Baby Name of the Day: Azalea


Flowers of the George Lindley Taber variety of...

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It’s another botanical option from the ever-expanding list of Nature Names parents are considering for their children.

Thanks to Elizabeth for suggesting one she’s considering for her baby on the way. Our Baby Name of the Day is Azalea.

Virtually every bloom offers some possibility for a child’s name, but it helps that Azalea sounds an awful lot like Top 100 picks Amelia or Natalia – three syllables, elaborate, but not overly frilly. Depending on where you live, you might opt for the four-syllable pronunciation ah ZAY lee ah, which puts her in equally good company – think of the oh-so popular Olivia.

She’s a relatively modern option, chosen by Carl Linnaeus in the mid-eighteenth century to describe the plant. He took the name from the Greek azaleos – dry, because the lovely azalea does well in sandy soil. The Azalea Society of America describes them as “forgiving as easy to grow.” The plants can be found in Asia, Europe, and North America – so can festivals and local celebrations held in the spring when azaleas bloom.

My favorite is Mobile, Alabama’s Azalea Trail. Fifty local high school seniors don antebellum dress to welcome visitors to the section of the city known for its blooms. Never mind that the custom of planting azaleas dates only to 1929. Their dresses – hoops, pantaloons, and parasols required – are fascinating. You can also sight-see the azaleas in other US states, or head to Asia. I’m fascinated by Tatebayashi, a small town an hour from Tokyo by train, famous for its Azalea Hill Park. The US National Arboretum boasts a particularly impressive collection of hybrids, known for their vivid colors.

As a given name, Azalea has never charted in the US Top 1000. But she’s out there. I stumbled across an Azalia, the daughter of a railroad president in the nineteenth century. Dad named a tiny station stop in Michigan in her honor.

Azélie is a French variant, and takes the name in a whole other direction. Marie-Azélie Guérin was the mother of nine daughters in nineteenth century France. Five survived to adulthood; all five became nuns. The youngest, Marie-Françoise-Thérèse, is better known as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, “The Little Flower.” Her memoir, The Story of a Soul, was published posthumously, and remains influential today.

The French version also gives us a possible short form for Azalea: Zelie. In the eighteenth century, a German immigrant to the US named a tiny Pennsylvania town after his daughter, Zelie. Around the same time that the future Saint Therese was exploring spiritual unknowns, Brooklyn-born French-American singer Zelie de Lussan was touring Europe as an opera singer of some renown.

It may be that Zelie is a short form for other names, too. She seems to gaining just a shimmer of attention. I found this birth announcement for a little girl named Zélie Queen, a little sister for Lucy, Otto, and Clementine.

But back to Azalea – she strikes me as unusual and a little bit showy, but still completely wearable. Louis Armstrong recorded a piece called “Azalea,” a lovely little piece about the flowers. There’s a vague spiritual tie available if you need one, but mostly this is an attractive nature name that will make your daughter stand out in a garden of girls called Lily and Violet.

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23 Comments

I love this name. I find out the sex of my baby in about a week, and if its a girl I’m naming her Azalea Eve, Azalea Skye or Azalea Rain. I wanted to use my grandmothers middle name which is Fern but i think the names clash, anyone know a variant of fern that would sound nice?

Sounds quite lovely-I have a soft spot for floral names, and Azalea isn’t one that immediately jumps to mind, but I like it. I also like Zelie and Zelia as nicknames-Love the zippy Z’s!

I was a Mobile Azalea Trail Maid! The dress still lives in a dress bag under my bed as it is against Trail Maid Rules to pass it on. So fun to see the organization get a shout out here! 🙂 Though azaleas have a sweet place in my heart, I’m not sure I’m bold enough to use this names.

I love Azalea and now that you’ve mentioned Zelie – I love it even more! I’m a big fan of botanical and bloom names and Azalea is near the top… too bad I haven’t any intention of naming any more bitty babies!

Down here in azalea country (North Carolina, home of the Wilmington azalea festival) it’s said ah-ZAYL-yah. Could be pretty to some ears, but it’s clunky and awkward to this Southern gal.

Reminds me of my maternal grandmother’s name, Ozella. That said, Azalea would not make my list. Even if I would be likely to use a nature name, several other choices would be listed ahead of Azalea…Zinnia, Winter, Lake…

It’s a bit showy for my tastes, but on the right little girl Azalea could be very pretty. Zelia could also be sweet nickname for Cecilia.

I adore Z

Azalea is really pretty. I like how you put it Abby: Azalea will stand out in a garden of Lilys and Violets. She also has that really “on-trend” long Ay sound, which I think would help her from sounding too obscure.

Congrats Elizabeth on your impending arrival, and good luck choosing a name 🙂

I love, love, love this name. The only thing that would keep me from using it is that an Azalea would possibly have to spell her name for people who aren’t botanically inclined.
I recently read of a baby being born named “[email protected]” I’m not impressed. I highly doubt it’s a form of Azalea, but probably more of the Haley rhyming trend (Bailey, Kaylee, Jaylie, Brayley,Mayleigh…I could go on and on).

I know a 6 year old Azalea here in the midwest. She has a younger sister called Acacia. Except they respelled Azalea as something like Azaylia. Which led to the nickname Zay. I used the 4 syllable pronunciation with her name, which was hopefully the same as they were using – haven’t seen them in several years.

I do like the name. 🙂

Azalea’s got a pretty sound but she’s too showy a flower for my liking. plus, I really don’t like the letter A. I like Zelie and Zella, but am more likely to use Zelda to get to those nicknames. I would like to see more of Azalea as a whole but it’s not the flower for me.

I seriously considered Zelie as both a first and middle name for Eulalie, but it lost out as a middle for this first name. It is still near and dear to my heart. The St. Therese connection was addressed, but I didn’t know about the Brooklyn born opera singer! That *could* have tipped the scales. Would like to see more people choose this!

Love Azalea too.

A very pretty name — and unlike some pretty names, it offers plenty of scope to be tailored by the bearer to something that suits them. Personally, I adore azaleas — their vibrant displays in the spring are always such a welcome sight after the long drab winter months (certainly, in my neck of the woods!).

I read that in China, the azalea symbolises womanhood, which is nice. People who love “To Kill a Mockingbird” will remember Miss Maudie’s beloved azaleas which got frozen in a rare Maycomb cold snap.

I think this name has a lot of potential. Flower names are “in”, and so are names with an AY sound in them. Zelie and Lea make cute nicknames, and there’s always Zay.