Jansen van Galen: Origin and meaning of surname

Jansen van Galen is the combination of two Dutch surnames, namely ‘Jansen’ and ‘Van Galen’. Jansen is a patronymic surname derived from the father’s name, in this case to denote the son of Jan.1  Jan itself stems from the Hebrew name “Yochanan”, meaning “God has favoured me (with a son)”. It was usually Latinised as “Johannes”.1,2 The English version of Jan and Jansen is John and Johnson.1

Jansen is the second most common surname in the Netherlands, and although found throughout the country, higher concentrations are observed in Drenthe, Gelderland and Utrecht provinces. Variations of the surname include Jans, Janse, Jansen, Janssen, Janzen, Janssens and Jansonius (Latinised form).1

Van Galen, on the other hand, may have more than one origin. In the Germanic languages, it may be a habitational name, possibly originating from Gaal in the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands, or perhaps from the German town of Gahlen in North Rhine-Westphalia. The name Galen has Greek roots from the name Γαληνος (Galenos), which means “calm” from the Greek word γαληνη (galene). It was first borne by a 2nd-century BC Greco-Roman physician whose anatomical research provided a basis for accepted medical practices for 1500 years.3,4

Other variations of the Van Galen surname are Van Gaalen and Von Galen.


1. Hoitink, Y. 2013 Top 10 most common Dutch surnames. https://www.dutchgenealogy.nl/popular-dutch-surnames/
2. Last name: Johnson. http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Johnson
3. Baby name of the day: Galen. Appelation Mountain – where every name has a story.
4. Meaning of Galen. http://thenamesdictionary.com/name-meanings/190193/name-meaning-of-galen