Did you know? The origin of flower names

Have your parents ever told you the origin of your name? No? Well, at least we have found some interesting stories about the names of these floral beauties.  Read on to discover healing forces, ancient legends, Greek mythology and more: the origin of flower names! What’s your favourite etymology?

Anemone – the origin

Common name: Windflower

Availability: September – May

Did you know that the Anemone is also known as the ‘windflower’? The simplest explanation is that the word Anemone derives from the Greek word Anemoi, which in English means ‘winds’. Other explanations are related to old Greek myths. Like the one about the nymph Anemona, who lived with the goddess Flora. According to the saga, Zephyros – god of the wind – would have fallen in love with Anemona. Therefore, the jealous goddess turned Anemona into a flower. Another Greek myth features goddess Aphrodite and her lover, Adonis. When Adonis was gored by a wild boar, Aphrodite’s tears mixed with Adonis’ blood gave rise to the Anemone flower.


Carnation – the origin

Genus: Dianthus

Availability: year-round

As with many flower name origins, there are several stories about the origin of the name Carnation. One etymology focuses on how the flower’s toothed petals resemble a crown. Therefore, the name carnation is derived from coronation. The other etymology says it’s down to the carnation’s original colour, pink and Carnation is French for pink complexion. Then there’s the Carnation’s Latin name, Dianthus, which is derived from the words Dios (God) and anthos (flower). The literal translation is ‘flower of God’ or ‘heavenly flower’.

origin of flower names

Gladiolus – the origin

Common name: Sword Lily
Availability: July – October

The sword-shaped foliage contributed to its Latin name Gladius, which means sword. Ever since the Roman times, the Gladiolus is a symbol of strength, triumph and pride. Back then they would shower the gladiator that won in Gladioli. Nowadays, it’s still the ideal flower for rewarding (sports) achievements.


Sneezeweed – the origin

Genus name: Helenium
Availability: July – September

Did you know that Sneezeweed was used to get rid of evil spirits? Its dried leaves could be used in making snuff, which was inhaled to cause sneezing. The sneezing would supposedly rid the body of these evil spirits.


Solidago – the origin

Common name: Goldenrods
Availability: July – September

Translate ‘golden rain’ to Italian and you will get the word ‘Solidago’. It’s actually the perfect name for the small flowers that only come in yellow and golden hues. Despite its Italian influences, the flower is mostly native to Mexico, North America and Canada.


Foxglove – the origin

Genus name: Digitalis purpurea
Availability: April – May

The common name of this flower – Foxglove – is believed to be related to a northern legend. According to this legend, bad fairies told the fox to put the blossoms on his toes while he hunted for prey. That way, the fox could muffle his footfalls. Other common names such as fairy thimbles and dead man’s bells might be derived from this legend as well.

origin of flower names

Iris – the origin

Genus name: Iris
Availability: February (widow Iris), May – October

Did you know that the origin of flower names is often found in Greek mythology? For example, the beautiful Iris is named after the Goddess of the Rainbow. In Greek mythology, goddess Iris was the messenger of the Gods and the rainbow was the bridge between heaven and earth. That’s why gifting Irises tells someone that you have a message for them. You can provide the flowers with a thoughtful (hand-written) message.


Nerine – the origin

Common name: Guernsey Lily, Nerine
Availability: September – October

There are two stories about Nerine. The first one tells us that the flower got its name from sea god Nereus’ beautiful daughters. They were called sea nymphs or Nereids. The other story is about their origin from South-Africa. It is said that a ship carrying boxes of Nerine bulbs stranded on Guernsey. The bulbs washed up on the island and they became established and multiplied around the coast, hence its name Guernsey Lily.

origin of flower names

Regardless of the stories behind the origin of flower names, we simply cannot deny their beauty. Find some seasonal flowers such as Gladiolus, Iris and Solidago at your local florist.

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