Expanding the Boundaries of Nature Names

Expanding the Boundaries of Nature Names

By Brooke Cussans, Baby Name Pondering

People often talk about choosing a name with “meaning”, and I feel that nature names can have meaning for everyone. They can help to give us a spiritual connection to the world around us, a respect for the power and beauty that surrounds us.

Normally, when we talk of nature names people think of names like River, Willow and Lily – nature words that are also used as names. But nature names can be so much subtler and diverse than that. So instead of breaking them down by the usual categories such as trees, flowers, animals, gemstones etc., I thought I’d look at them in a slightly different way.

  1. Straightforward Nature Word Names

These are the types that I mentioned above – the names you’ll find on any nature names list.

It’s great to see how people’s opinions of these names have changed over time. Compare for example the names Rose and River. Rose is an enduring classic. Since the first SSA records of 1880 Rose has been a top 400 name in the U.S. You almost forget it’s actually a flower name, it’s so established as a given name. River however would have been almost unthinkable as a given name in 1880. When it first charted for boys in the 1970’s it was a rarity and considered to be a “hippie” name, as many other nature names were at that time. This opinion would be the popular one for a couple of decades. By 2014 River was far from a rare novelty, charting at #287 for boys and #453 for girls.

In recent years we’ve seen female characters named both Rose and River on the popular TV show Doctor Who, and no-one blinks an eye. Our attitudes as to what constitutes a “name” are relaxing, and even the most exotic nature word names are now fair game.

  1. Nature Words with Dual Meanings

One of my favourite examples of this is Sage. Yes it’s an herbal nature name, but it is also a name meaning wise. In addition to those that have “official” second meanings, many plants, stones and colours have a history of associated meanings. For example, Alyssum is a flower names, means ‘noble’ and symbolises beauty. Ruby symbolises vitality and royalty; Scarlet is associated with courage and passion. The extra meanings and symbolism traditionally attributed to these add an extra depth of meaning to a name.

  1. “Normal” Names with Nature Meanings

They’re like a sneaky little surprise. While people were busy deriding “hippie” names, they were overlooking plenty of “normal” names with nature meanings, such as Daphne (meaning ‘laurel’), Paloma (meaning ‘dove’) or Audra (meaning ‘storm’). If you desire a connection to nature but aren’t so keen on word names, this might be the path for you.

  1. Place and Surnames Derived from Nature

Lots of surnames were taken from the towns in which people lived, and many towns were given their names based on the characteristics of the surrounding land. Aren’t names with meanings such as ‘east meadow’, ‘people of the riverside forest’, ‘place by the riverbank’ or ‘where birches grow’ every bit as nature oriented as Meadow, Forest, River or Birch? Then meet Astley, Dresden, Remington and Berkeley.

This style of nature naming opens a lot of possibilities. It also offers more versatility, as they often combine two or more elements into one. It could be the solution to honouring two loved ones with nature names of their own without necessarily creating a “new” smoosh hybrid. Plus, they tend to be a bit preppier or “proper” sounding if you want a nature name with a bit more panache.

Whether you like your nature names boldly forthright or subtly surprising, the world of nature names is just as rich with choice and variety as nature itself is. In our ever changing world, nature is a constant all powerful force. I can only see all varieties of nature names getting more popular.

About the Author



Brooke Cussans – better known on the Nameberry forums as bluejuniper – is based in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of name blog Baby Name Pondering. She especially loves rare and unusual names.