It is difficult to determine where the river got its name. In Scottish, gowan the name for the common daisy or occasionally the buttercup. It is derived from the original form gollan which is the marsh marigold, the name was made famous by Robert Burns in a poem originally entitled "The Gowan" which is now known as "To a Mountain Daisy". The Lakeland poet William Wordsworth also uses the word gowan to refer to a common wayside flower indicating that the name was used in the area and therefore it is possible that the river got its name from the fact that it flows through many flower meadows on the valley floor. In GaelicGowen/Gowan can also mean "blacksmith". The name may therefore otherwise have come from the Scots Gaelic or from Irish missionaries who are known to have travelled in Cumbria during the Anglo-Saxon period and have given many words to the local dialect.