Flower Names: A rose by any other name

With Rose beginning to wilt from overexposure as a middle name, this might be a good time to look at other roseate options—including the somewhat neglected Rose-as-a-first name itself.  Several of these names have Germanic roots that have nothing to do with the flower, but they all now project the floral scent of the rose.

RoseRose, the fragrant symbol of England and matriarch of this family, predates the other flower names that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century; it was a Top 30 name from 1880 through 1932, when more elaborate and exotic forms of the name came into the picture.  It still ranks quietly at Number 337, just about where it’s been for decades.  Appearing in vehicles ranging from Titanic to The Golden Girls to Harry Potter, to a million old songs, its image has been rejuvenated by younger recent bearers like Rose Byrne and Rose McGowan.

Rosa—The soft and lovely Rosa, an upscale British favorite, as well as a Spanish and Italian standard, was a Top 60 name in the US at the turn of the last century.  The written form of Rose in old Latin documents, Rosa has been used as a name from the beginning of the nineteenth century. Notable namesakes include French painter Rosa Bonheur and Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks; Rosa Dartle is a character in David Copperfield. The change of the final vowel gives it a lot more substance and flow than Rose.

Rosabella is a smoosh name formed in the nineteenth century to mean beautiful rose, and it could become a new member of the Bella bunch. Others are Rosalba, meaning white rose, and Rosellawhich is also the name of a colorful parrot.

Rosalie, the French form of the Latin Rosalia (a twelfth century Sicilian saint’s name), had its highest rating—Number 66—in 1938, and still ranks at Number 590.  Rosalie appears in Anne Bronte’s Agnes Grey and the Oscar Wilde play Lady Windermere’s Fan, not to mention the early Jewish sitcom The Goldbergs—plus there’s a Grateful Dead song Rosalie McFall.  Though Rosalie now sounds like one of the more dated Rose-based flower names, the fact that there was a Twilight vampire named Rosalie Hale might give it new life.

Rosalind started out as a lyrical, bucolic name, possibly coined by Sir Edmond Spenser for a shepherdess in one of his pastoral poems, and then further popularized by Shakespeare when he used it for one of his most charming and witty heroines in As You Like It.   The nickname Roz took on a kind of wisecracking persona, thanks to characters played by Rosalind Russell in old screwball comedies, and the one on Frasier. It hasn’t been seen on birth certificates since 1978.

RosalindaDespite the Billy Joel song ‘Rosalinda’s Eyes’, all ‘linda’ names are passé.  You can trust  me on this.

Rosaline was a minor character in two Shakespeare plays: in Loves Labour Lost and mentioned in Romeo and Juliet as the girl Romeo loved before he met Juliet.  Variant spellings are Rosalyn and Rosalynn, as in First Lady Carter.

Rosamond/RosamundAn elegant name long heard in the posher echelons of British society and just beginning to be appreciated in the U.S., both spellings of which have been used since the Middle Ages. “Fair RosamondClifford was a legendary twelfth century beauty, said to have been the name Henry II used for his mistress Jane Clifford, who was murdered by Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine—a story retold in several operas and plays. Defined as ‘rose of the world’, Rosamond/Rosamund is borne by two popular English novelists,  Rosamond Lehmann and Rosamund Pilcher (born Jane), and was the name of the beautiful but spoiled character who was the hero’s undoing in Middlemarch, as well as the character Rosamond Oliver in Jane Eyre.  It was Elizabeth Taylor’s middle name.

Rosana/Rosanna, which dropped off the list in 1989, does have a less than fresh  feel.  Best known bearer is Rosanna Arquette.

Rosanne/RoseanneA smoosh name that may forever—or at least in the foreseeable future—be associated with Domestic Goddess Barr. Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny, is another noted bearer.

Rosemarie appeared in the 1920s, boosted by a popular operetta whose central character was Rose Marie; it was in the Top 200 in the 1930s, but is out of the Top 1000 now, with slim chance of revival.

Rosemary was introduced as a flower name in the 1890s, and was at its height from the 1920s to the sixties.  In the past, the rosemary plant was thought to refresh the memory, inspiring Shakespeare’s  Ophelia to say, ‘There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”  Singer and George Clooney aunt Rosemary Clooney was a noted modern bearer. Romy, the distinctive German diminutive, has become quite trendy, chosen by Sofia Coppola and Matt Lauer for their daughters.

RosettaAn Italian diminutive of rose, Rosetta is strongly tied to the fame of the Rosetta Stone which supplied the key to Egyptian hieroglyphics in the nineteenth century, the name taken from a city near the mouth of the Nile—and now related even more to the language lessons

Rosie/RosyOne of the classic nickname names, popular since the 1880s, with its cheery, rosy-cheeked, energetic image, though not as well used as it once was—except when it comes to kids’ books.  The two most prominent Rosies–O’Donnell and Perez—were christened Roseann and Rosa Maria respectively, and Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of female strength in World War II.

Rosina/Rosine was used for a beautiful and clever character in Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville and again in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, while Rosita was the name of a popular operetta and Rosalita a Bruce Springsteen song.

Primrosethe prim and proper variety of Rose, with a sweet charm all its own; heard more often in Britain than the US, but with the expansion of interest in more exotic flower names, American parents might be more willing to go down the Primrose path.

SOME OTHER INTERNATIONAL ROSES:

Briallen, a Welsh name meaning Rose

RaisaYiddish meaning ‘a rose’; variations are Raizel, Rayzel

Róisín—The Gaelic variation, is a pet form of Róis, meaning “little rose.”  It’s pronounced and anglicized as Rosheen, a spelling that is also used, as is Rosaleen. “Dark Rosaleen” is a nationalistic poem in which Rosaleen becomes a symbol of Ireland, which it has been for five centuries.  Long popular in Ireland, it was chosen for her daughter by Sinead O’Connor.

Roos—Dutch

Rosario—A Spanish version that originated from the phrase Our Lady of the Rosary. In Spain it is given to both girls and boys; in the US it’s best known via Rosario Dawson (born Isabel Rosario), an American actress of Puerto Rican descent.

Roza—The Polish and Romanian version

RozBreton version, pronounced with a long o, not as the nickname for Rosalind

Rozsa—Hungarian

Ruusu—Finnish

RuzaCroatian

Suri Persian for rose (among several other meanings)

Varda, VardisContemporary Hebrew names for rose, heard in Israel; it’s Warda in Arabic

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26 Responses to “Flower Names: A rose by any other name”

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Bekah Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 1:43 am

My daughter, Rowan, is “Rosie” 90% of the time. It evolved from the nicknames “Ro” and “Rowie”, but it suits her little rosy-cheeked, blonde-ringleted,independent personality to a T and I imagine she’ll go by it as an adult too. It really is a lovely name (regardless of my being clearly biased, lol) that isn’t used nearly often enough, in my opinion. Great post 🙂

pdxlibrarian Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 7:06 am

I know someone who recently had a baby Róisín. It send me to the Nameberry dictionary. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it’s growing on me. I like said more than spelled.

Ellen Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 9:09 am

My daughter’s name is Rosemary- I loved this post! Just to be a little nitpicky, Rossini wrote The Barber of Seville, but The Marriage of Figaro was written by Mozart. The character Rosina is in both.

crescentmoon Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 9:42 am

I love the name Primrose because of THe Hunger Games. The character goes by Prim, but I think Posey would be the best nickname.

samjaymc Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 9:53 am

I love the name Rose, however popular it has become!
I also like Rosalie. I would definetly love a daughter named Rosalie nn “Rose/Rosie”

linda Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 10:12 am

Ellen: Apologies for the Mozart slip–a real DUH! moment–it’s now fixed.

Trustedwriter Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 10:30 am

I love the name Rosemary, mostly because Rosemary Sutcliff is one of my favorite authors. Being a writer myself, I think it would be cool to name a daughter somewhat after her. 🙂 I like Rosetta too, and I LOVE Briallen. Lately, I’ve also been attracted to the simple “Rose”, probably because of watching Doctor Who…I am not necessarily a fan of the character, but hearing the name so often makes me think about its nice qualities.

neologisma Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 11:31 am

Don’t forget Rosamund Pike, bond girl! A very lovely ‘English rose’ namesake for any little girl..

Other Carolyn Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 11:56 am

Rhosyn or Rosyn is also the welsh for Rose (the spelling mutates); I’m not sure if it’s used as a name often, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be.

@Trustedwriter, I know what you mean about hearing Rose so much on Doctor Who that it grows on you (even though she’s far down my very long list of favourite characters). Funny how that works. Sometimes you just need to see a name on a person, however fictional.

Olivia Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I’m in love with Rosa, Primrose and Ruusa, despite the fact I usually dislike the Rose variant names. Great blog, though!

alliemae Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I have been trying to eliminate Rosalie, Rosaline and Roisin from my girl list. I don’t like Rose but I LOVE these. I can’t seem to pick a favorite. My grandmother loves the idea of Primrose but I only like it for Prim. Rosa is gorgeous and simple but my Aunt is from Bolivia and I don’t think she’d ever let me live a Spanish name down. I have an Aunt with the name Rose, who named her daughter Rosemary, so as delighted as I would be to see a little Rosemary running around anywhere, the name will always have one face and it’s an old one.

Lola Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I love Rose, it’s a family surname for me as well as being the first name of several cousins. We also have a Rosemary & a Rosemarie! But no matter how it honors, I’ve already named a daughter Josephine. So Rose/Rosie’s out for me! (not to mention, the other Ros- surname in the family’s her middle name). Rosemary, in particular, is gorgeous!

Stella Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 1:49 pm

My aunt is Romina and goes by Romy! I find it funny that’s trendy right now.

Kate Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 9:27 pm

There isn’t anyone named Rosalind in Jane Eyre–I think you are thinking of Rosamond Oliver.

More Dickens characters named Rosa:
Rosa, a lady’s maid in “Bleak House”
Rosa Bud, Edwin Drood’s fiancée in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

linda Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Kate–You are quite right about Jane Eyre!

stephanie_elizabeth Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I am quite in love with both Rosemary and Rosemarie…Having a Rosa and a Mary in my family tree makes this name kill two birds with one stone! Also, I am quite fond of Romy as a nickname. Loved the post!

ScarlettsMom Says:

June 24th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

On Regis and Kelly this morning there was a woman named Rosella, I think she would have been born in the 1930s or ’40s.

iheartnames Says:

June 25th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Rhoswen is my personally favorite “Rose” name.

Allison Says:

June 26th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Rosalina was a favorite of mine when I was younger:)

Mummytobe-again Says:

June 28th, 2011 at 1:31 pm

My 4 year old daughter is called Primrose and I have always loved the name. I’m due another daughter in a few weeks and would love another flower name but I am struggling to think of one! I quite like Posie.

Tori Says:

July 20th, 2011 at 10:34 am

My all time favourite name for a girl is Rose.
Rosalie is also growing on me similar to my beloved Rose but goes really well with my current surname. So Rosalie is growing on me. However Rose is delightful just so elegant and simple. Primrose is delightful as well. I also love Rosabella, Rosaline… oh screw that to be perfectly honest I love them all lol 😉

roselang Says:

September 14th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I LOVE being a Rose. My full name is RoseAnn, but no one calls me that except my mother. There’s a lot of teasing that goes with the name Rose, believe it or not, from all the songs, products and people that share the name. Growing up I got “Roseanne Barr fat as a car” yelled at me on the playground (hence the shortening to just Rose). I also got called Rosarita Refried (after the brand of beans). Then there’s all the songs, both good and bad (ACDC “A whole lotta Rosie”) There is also a very lot of incorrectly quote Shakespeare “A rose by any other name doth, hath, what?” Anyway, it’s a great name, and not to common or trendy. And it makes people smile when they hear it!

erzulie33 Says:

October 9th, 2011 at 9:59 pm

What about ‘Shoshanah’? It means ‘rose’ in Modern Hebrew (‘lily’ in ancient Hebrew).

emilymaryjane Says:

December 16th, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I love rosalie

VickyInTX Says:

May 12th, 2013 at 4:23 pm

You forgot “Eglantine” which also means rose.

priviledgedpistachios Says:

October 17th, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Ruza isn’t just Croatian or Russian, but Slavic in general

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