Indian lotus മലയാളം: ചള്ളിയാന്‍ എടുത്തത്. രാത്...
India lotus; image via Wikipedia

There are sweet flower names and showy ones, traditional choices and new discoveries.  File this botanical possibility under the latter two categories.

Thanks to Queen of Shibas for suggesting Lotus as our Baby Name of the Day.

Unlike Lily or Rose, Lotus has never cracked the US Top 1000.  But like Azalea or Zinnia, it is possible to argue that she could.  The blooms are lovely, rich with meaning, and like nearly any flower, seems a reasonable a choice for a daughter.

Lotus also boasts considerable cross-cultural appeal.  It’s the national flower of Vietnam and India.  Eastern gods are often pictured seated or standing on a lotus, and the flower symbolizes purity, as well as beauty and elegance, the perfection of the natural world, and spiritual growth.

All lotuses are aquatic plants, but they’re far from identical.  There are American varieties, known to grow in swamps.  Different colors and shapes occur in different places, too.

And then there’s the lotus tree and its intoxicating fruit, the one Homer described in The Odyssey.  Odysseus speaks of “a food that comes from a kind of flower.”  There are plenty of candidates, and some of them aren’t lotuses at all.  Lotus-eaters has become a term for the laid back, almost lazy, those who are content to subsist on what’s readily available rather than setting off on odysseys.  To be called a lotus-eater is to be called a pleasure-seeker:  not exactly a put-down, but neither is it praise.

If there’s uncertainty about exactly which fruit caught the fancy of Odysseus’ crew, it is particularly because several flowers were called lotos in Greek, and the word’s origins are uncertain.

There’s a literary tie for Lotus, courtesy of Pearl S. Buck.  Buck penned The Good Earth, a tale of pre-World War II Chinese family over the years of hardship and eventual success.  Lotus is the concubine who joins the successful household later in the story.  Buck nabbed a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, and later won a Nobel.  The Good Earth was a bestseller in the 1930s, and again just a few years ago, when Oprah chose it for her book club.

All of this lends Lotus some familiarity as a given name, but Lotus isn’t exactly the kind of character you name a child after.

Still, Lotus was in sparing use before the novel was published.  Plenty of women wore the name as early as the nineteenth century, though Lotus has never reached the US Top 1000.

I’m not confident you would name your child Lotus if you were a practitioner of an Eastern religion.  Instead, I think you might use Padma – the Sanskrit word for the flower.

As exotic blooms go, Lotus is wearable in the US.  Yes, there’s the car, but that hasn’t hurt Bentley or Royce.  In Europe, though, Lotus is a popular brand of toilet tissue – so that’s probably a non-starter.

But back to the US.  Nicknames for your little Lotus include Lola or Lou, or maybe even Lulu, though it is a stretch.  If you’re set on floral appellation, preferably exotic, meaningful and international in spirit, Lotus is one to consider.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. My Chinese wife and I named our daughter Lotus, that is, this is what we call her. Her official name is ‘雨荷’ which would be ‘Rain Lotus’ or ‘Lotus in the Rain’. I am from the Netherlands, which in Chinese is 荷兰, the first character of which is… Lotus. Besides, it does rain frequently in the Netherlands. We couldn’t have thought of a better name for a daughter with our kind of cross-cultural background. And so far everybody loves the name.

    1. 荷 could means Lotus, but the more accurate translation for Lotus would be 蓮… 荷, on the other hand, usually refers to lily pad.

  2. I have a beautiful daughter named Lotus. We went through many many names, and finally found this one that suits our little girl most. Very satisfied.