Ten Weird Flower Etymologies


With Mother’s Day right around the corner and spring finally pushing up the daisies, many of us are thinking about pockets full of posies this week. That’s why I headed over to the Online Etymology Dictionary and found ten flower names with rather interesting histories.

carnation: Carnation has an uncertain origin. The name could come from the word coronation because the flowers were used in chaplets (wreaths worn on the head) or because the petals look crown-like. As carnations are often pink, it is also thought the name comes from the Middle French word carnation, which means person’s color or complexion.

daisy: The Old English term for daisy is dœgesege, which is a combination of the words dœges and eage, meaning day’s eye. Daisy originally got its name because the petals open at dawn and close at dusk.
Fun fact: Daisy being used as a woman’s name is believed to have started as a nickname for Margaret.

dandelion: This word comes from the Middle French dent de lion, which literally means lion’s tooth. It got this name because of its tooth-like leaves.
Fun fact: Apparently, dandelions used to be used as diuretics. In Middle English, it was sometimes called piss-a-bed, and in French, pissenlit. (Lit is the French word for bed, and the Old French verb for to urinate is pissier.)

forget-me-not: Though its scientific name is Myosotis palustris, this nickname comes from the Old French ne m’oubliez mye (don’t forget me).
Fun fact: The nickname arose from the thought that people wearing the flower should not be forgotten by their lovers.

gardenia: One may think that gardenia comes from the word garden. In a way, it does. However, its name comes from the name of Dr. Alexander Garden, an American naturalist.

lavender: Lavender gets its name from its use to scent washed fabrics and bath water. The word is associated with the French lavande and Italian lavanda, which means a washing.

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orchid: Orchid means testicles. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European root word for testicles, orghi-. It is so named because the shape of its roots apparently looks like the man parts.

pansy: This word comes from the Middle French pensée, which means thought, rememberance.

peony: The long etymological route this word took may have started with Paion, who the ancient Greeks believed to be the physician to the gods. The plant apparently has healing qualities, with its roots, flowers, and seeds all formerly being used in medicine.

tulip: This flower’s name comes from the Turkish word tülbent, which means turban, because people thought it looked like the headwear.

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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