St Valentine has been associated with romantic love since at least the late 14th century, and many of us will be marking 14 February with cards, flowers, gifts and candle-lit meals – at least as far as lockdown and other local restrictions allow. But if the name Valentine has been in regular use up to the present day in English-speaking countries, what other names represent love?
Venus, the Roman goddess of love, has given her name to a small but steady stream of girls over the years, although modern examples may actually owe more to the American tennis star than to classical mythology. The Greek equivalent Aphrodite is far less common, as are Freya (Norse) and Ishtar (Mesopotamian), but I found a handful of examples of all three from the 1880s onwards. Dwynwen (the Welsh patron saint of lovers) occurs from the end of the nineteenth century, while Áine is found mainly in Ireland.
For boys, Hymen is more likely to be a variant spelling of Hyman than a reference to the god of marriage, but Eros and Cupid are both found from time to time.
Love is of course a name in itself and is found regularly over the years along with the less frequent French and Italian versions Amour, Amore and Amoretta. The compounds Loveday (a day of settling disputes) and Lovejoy exist as both forenames and surnames - the latter will be familiar to many from the TV series of the same name. Many other names refer to love in one way or another: Amy, Amanda, Carys, Darrell, Milo and Cheryl to name but a few.
Another choice for the romantically-minded has been to use the names of historical or fictional couples such as Romeo and Juliet, Trystan and Iseult or Héloïse and Abélard – all these names have been given more or less frequently to English-speaking children since 1837. Today’s equivalent is more likely to be drawn from film or television: Kylie and Jason, for instance, spiked in popularity in the late 1980s, and I’m sure you can think of many more recent examples. However, not all fictional couples work so well, and in spite of the popularity of Pride and Prejudice, I’m not expecting to see a spate of little Fitzwilliams in the near future. (Yes, Mr Darcy has a first name.)
Gomez and Morticia, anyone?