t think I’d use it…maybe for a book character.

  3. I’m rhyming it with shallow and marshmallow. But this is so rare that I can imagine parents choosing VAY low, too.

  4. Is it pronounced with a “long A” – VAY-low? or does it have the “short A” sound – val-low?

    I’m trying to figure out what I think of it, either way.