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Valerian

Saints_Valerian_and_Cecilia
9th century apse mosaic of Saints Valerian and Cecilia

Valerian (vul-AYR-ee-en) is a boy's name you might think is a little bit more popular than it really is, thanks to the recent movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (originally the comic Valerian and Laureline). But there were none (or less than five boys given the name per year) since 2010. Before then it was not given to more than 17 boys in any year since 1880, when the SSA records begin. Female counterpart Valeriana (and her French form Valériane), however, had been much more rare - only used 5 times in 1999 and 6 in 2016. Valerian means "strong" in Latin.

Valerian sounded familiar before the movie, however, because of the flowering plant of the same name, used in sleep tea and as a medicinal herb since ancient Roman and Greek times.

Valerian was the name of a 3rd century Roman emperor and his grandson, the Roman Caesar Valerian II. Namesakes also include, but are not limited to, an 8th Duke of Wellington, Russian prince Valerian Madatov, designer Valerian Rybar, Romanian cleric Valerian Trifa, Saint Valerian of Abbenza, Saint Valerian of Aquileia, Saint Valerian of Cimiez, and Saint Valerian, husband of Saint Cecilia.

International variants include Valerio, Valerius (original Roman form), Valère, and Valeri/Valeriy.

There are more namesakes for Valeriane than Valeriana. Examples are model Valeriane le Moi, artist Valeriane Leblond, and actress Valeriane de Villanueve. Valerianella affinis is a rare and beautiful plant species, but there are many other pretty flowering Valerianella plants.

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Forest

Here's one of my personal favorites, although I'm surprised I still like it after seeing Forrest Gump so often (thanks, Dad). In fact, the name peaked in popularity for the second time the year the movie was released, jumping to number #217 in 1994. Now he's on the move yet again, rising to 132 boys given the name in 2015 from a low dip to 47 in 2006. To be clear, Forest is the word spelling and Forrest the name spelling, and Forrest remains a much more popular choice with 387 boys given the name in 2015, ranking at #659. Forrest also had a dip in 2006 with only 147 births, disappearing from the charts between 2003 and 2013, and it also peaked in 1994 with 1,343 boys born, rising to #217. Historically both spelling options have been very popular.

Forest doesn't have an obvious nickname, but it's one of those names you enjoy saying without having to shorten it. Forest is Old French, meaning "woods." A famous namesake is St. John Forest of the 16th century…