Flower Names: A rose by any other name

June 24, 2011 Linda Rosenkrantz

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.


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.


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




Suri Persian for rose (among several other meanings)

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


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

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.