By Linda Rosenkrantz
If you’re looking for a name for your Easter season baby, one logical point of departure could be the lily, a prime symbol associated with the resurrection, with rebirth and a new beginning. The white lily known as the Easter Lily has long signified purity, hope, innocence and peace.
Let’s take a long look at Lily, her homegrown and distant variations and noted bearers.
As one of the coolest and most elegant of the floral names, Lily is a blossom that never seems to wilt, and its symbolic significance only helps to ensure its consistent popularity. Lily also has Greek and Roman mythological ties, associated with Aphrodite and considered to be Juno’s flower. No wonder that over the years, Lily has been both an author and celebrity favorite.
One related name is:
Calla—The Calla lily is a lovely trumpet-shaped white flowering plant. A Greek name meaning beautiful, Calla had a brief period of popularity in the late 19th century, but right now is once again a favorite of the Berries, who rank it at #176. Actress Mare Winningham has an adult daughter named Calla.
Popularity of Lily
Lily is one of the flower names that became fashionable at the turn of the 20th century, but her greatest popularity came more recently, entering the Top 100 for the first time in 2002 and the Top 20 seven years later, peaking at #15 in 2011. Currently at Number 25, Lily is also in the Top 25 in England and Wales (it was #3 there in 2011), Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland.
Other Lil names
Lillian/Lilian—Lily’s favorite, somewhat more sedate, cousin dates back to the 16th century, and, although it appears to be an elaboration of Lily, was probably originally a diminutive of Elizabeth. A revived name on the rise, Lillian is now running neck and neck with Lily, just one place behind her– the same spot she held back in 1884. Director Baz Luhrmann has a daughter named Lillian, as does actress Mary McCormack. Characters named Lillian have appeared on TV shows ranging from Gossip Girl to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to The Vampire Diaries.
Lilith—A name with an intriguing history: in medieval Jewish folklore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, pre-Eve, who was supposedly turned into a night demon. But its soft, sweet sound is now helping it to overcome that fabled past. Lilith entered the US popularity list in 2010 and now ranks at Number 588 nationally (its highest ever), and is 289 on Nameberry. Lilith was a character on both Cheers and Frasier and frequently appears in fantasy series and comics.
Kielo—A Finnish name girls’ name meaning ‘lily of the valley’
Lilia—This is a Spanish form of Lily, also heard in the Russian, Hebrew and Hawaiian communities, which just makes it onto the US popularity list (influenced by a mommy vlogger’s choice), but is more commonly heard in France and England. E.M. Forster used it for a character in Where Angels Fear to Tread.
Lilou—A charming and affectionate French diminutive that currently ranks at #12 in France and in the Top 100 in Belgium, and is beginning to attract some US fans. Spelled Leeloo, this sound-alike version was spotted in the 1997 movie The Fifth Element (which happened to be a hit in France).
Nari means lily in Korean
Shoshanah/Shoshanna—It means lily in Hebrew, is commonplace in Israel and has gotten US exposure via characters in Girls, Weeds, and Inglorious Basterds. The English version is the eternally lovely Susannah/Susanna, now #s 493 and 873 on Nameberry.
The two best-known Lilys at the moment are perennial funny woman Lily Tomlin (born Mary Jean) and singer Lily Allen. Two rising actresses are former Nameberry Starbabies all grown up—Lily Collins, daughter of Phil, and Lily Rabe, daughter of Jill Clayburgh and David Rabe.
Among the many, many bearers of the name: Lily Bart, heroine of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, Harry Potter’s mother and daughter, characters in The Munsters, The Princess Diaries, Gossip Girl, Modern Family and tons more.