"Cow Valley"...that's what it means, sort of.
Ancient History (1500-1700)
The first historical mention of the Cowden name is of the Cowdens in Scotland in the 16th century. "The ancient Gaelic spelling of the name was Choille-dun, which signifies the wooded hill;" but the Anglo-Saxon form, Cowden, signified a "dweller in the cow valley," according to Prof. Hubertis Cummings, of the department of English, University of Cincinnati. He is a Cowden descendant who has investigated the origins of the name and family.
The first known reference is in an old English history of Norforkshire to Thomas and Nathaniel Cowden, who are frequently mentioned in land transactions.. These are mentioned by Charles W Bardsley, author of English Surnames. There are occasional references in later documents of public record in Scotland and England. There are still people and places by this name notwithstanding the many migrations of Cowdens into other countries.
Cowdenbeath is a large, prosperous town a few miles north of Edinburgh. There is a small town about thirty miles south of London that bears the same name. Also near Earlston, Berwickshire, Scotland, are the Cowdenknowes (or hills). Of the Cowdenknowes, Professor Cummings writes, "These two knowes, the Black Hill and the White Hill, the former covered with golden broom during the spring, still exist under the old name; and the square three storied tower or peel, of date anteceding 1500 A.D., may be found at the end of a shadowy avenue of trees about a mile and a half from Earlston. To the rear of the tower stands the modern 18th and 19th [century - ed.] mansion above the river Leader; at the edge of which also appear the crumbling ruins of the keep or ancient dungeon of the ancient castle."
The image to the left is of what can be seen today near Cowdenknowes. It is similar to the one described by Prof. Cummings and appears here courtesy of Cowdenknowes.com.
As excerpted from COWDEN - The story of William Cowden Sr who entered Guernsey Co., Ohio 1817 and his descendants edited by Lucille Cowden Kazee. Her tireless devotion to family history, her thousands of hours in research and documentation; has left us a rich legacy and an invaluable resource.