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Flower Baby Names: Unearthing their hidden meanings

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by Eleanor Nickerson of British Baby Names

Flower baby names are hot favourites for modern British parents. So much so that, when all the spellings are added together, Lily has ranked as the most popular girls name in England and Wales for the last two years. Other Top 100 choices include Daisy, Poppy, Holly, Jasmine and Rose, with Violet, Iris and Ivy not far behind.

And this is nothing new; the British love of floral names is long established. The Edwardians took their love of flowers and elevated them to the heights of fashion in girls’ names.

But, before they took off as names, flowers were used as an intricate form of communication known, quite grandly, as floriography.  If a Victorian lady received flowers, she would automatically consult her floriography handbooks and dictionaries (which helpfully attributed meanings and phrases to a variety of flowers) to see what messages were being conveyed. A white rose meant “I am worthy of you;” a Carolina rose meant “Dangerous love,” while a full rose placed over two buds meant “Secrecy.”

Some handbooks were more widely used than others and, although there were, generally, many similarities between the definitions, there appears to have been no definitive consensus. It was clearly important that a courting couple were reading from the same flower dictionary as it could have meant the difference between a kiss and a slap.

Below is a list of plant-names with their floriographic meaning attributed. I have used several Victorian floriography handbooks as a source and opted for the most frequently attributed meaning when there have been inconsistencies.

AcaciaFriendship. Elegance (Pink/White), Secret Love (Yellow)
Amaranth Immortality.
AmaryllisSplendid beauty. Timidity. Pride.
AmbrosiaLove returned.
AngelicaInspiration.
AsterVariety.
AzaleaTemperance.
BayGlory.
BelladonnaSilence.
BetonySurprise.
BluebellConstancy.
Calla (lily) – Magnificent beauty.
CamelliaUnpretending excellence.
CarnationFascination. Refusal.
CelandineJoys to come.
Cherry BlossomGood education.
ClematisMental beauty.
CloverIndustrious (red). Think of me (white).
CoronellaSuccess.
DahliaDignity and elegance.
DaisyInnocence.
FernFascination.
FuschiaTaste.
HazelReconciliation.
HollyForesight.
HoneysuckleGenerous and devoted affection.
HyacinthSports, games, play.
IrisMessage.
IvyFriendship. Fidelity.
JasmineAmiability.
JonquilReturned affection.
JuniperSuccour, protection.
JusticiaThe perfection of female loveliness.
LaurelGlory. Ambition.
LavenderDevotion. Distrust.
LilacFirst emotions of love (purple). Youthful innocence (white).
LilyPurity. Majesty.
LotusEloquence.
MagnoliaLove of nature.
MarigoldGrief.
MarjoramBlushes.
MignionetteYour qualities surpass your charms.
MimosaSensitiveness.
MistletoeI rise above all / surmount all difficulties.
MyrtleLove.
OlivePeace.
Pansy(You are in my) Thoughts.
PeonyBashfulness.
PoppyConsolation (red). Fantastic extravagance (scarlet).
PrimroseEarly youth.
RoseLove.
RosebudPure and lovely (red). Girlhood (white).
RosemaryRemembrance.
SageEsteem.
SnowdropHope.
TansyI declare war against you.
TulipFame.
VioletModesty.
Zephyr FlowerExpectation.
ZinniaThoughts of absent friends.

This post  by Eleanor Nickerson was originally published at British Baby Names, and has been revised for Nameberry.

Eleanor Nickerson, better known to nameberry message board visitors as Eleais a primary school teacher living in Coventry, England and author of the excellent, highly recommended blog British BabyNames

 

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Elea

Eleanor Nickerson, better known to Nameberry message board visitors as Elea, is a primary school teacher living in Coventry, England and author of the blog British Baby Names.
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