Animals, Calf, Female, Kin/Family, Male, Nature, Physical Attributes, Proto-Indo-European, Surname names, Unisex, V names, Virtues/Attributes, Word names

Vail, Vale

Vale is an English word meaning “valley” which comes from Old French val via Latin vallis (valley, vale) which derives from an unknown origin, although it’s been linked to a PIE root word. Vale is chiefly used as a poetic word for valley, which refers to a tract of land lying between two hill ranges sometimes with a river running through it. Vale is also a Latin word meaning “farewell”; it’s found in the Latin phrase ave atque vale meaning “hail and farewell”. Vale also refers to mortal life on earth; the expession this vale of tears refers to the world and the sorrows felt through life.

As a surname, Vale is a topographical name for someone who lived near a valley.

Spelled Vail, it could be tied back to Old French val (valley) which would make it a variant spelling of Vale. However, Vail has several possible meanings:

  • it’s an obsolete English word meaning “profit, advantage, proceeds” via Old French valoir (to have value; to be worth) which comes from Latin valere (to be strong) ultimately derived from PIE *h₂welh₁- (to rule; strong, powerful);
  • Vail is also an aphetic variant of avail meaning “to be of use, of value” also from Latin valere (to be worth);
  • it’s also been used as an archaic word for veil which refers to a piece of material used to hide or protect something from view.

As a surname Vail has several possible origins:

  • Vail could be derived from Old French veel meaning “calf”, a surname derived as an occupational name for someone who took care of calves or a nickname for someone who resembled a calf, or possessed characteristics of the animal;
  • another possible origin is from Old French veille from de la veille meaning “of the watch, watchman” via Latin vigilia (watch, vigil; wakefulness), an occupational name for a watchman;
  • Vail could also have originated as a nickname an older sibling or an older person from Old French viele meaning “old”;
  • it could also be a shortened form of Mcvail/MacVail, a variant spelling of MacPhail which is the anglicized form of Gaelic MacPhàil meaning “son of Paul”, Paul a male given name meaning “small” or “humble”.

Origin: Proto-Indo-European



  • Vayle (English)
  • Veil (English)


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