Names like Brave and Warrior have surfaced in the U.S. baby name data over the last couple of decades, but Valiant first appeared way back in the 1940s:
- 1949: 7 baby boys named Valiant
- 1948: 5 baby boys named Valiant
- 1947: 6 baby boys named Valiant [debut]
- 1946: unlisted
- 1945: unlisted
My best guess is comic strip character Prince Valiant, who’d been familiar to newspaper readers for a decade by 1947.
Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur by Nova Scotian artist Harold “Hal” Foster is an action-adventure comic strip set in sixth-century England.
It is difficult to imagine the impact Foster’s “Prince Valiant” had on 1930s and 1940s popular culture. When “Prince Valiant” began, Superman’s debut in “Action Comics No. 1” was still over a year away. […] “Swipes” of Foster’s art can be found in the origin of Batman and in comics drawn by Jack Kirby, the co-creator of many of today’s movie heroes, including Captain America, the Avengers, the X-Men and Thor.
Other characters from the strip also influenced U.S. baby names.
The earliest example I’ve found is that of the maid Ilene, Prince Valiant’s first love. During 1938, Val fought rival suitor Prince Arn of Ord for her. The same year, the baby name Ilene saw a spike in usage:
- 1940: 227 baby girls named Ilene [rank: 451st]
- 1939: 283 baby girls named Ilene [rank: 397th]
- 1938: 343 baby girls named Ilene [rank: 347th]
- 1937: 248 baby girls named Ilene [rank: 412th]
- 1936: 263 baby girls named Ilene [rank: 392nd]
Turns out neither suitor won — Ilene died in a shipwreck — but Arn and Val did end up becoming good friends.
Several years later, Valiant met Aleta, the grey-eyed queen of the Misty Isles. She became a central part of the storyline in the mid-1940s, and the characters finally got married in October of 1946.
As a result, the baby name Aleta saw a steep rise in usage from 1945 to 1947:
- 1948: 227 baby girls named Aleta [rank: 551st]
- 1947: 262 baby girls named Aleta [rank: 511th] – peak usage
- 1946: 171 baby girls named Aleta [rank: 606th]
- 1945: 102 baby girls named Aleta [rank: 737th]
- 1944: 38 baby girls named Aleta
Val and Aleta went on to welcome five children, 3 boys and 2 girls:
- Arn (who was named after Prince Arn of Ord) in 1947
- Karen (twin) in 1951
- Valeta (twin) in 1951
- Galan in 1962
- Nathan in 1982
Interestingly, the three middle children were all named via contest:
After Val and Aleta’s twin girls were born, King Features held a contest to name them, but Foster reserved the right to select the winning entry. A young girl, Cindy Lou Hermann, sent in the winning names “Karen” and “Valeta” and visited Hal in Connecticut. For Val and Aleta’s fourth child, a boy who would become the king of the Misty Isles, John Hall won the competition with “Galen” after the Greek physician, Claudius Galen.
What are your thoughts on the baby name Valiant? (Would you use it?)
- Camera-ready comic art drawing for Prince Valiant – National Museum of American History
- First Love – A Prince Named Valiant
- Kane, Brian M. “Comics’ sweeping graphic novel ‘Prince Valiant’ turns 80.” Deseret News 13 Mar. 2017.
- Kane, Brian M. Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip. Lebanon, NJ: Vanguard Productions, 2001.
- “We Are the Daughters of the Queen of the Misty Isles and the Prince of Thule” – A Prince Named Valiant