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Botanical Names

The Victorians' fondness for two flower names – Rose and Lily – clearly ignited their passion for all sorts of names with botanical elements. Interestingly enough, neither Lily nor Rose actually had botanical origins. Rose is derived from the Old German word hros, which became the modern word "horse," and Lily was a pet name from Elizabeth.

What's in a Name

Susanna, a somewhat popular Hebrew name, means "lily."

Growing Freely

The following flora names are as classic and popular as a bunch of red roses on Valentine's Day!

  • Alyssa: Alyssum is a bright yellow flower. This name's current popularity probably has nothing to do with its relationship to the flower.
  • Calla: As in the lily. This is a pretty name that gets used with some frequency.
  • Cicely: Here's something you may not have known – cicely is a plant from the parsley family! It's also a very nice name and one that's in fairly common use.
  • Heather: A low-growing plant of the heath variety, it likes moisture and mist, which makes it an ideal plant for the British Isles. It's a popular girls' name on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • Holly: Pointy leaves and red berries distinguish this quintessential Christmas plant. This name was more popular about 40 years ago, but it hasn't seen its reign end yet.
  • Jasmine: An exotic tropical plant with an intoxicating fragrance. It became popular all of a sudden, probably driven by the hit Disney movie Aladdin.
  • Lily: The bulbous plants with trumpet-shaped, often very showy flowers. It's a sweet, old-fashioned name that never seems to go out of style.
  • Hana: Not a flower, but the Japanese name that means "flower." Widely used there, it sounds like Hannah, so it's fairly popular in the U.S. as well.

Rare Blooms

What's in a Name

Daisy is often used as a nickname for Margaret, since in France the flower is called a marguerite.

A little wilted, perhaps, or hothouse delicate, these names are either a bit passé or have yet to come into bloom:

  • Amaryllis: A Victorian flower name which most people associate with the little girl in the play/movie The Music Man.
  • Angelica: It's a plant from the carrot family often used as an herbal remedy, in perfumes, and in flavorings. Because of its similarity to the word "angel," it's in fairly common usage.
  • Azalea: Another Victorian flower name not used much today. A pretty flower, however, and a pretty-sounding name …maybe it's one to consider for a middle name.
  • Bryony: This plant name is pronounced BRI-e-nee, which has a pretty sound. Could also be used as a variant of Brian for a girl.
  • Burnet: Burnets are part of the rose family. Spelled as Burnett, this is an uncommon name, but it has seen some use, especially as a middle name.
  • Calandra: A pleasant derivative of calendula, which isn't a great name for anything but a plant.
  • Camellia: Camilla Parker Bowles may make this name more popular.
  • Cassia: If you don't think about the use for the drug that comes from the bark of the cassia tree, this is a very pretty name and shouldn't be overlooked, especially as a rarer name in the popular -ia form. (If you need to know, senna, a cathartic or laxative drug, is extracted from cassia bark.)
  • Cherry: Fruit tree as name. It generally appears in forms that mean Cherry in other languages, like Cherise.

  • Dahlia: Very showy perennial flowers. It's not a bad name.
  • Daphne: It's a shrub with fragrant flowers or a nymph who escaped from Apollo by turning into a laurel tree. Popular in Britain, it may take off here due to its use on the popular television show Frasier.
  • Daisy: Probably one of the happiest flowers out there. Girls with this name tend to be pretty cheery, too.

  • Fern: As in the frondy plants. It's unusual, but it does show up from time to time.
  • Violet: Better known as the derivative name Yolanda, which comes from the Greek iolanthe, meaning "violet flower."

Lost Their Bloom

Faded flowers, all of these.

  • Aster: An often dainty, star-like flower that looks a little bit like a daisy but comes in other colors. The name was fairly popular with the Victorians.
  • Blossom: As in the flower. Maybe too old-fashioned for a given name, but it could have its place as a middle name.
  • Iris: This large group of flowers comes in many different forms – bearded, Asian, Japanese, etc. It was once fairly popular, but has faded in the late twentieth century.
  • Daffodil: A narcissus with longer leaves and trumpet-like flowers. I wouldn't advise using the name unless you really love the flower as it turns into a horrid pet name – Daffy.

More on: Choosing a Name

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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