Value and Valor

By Mark Nichol

Words pertaining to worth and worthiness that are based on the syllable val or a similar letter combination are related. This post lists and defines the words in this group.

The Latin verb valere, meaning “be strong” or “be well,” was extended in meaning to refer to worth, in both practical and aesthetic terms. Valor, which originally meant “courage,” “merit,” or “virtue” but now generally retains only the first sense, is derived from the Latin word. Valiance, a synonym for valor, is rare, but the adjectival form, valiant, meaning “brave,” is more common. Valid, meanwhile, originated in legal contexts to refer to what is legally binding, but by extension, it came to mean “supported by authority or facts.” (The noun form is validity.)

Value, meaning “price” or “degree of esteem or usefulness,” is also a verb, and another noun form, valuation, pertains to the act or process of appraising financial worth, as well as judgment of character or worth or measure of market value. Evaluation, however, refers more broadly to measure of something’s financial value or of condition or significance; more recently, it has also come to pertain to a review of job performance.

Less obviously related words include the verb avail, meaning “benefit” or “help,” or “gain” or “serve.” It also functions as a noun in such expressions as “to little avail” or “to no avail,” meaning “help” or use”; the adjectival form, available, means “accessible,” “present,” or “ready,” or “qualified” or “willing.” (The noun form is availability.) Others include prevail, meaning “be successful,” and its adjectival form, prevalent, which means “common” or “dominant.” Countervail, meanwhile, means “compensate” or “counteract.”

Valence, a term for the amount of power of an atom or a unit of such strength, or for capacity to perform or degree of attractiveness, is generally confined to medical and scientific contexts, but it is the basis of ambivalence and equivalence, both of which have adjectival forms in which a t replaces the last two letters. The former word was coined by a psychologist on the model of the latter term to refer to conflicted feelings but soon took on a broader meaning; equivalence itself means “correspondence of characteristics.”

Valedictorian and valetudinarian, though both derived from valere, are not to be confused. The former word describes the person who provides the valediction, a farewell speech at an event such as a graduation ceremony. (The first element stems from the Latin word for “farewell,” which literally means “be well” or “be strong.”) Valetudinarian, meanwhile, describes a hypochondriac or a sickly or weak person; the word also functions as an adjective, though valetudinary is also used. Meanwhile, the verb convalesce (the adjectival and noun forms are convalescent and convalescence) is antithetical to both senses of valetudinarian; it means “become healthier or stronger.”

The feminine French name Valerie, and its variously spelled masculine Slavic equivalents, are cognate with valere.

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5 Responses to “Value and Valor”

  • Maria

    What about valance?

  • Dale A. Wood

    There was an early proposal for a space probe visit Mars and to try to detect life. It was called the “Voyager” project. One of its primary instruments for detecting life was one called the “Wolf Trap” because it had been proposed by the biological scientist Wolf Vishniak.
    That Voyager project was canceled and the “Wolf Trap” was never used.
    Next, the Voyager project was superseded by the “Viking” program that did send two landers to visit Mars, and two orbiters, arriving in the summer of 1976. None of this has anything to do with the Wolf Trap Farm Park of the National Park Service, and that is located in Fairfax County, Virginia.
    Next came a new Voyager Program, and it launched two space probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which were launched in August and September of nineteen seventy-seven. Voyager 1 visited Jupiter in 1979 and visited Saturn & Titan in 1980. Voyager 2 visited Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1980, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune & Triton in 1989. Both of these space probes have now ventured far beyond our Solar System.
    (None of this has anything to do with the planets Venus or Vulcan.)

    Now that I have ventured to verbalize with the letters “v” and “w” as many times as I could, I will stop now!

  • Dale A. Wood

    When I first saw the title of this article, I misread it as:
    “Valour and Valor”. LOL

  • Dale A. Wood

    How about the important word from chemistry, “valence”?

  • Dale A. Wood

    The Slavic names “Valerei”, “Valerie”, “Valery”, etc., are cognates with the Western name “Valiant”, as in “Prince Valiant” and the “Vickers Valiant” airplane.
    There is also the Ukrainian woman’s name “Valory”.
    Those names are spelled differently because they have been translated from Slavic alphabets (based on Greek) in various ways, just like Chebysheff, Chebychev, Tchebychev, Tchebysheff, and so forth, and Tsar, Czar, Csar, and Tzar.
    My name is Pavel Chekov, and I am the Czar of all the Russias!
    Vickers also made bombers named the Victor and the Vulcan for the RAF. What would have been next, the “Viking”?

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