There’s tremendous range, from the classic Lily and Rose to the bold and unexpected Azalea and Zinnia and Lotus.
If you’re after an uncommon name, a favorite flower might be the perfect choice.
We all know girls called Daisy and Violet, so we’re generally accepting of botanical choices. Chances are that it will be relatively easy to spell and pronounce. But most of the names on this list are far from common – many have never appeared in the US Top 1000.
You might also appreciate:
- A pan-botanical name, one that refers to flowers broadly, like Flora.
- One of the many, many names related to Rose.
- There’s also a wealth of Lily names to consider.
Or look for a bloom that’s relatively rare as a given name. There’s no shortage of possibilities!
Daring Flower Names: Antique & Vintage
Dahlia – Top Chef’s Gail Simmons chose this name for her daughter, inspired by her favorite flower, one that she used for her 2008 wedding to Jeremy Abrams. Dahlia melts into lots of other vintage names, like Delia and Delilah, but she’s actually at her most popular in recent years. Still, with figures like fictional Aunt Dahlia, from the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse, it is easy to see this one as an antique revival.
Hazel – Hazel was huge – a Top 100 pick from the 1890s into the 1930s. But her hibernation was correspondingly long. This nature name raised a few eyebrows when Julia Roberts gave the name to her daughter in 2004, but received nearly universal praise when John Krasinski and Emily Blunt welcomed Hazel earlier this year. At #157 in 2013, she’s only slightly less popular than Violet.
Iris – Remember when the Goo Goo Dolls scored a huge hit with “Iris” in 1998? While Iris has a long history of steady use, the song must have struck a chord with future parents. As of 2013, Iris ranked #253, her most popular since the 1950s. There’s also the 2001 biopic Iris, starring Jim Broadbent, Judi Dench, and Kate Winslet – and earning all three of them Oscar nominations. Today she’s botanical, but also literary and romantic – and neither too popular or too out there.
Ivy – Holly had a good run, peaking in the 1980s. Now her equally seasonal sister had shed her poisonous associations. While Ivy has a long history of use, at #152 in 2013, she’s currently at her most popular. Credit our affection for names from the natural world, but also Ivy’s shared sounds with super-popular mini names, like Ava and Zoe.
Daring Flower Names: Rare & Obscure
Abelia – Honeysuckle might be too daring, even for the most out-there namer. But Abelia, the scientific name for some members of the family, has possibilities. Named for Clarke Abel, an early nineteenth century naturalist who travelled to China, Abelia sounds like the popular Amelia, and offers the possible nickname Abby.
Amaryllis – It’s a long, frilly name and an equally elaborate bloom. But Amaryllis would shorten nicely, to Amy, Mara, or Rilla or maybe something else. This one has seen some use over the years, but remains pretty unusual.
Anemone – In Finding Nemo, the little clownfish stumbles over this word – though he’s referring to a sea anemone, a reef-dwelling sea creature. The aquatic version takes its name from the flower, and the flower name comes from the Greek “daughter of the wind.” Ovid wrote that Venus created the plant to commemorate her lost love, Adonis.
Anthea – More of a pan-botanical than a daring flower name, Anthea simply means “blossom” in Greek, and has a respectable history as a girl’s given name. My favorite find? A botanist named Anthea Phillips who specializes in the plants of Borneo.
Aven – Gossip Girl alum Matthew Settle gave this name to his daughter. It looks like an Ava-Aiden smoosh, but Aven is a wildflower.
Azalea – Sometimes the names that we choose and avoid don’t make much sense. With names like Amelia so popular, why wouldn’t Azalea catch on? The flowering shrubs are common, and the name has a great sound. She’s finally starting to see some use, cracking the US Top 1000 in 2012, and charting at #631 in 2013.
Azelie – The French form of Azalea has a longer history of use – or at least, in the nineteenth century, Marie-Azelie Martin was the mother of the future Saint Therese de Lisieux, known as Zelie. It may be that the name actually comes from an older, non-botanical name: Azalaïs, a medieval cousin to Adelaide. The literal French translation for the flower is azalée.
Azucena – A Spanish cousin of Shoshannah and Susan, a name meaning lily, and a rather exotic, elaborate possibility for a daughter. It was the name of a famous Venezuelan televnovela in the 1980s, and long before, the name of a character in Verdi’s Il trovatore.
Bluebell – It seemed like too much name when Spice Girl Geri Haliwell named her daughter Bluebell Madonna. But in our age of Isabella and Blue Ivy, some of the surprise has faded. Still, Bluebell would likely raise a few eyebrows.
Briallen – Daring nature names can be found in many a language. Briallen is from the Welsh word for primrose.
Briony – Atonement, Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel, gave this name to the child narrator. Saoirse Ronan earned an Oscar nomination as the 13 year old Briony in the 2007 big screen adaptation. Also spelled Bryony, this name got a boost from the book and movie, but neither really caught on in the US. Both have longer histories of use in England. The flowering plant is lovely, but its berries are toxic.
Calantha, Calanthe – Calanthe is a type of orchid. In Greek, the name means “beautiful flower.” Calantha and even Calanthia have been seen as forms of the name, but all three are pretty rare – though they’re also pretty wearable.
Calla – You could go with Calla Lily, to reinforce this name’s botanical origins. But Calla – from the Greek word for beautiful – stands on her own nicely in our Ella-Stella age.
Camellia – Camille and Camilla are traditional names, without ties to the garden. But Camellia is a lovely flower, and a wearable possibility for a daughter.
Clover – Could any name be luckier? If you’re living in clover, you’re living a life of ease. And we all know about the good fortune of four-leaf clovers. As a given name, this one is unusual – but in our age of Harper, Piper, and other ends-with-r choices for girls, that could change.
Delphinia – Delphine and Delfina have histories as given names, but Delphinia is far rarer. It comes from the delphinium flower – also known as the larkspur.
Edelweiss – An Alpine flower, rich with symbolism and familiar to all thanks to The Sound of Music, Edelweiss has seen some sparing use in recent years. She’s decidedly offbeat, but her sound and meaning appeals. And hey, the lullaby comes ready-made!
Eglantine – Clunky Eglantine is the name of the little sister owl in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, but despite literary ties – Geoffrey Chaucer used the name – and the loveliness of the flower, also known as sweetbrier, this name has never gained traction in the US.
Gardenia – An elegant flower, and one that has seen some use as a given name, too. There’s a tiny spike in 1992 – 70 girls received the name. It might have to do with the re-release of the Nat King Cole single “Blue Gardenia” from the 1953 Fritz Lang film of the same name … but I’m guessing.
Hana – She looks like a slimmed down version of the Biblical Hannah, a recent Top Ten favorite in the US. But Hana actually has separate roots as a Japanese name meaning flower. This could make for a great crossover name for parents with Japanese roots.
Hyacinth – This one instantly brings to mind legendary Britcom Keeping Up Appearances and the snobbish, but loving, Hyacinth Bucket. (“That’s Bouquet,” she would insist.) I’m partial to Jacinda, Jacinta, and even Giacinta, the Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian forms of the name.
Iolanthe – A cousin to Yolanda, Iolanthe is sometimes credited to Gilbert and Sullivan. The duo did create an 1882 operetta called Iolanthe – but nearly forty years earlier, the name appeared in Henrik Hertz’s drama King Rene’s Daughter. Iolanthe was loosely based on a fifteenth century historical figure, Yolande, Duchess of Lorraine. Hertz’s drama inspired Tchaikovsky’s 1892 opera Iolanta. All forms of the name, including the Slavic Jolanda and Jolanta, are lesser-known cousins of the mega-popular Violet.
Jessamine – An obscure cousin of the wildly popular Jasmine, and also a fresh update to the once ubiquitous Jessica. Then there’s this 1968 Britpop love song, though they spell it “When Jesamine goes.”
Jonquil – A cousin to the daffodil, usually found in shades of white or yellow, and sometimes the name of a shade of yellow, too. Jonquil is rare as a given name – heck, even the Duggars haven’t used it. And yet, Jonquil seems like a nice balance between the tailored and the feminine, the familiar and the seldom-heard. In French, it is Jonquille, which might appeal to some – though the French pronunciation would be jhon KEE … maybe not great in English. In Game of Thrones, Jonquil is an unseen character, a figure from a legend.
Lavender – A minor Harry Potter character helped give Lavender a boost. There’s also an appealing Lavendar from Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
Lilac – A pretty shade of purple, but far less common than Violet, or even Lavender.
Linnea – Like many a name, Linnea comes directly from a botanist. In this case, Linnea is named for the accomplished Carl Linnaeus. Also known as the twinflower, it was said to be his personal favorite. There’s also the popular children’s book, Linnea in Monet’s Garden, lending this name some artistic charm, too.
Lotus – The slumber-inducing lotus tree was a thing of myth, but lotus flowers are lovely and plentiful.
Magnolia – If you’re after an unconventional way to get to the nickname Maggie, look no further than Magnolia. In 2013, Magnolia re-entered the US Top 1000 – could this be the next Willow?
Marguerite – It’s been ages since Marguerite cracked the US Top 1000. She’s the French form of Margaret, but also the French word to refer to a daisy.
Marigold – From the phrase Mary’s gold, probably referring to the Virgin Mary. It’s rare as a given name, but it could wear well. There have been a handful of fictional uses, as well as a dozen girls or so born in the US each year in recent years.
Millaray – She looks like a Milla-Ray smoosh, but this name comes from an indigenous language, spoken in South America. It means golden flower. It’s big in Chile.
Mimosa – It’s a brunch cocktail in the US, and so despite the pretty little flowers, it is tough to imagine this name on a daughter. (Then again, Brandy had a good run.) And yet, I’m charmed by the possible short forms: Mim and Mimi.
Orchid – If Lavender and Lilac are rare, Orchid is nearly unknown. Some suggest that her literal translation – testicle – is a deal-breaker. Or is it that Orchid doesn’t quite sound like a given name?
Pansy – A favorite bit of character naming trivia: Margaret Mitchell originally called her character Pansy, swapping it out for Scarlett just before Gone With the Wind went to press. There are two problems with Pansy: first, she’s a slang term meaning wimp. Second, she’s one of Draco Malfoy’s malevolent besties in the Harry Potter franchise. And yet, the flowers are downright glorious, and Pansy’s sound isn’t so different than Nancy, Tansy, or Betsy.
Peony – Something about the sound is a little awkward, even though the flowers are lovely. The name comes from Paean, a name from Greek myth – he treated the gods when they were injured.
Petunia – She’s Porky’s porcine girlfriend in Looney Tunes cartoons. Harry’s dreadful aunt in the tales of the boy wizard does little to make Petunia wearable. Even a 1965 Elvis Presley song, “Petunia, the Gardener’s Daughter,” from the movie Frankie and Johnny, failed to result in an uptick in girls given the name. On the plus side? She’s wonderfully obscure as a given name, but would be easily spelled and pronounced … if you can trust that your kiddo can overcome the bad aunt/animated pig associations.
Poppy – Poppy is huge in the UK and elsewhere in the English-speaking world, but has never cracked the US Top 1000. The red poppy is a powerful symbol of remembrance for those who lost their lives in war. And, on a lighter note, it always makes me think of The Wizard of Oz.
Primrose – Little sister to Katniss in The Hunger Games trilogy, Primrose is undeniably pretty. Short form Prim might have been a drawback, but now that she’s worn by a brave fictional character, maybe Prim is actually an advantage. London’s Primrose Hill is quite the exclusive ‘hood, and there was also a minor character on The Young & the Restless to wear the name.
Sakura – The Japanese name for cherry blossoms, rich with symbolism, and very wearable, even for a child without ties to Japan.
Senna – Rhyming with Jenna and Brenna, senna isn’t the kind of plant that comes to mind, like a rose or a carnation. But Senna works well as a girl’s name in 2014.
Tansy – If Daisy is mainstream, why not Tansy? Okay, the flower is also known as mugwort and is considered a weed in many places. But I’m not sure that’s a deal breaker. Tansy could also be a fresh nickname for Constance.
Tigerlily – Sometimes smooshed together, and sometimes written out as Tiger Lily, this is a daring name with some history. And yet, it seems like it took a high profile birth announcement to boost Tigerlily as a possibility. In 1996, INXS frontman Michael Hutchence and British television presenter Paula Yates welcomed a daughter named Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, though she’s known by her second two names – which somehow seem like the most wearable of the four. Actually, Roger Taylor, drummer for Queen, had children named Rufus Tiger and Tiger Lily, both born a few years earlier, but they’ve led a far quieter life.
Tulip – When Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell welcomed twin daughters, one received a traditional floral middle, while the other put this one on the list of daring floral names: Dolly Rebecca Rose and Charlie Tamara Tulip. Catherine Zeta-Jones wore the name in a 2012 movie, but so far, Tulip remains quite rare.
Viola – She was Molly Ringwald’s quirky friend/fairy godmother in Pretty in Pink, and a viola is a musical instrument, too. But she makes this list as the Latin word for violet, and a Top 100 name from the 1880s into the 1920s. Factor in a Shakespearean heroine by the name, and it is easy to imagine Viola appealing to parents.
Wisteria – A lovely flowering vine, and an attractive sound, too – and yet, Wisteria seems like one of the less likely possibilities on this list.
Yasmin – Jasmine remains very popular, while the Arabic original – Yasmin – has long been in her shadow. But while Jasmine screams Disney princess, Yasmin is more of a culture-spanning possibility, a name for Layla’s sister.
Zinnia – With bright colors and that zippy Z, there’s something vibrant and very wearable about Zinnia.
Which names do you like? Are any on your short list? Are there any others that should be on this list?