Choosing a baby name is a major undertaking for most parents. Do we name a child after a relative, a person who is a historical legend, or base it on mere sounds and how it falls on one’s ear? Is a name’s meaning the crucial factor, or is it important that it be so unusual the child will probably never actually meet someone else with the same name? For those who are passionate about nature, enjoy the outdoors, gardening or are into botany or ecology may like names based on the names of plants and flowers. Within the category of plant and flower names there are some established and familiar ones, but there are also some rarer names that may be appealing to those who yearn for the different.
For those who like old-fashioned names that seem new again, there are plenty of options among flowers and trees, and the trend is also a popular one with many celebrities of late. When considering such names, it’s important to think about the names in conjunction with the last name, anything that may have negative connotations and how the initials work together. For instance, for a surname of Stewart, a first name of Ash and a middle name of Sycamore would be none too cool, as the monogram of A.S.S. is less than desirable!
A name with holding power, having been a favorite for a century or so, it has had a real resurgence in the last few years, staying around the top 20 or so. In parts of Europe, Lily is a top ten name. Lily is a lovely flower that is a Christian symbol, representing purity or the white lily standing for the Virgin Mary.
Lilies are associated with innocence and were part of Greek mythology; as the story goes, while Hera nursed Heracles, drops of her milk dropped to the ground and up sprung lilies. There’s also a myth of how Venus was so jealous of the lily’s beauty, she created the ugly pistil to make it less lovely. Lily’s are also associated with death, and the new birth that comes following earthly death. Famous folks dubbing daughters Lily include Johnny Depp, Kate Beckinsale, Greg Kinnear and Kevin Costner.
Daisy is a great name for a baby girl who puts a smile on the face of those around her. Daisies represent cheerfulness, purity and innocence, as well as loyalty and love. Daisy has been a favored name in literature, as the love of the main character in The Great Gatsby, Henry James’ Daisy Miller, and the title character in both the play and film, Driving Miss Daisy. The name of the daisy flower means “day’s eye,” because the flower opens with the sun.
Daisy became a slang word synonymous with excellence in the 1800s, with people saying “That’s a daisy,” which over time evolved into “That’s a doozy!” Daisies are not fancy, difficult flowers. They are resistant to disease, grow easily and are abundant. Children have made daisy chains since who knows how long, and the leaves of daisies are edible and sometimes used for tea. Daisies are actually two flowers joined together, which is why they symbolize true love.
Violet scored #44 in top baby girl names in America in 2016, but the history of the name is quite long. Violets symbolize delicate love, modesty and faith, as well as dignity and intuition. White violets add the meaning of innocence, and yellow violets goodness. Violet, like many flower names, was quite popular during the turn of the century, and began losing popularity around the Depression era.
When celebs Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner named their daughter, Violet, the tide had turned once more for this lovely, unassuming floral name. The name Violet also shows up in children’s literature, such as in Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plus a character in the animated film, The Incredibles. Sometimes Violet gets altered slightly such as with Violetta, Viola or Violette. It also works well as a middle name for many babies.
The ash tree is an important aspect of Viking, Gaelic and British early myth, and the name Ash appears in the Bible. A masculine name, it symbolizes strength, healing and flexibility. Ash trees are related to both olive and lilac trees. The Hebrew name Ash means “happy.” It is also the name of a major character in Pokemon, and is the nickname for all names beginning with “Ash,” such as Ashton and Ashley. Ashley, for example, was the man Scarlett O’Hara pined for in Gone with the Wind.
Ash trees seem tied to many early religions, some as part of creation myth. The World Tree was an ash tree. Vikings believed people came from the ash tree and the elm tree, while in Ireland the ash is one of the sacred trilogy of trees. St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland with an ash stick, according to legend. They have incredible growth, sometimes soaring a couple hundred of feet into the air.
Calla means “beautiful,” and calla lilies are synonymous with purity, holiness and loyalty. For those who love Lily, but desire a less common name, Calla should fit well as it only made it to #1887 in 2016 in the US. It’s a simple, almost modern sounding name, yet it has Greek origins. The reason is sounds more modern may be based on the fact that when turn-of-the-century flower names were in vogue, Calla was not included in the trend. The odd, little known fact is that Calla lilies are in fact, not lilies at all. They are from Africa and are actually from the Araceae family, and related to their less beautiful cousins, the philodendrum.
Calla lilies are a preferred flower for weddings, and also appear regularly in Christian Easter services in churches, representing new life. Calla is a lovely flower name that seems less old-fashioned, and yet a name a girl could easily grow into as a woman.
Acacia’s are ancient trees and shrubs, found throughout the world, valued for their strength and hardiness, and used to make furniture. Acacia is a Greek word meaning “thorny.” They are also useful for medicinal purposes, and even used in cooking and for perfumes. They are key protectors against desertification, their strong roots protecting the soil. They are known by their wood being used to build the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament of the Bible. Also, it’s commonly believed the burning bush described in the Bible in Moses’ encounter was an acacia.
Not particularly a common name, Acacia topped at #290 for girls. It is more rarely used as a name for a baby boy. Acacia could easily be shortened to “Cacia,” “Caycie,” “Acaia,” or any number of variations. Acacia trees also have distinctive and beautiful silhouettes.
The hyacinth symbolizes forgiveness and compassion. The lovely bell-shaped flower ranges in color from pale pinks to deep purples, most familiarly. Each shade has a fragrance unique to it, and they are used for perfume. But they also come in reds, oranges, yellows and whites. The hyacinth figures in Greek mythology, as Hyakinthe was a young boy whose blood drops blossomed into these flowers named for him. It’s pretty unusual as a name, ranking #4807 for US girls in 2016.
Hyacinths were originally found near the Caspian Sea near Iran. Hyacinths have poisonous bulbs, but the the roots and juice have medicinal qualities. For a girl, Hyacinth has an unusual sound but could be used for a middle name, or shortened to “Cinthy,” “Cinth,” or “Hya.” While the Greek namesake for the flower was a boy, and a famed Polish Catholic saint was named Hyacinth, it is almost exclusively used for girls in modern times.
Amaryllis makes a sweet name for a beautiful and strong baby girl. The literal meaning is “sparkling,” so what little girl wouldn’t love that? The Amaryllis flower symbolizes beauty, love and determination. The Greek myth has Amaryllis in love with Alteo, and on the advice of the Oracle of Delphi, she came nightly to Alteo’s door, and nightly he shot her with a golden arrow in her heart. She finally appeared as the red flower we associate with the holidays today, and won Alteo’s love, but too late.
In literature, Alfred Lord Tennyson mentioned the amaryllis in his poem, “The Daisy.” Amaryllis is not a common name, landing at #4194 in the girls 2016 list. The amaryllis is a strong, tropical plant with medicinal qualities, represents success, and is given as awards to hard workers. Amaryllis would make a strong first name that could be shortened to “Amy, ” “Amary,” “Ryllis,” or “Lissy.”
Daffodils are the sunny yellow flowers that are trumpet-shaped and herald the start of spring. That association with spring is why they also stand for new beginnings and rebirth. Other symbolism of daffodils include creativity, inspiration and vitality, as well as self-awareness and forgiveness. Daffodils belong to the flower group of narcissus, which is linked to the well-known Greek myth of Narcissus being so in love with his own reflection in the water, he fell in and drowned.
In some parts of the world, daffodils represent way different things, such as in Arabian cultures where daffodils are believed to be both aphrodisiacs and cures for baldness. Daffodil doesn’t crack the top 1000 of popular girls’ names, but that may be a plus for some parents who rail against the ordinary. Daffodil can work as a first or middle name, and can have nicknames that include Daff, Dilly or Daffi.
While many of us think strictly of the iris flower that is deep purple with a yellow center, iris blossoms in many, many shades and hence, it’s no surprise the actually meaning comes from the Greek word for “rainbow.” That alone is a sweet reason to give it as a name to a baby girl. Irises are also traditionally associated with royalty; in fact, it’s the iris that inspired the fleur-de-lis which is the national symbol of France.
Iris is the birth flower for February babies, too. Iris was a popular name during the flower name heyday in the late 19th century, and then sort of dropped off the charts. It’s ranked in the low 200s in the last few years, so it’s made a bit of a comeback. Iris Apatow is the young daughter of director Judd Apatow and wife/actress Leslie Mann, and has appeared in a few of her parents’ movies.
I admit I’m partial to this one, as it’s always been my favorite flower for its lovely range of colors from white, to lavender, to deep purple, as well as its sweet lingering fragrance. Lilacs are the symbols of love, particularly first love, while white lilacs symbolize purity. The soft repetition of “l”s in the name and the short sounds adapt well to modern names, so it could be a first or middle name easily.
While it’s not particularly popular as a name in the US, down in the basement at #5885 in 2016, it could see an increase as older style flower names start another ascent. However, so far only one forward (or backward) thinking actor has bestowed a daughter with the unusual moniker of Lilac; that is Stephen Moyer from TV’s True Blood. Lilac could be shortened to Lily, Lil, or Lila if desired.
The aspen is the most widespread tree in North America, and is considered part of a larger organism in the stand of aspens that grow together. They are named for their quaking, or quivering leaves and are distinctive for their vibrant yellow leaves in fall and their white trunks. Some ancient peoples believed the quaking leaves to be spirits running through them, and thus, a connection between this world to the next.
Aspens are known for their softness and strength which makes a nice name for either sex. Although more girls than boys are named Aspen, it is suitable for either gender. For girls’ names, Aspen ranked at #391 while for boys it was around #1000. It sounds like a modern, tree-hugger name and indeed, it’s probably this group that love it most. Aspen doesn’t lend itself to proper nicknames, so parents should probably stick with the full, unshortened version or bestow it as a middle name.
Linden trees have heart-shaped flowers and a sweet fragrance, and have been long part of mythology, having been associated with the Viking goddess Freya. Linden trees have been part of important social functions, from framing the site of weddings to ancient legal proceedings. Just to be confusing, linden trees are called lime trees in Great Britain, although not related to the lime fruit at all.
Linden wood is a favorite source for musical instrument building. It is also typically a masculine name, and landed at #1877 in 2016 for boys. For girls, it was only at #3104. Linden would work well as either a middle or first name, and would easily shorten to Lin, Lindy or Len. No one ridiculously famous has had the name Linden, but some mildly famous have, such as Linden Ashby whose big role was in Mortal Kombat.
The lovely, distinctive willow tree, nicknamed the weeping willow, originated in China. They grow best beside bodies of water such as lakes, ponds or streams. It’s becoming a more popular name these days, primarily for girls, landing at #109 in 2016. Willow trees have a lot of symbolism linked to them, including water, the moon, grief and everlasting love. It is also strongly associated with healing, being the source of salycylic acid, a main ingredient in aspirin and nowadays, skin treatments.
Some of the more famous Willows include Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s daughter, and Willow Bay of TV. Willow can be shortened to Will, Willi, or Willy. Willow was also the name of a popular 80s movie directed by Ron Howard, and The Wind in the Willows is a classic children’s book and film.
Clovers are herbal plants that are useful for livestock feed and are favorites of honey bees. They are also the favorites of youngsters who like to search for rare four-leaf clovers. The four-leaf clover represents virtues to the Christian faith, namely faith, hope, charity and luck. Celts thought wearing a clover in a hat would enable the wearer to see fairies. It also denotes protection, love and fidelity, as well as success.
A girl’s name, Clover isn’t as familiar a name as it is a plant, landing at #1633 in 2016. Natalie Wood’s daughter, Natasha, named her daughter Clover in honor of one of her mother’s favorite film roles. For those who like a humble, sweet plant name for a daughter, Clover could be shortened to Clo, Clovey, or Cloe.
Sources: BabyCenter.com, Reference.com, NameBerry.com, FlowerMeaning.com