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Flower Name Meanings Hold Secrets

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Flower name meanings have an obvious side, the lovely blooms the names represent, but flower names have secret meanings too.

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, in some cases the flower name meanings diverged. 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.

While courting couples may no longer shyly exchange secret messages via bouquets and tussy-mussies, parents considering flower names for their babies may want to investigate the meanings inherent in specific blooms.

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.
MignonetteYour 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.

About the Author

Eleanor Nickerson

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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