She’s a buttoned-up botanical with a pop culture link.
Thanks to Amanda for suggesting Primrose as our Baby Name of the Day.
Rose appears in many compound names, and yet Primrose is a rarity, never in the US Top 1000 and worn by a relatively small number of women compared to Rosalie or Rosanna.
Perhaps Primrose suffers from her proper first syllable. Prim comes from the French for delicate, ultimately from the Latin primus – first. There’s a funny little skip there – being first can imply being the best, and so our prissy prim once meant exquisite.
The flower shares the same root, but instead of delicate, the idea is that the primrose was the first rose to bloom.
Several species are known as primrose. Together, they can be found throughout Europe, and into Africa and Asia. The evening primrose – which is properly known as oenthera – is native to North and South America.
In the Victorian-era language of flowers, primrose means “I can’t live without you.”
It’s also a surname, derived from the Welsh words pren – tree and rhos – moor, suggesting it began as a place name.
Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery served as Foreign Secretary under Queen Victoria. The Earl was quite the popular figure. He married banking heiress Hannah de Rothschild, the wealthiest woman in Britain. Hannah died at the age of 39, just before her husband achieved his lifelong goal of being named prime minister.
Victorian-era politics give us a second meaning for the flowers. They were a particular favorite of prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses to his funeral. The Primrose League adopted the bloom as its symbol, signifying conservative principles, and Primrose Day is April 19, the anniversary of Disraeli’s death.
A 1918 Vitagraph film called Wild Primrose starred Gladys Leslie as Primrose Standish. I’m not certain of the film’s plot.
Another chance for the name to catch on was a Gershwin musical – Primrose, debuted in London in 1924. One of the characters is penning a romantic tale of a fictional Primrose. His story mirrors the misadventures in the play. Primrose never made it big, in part because the Gershwins’ Lady, Be Good! was on Broadway at the time.
British dramedy The Darling Buds of May ran in the early 90s. It is best known for launching the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played eldest daughter Mariette Louise Larkin. Her younger siblings included:
- Twins Zinnia and Petunia;
The characters were based on stories written by H.E. Brooks between 1958 and 1970; more fascinating still, the stories were based on a glimpse of a real family.
But the game-changer comes from current bestselling trilogy The Hunger Games. Primrose Everdeen is the younger sister of Katniss, the heroine of the series. Katniss volunteers for the Games to save her sister, though Prim eventually proves herself heroic, too.
Like Prudence or Temperance, there’s a risk to giving your daughter a good girl name. Perhaps that’s why Primrose has never really taken off, despite her appealing sound and nature name style. She’s an intriguing option for the middle spot. The Hunger Games character could help reinvent her. For now, Primrose remains a true rarity.
Suzette Bradbury says
We named our third daughter Primrose when she was born in 1999 in New Zealand, Her Dad is British, and he and I had lived together in Primrose Hill, London. My birthday is in February, so my birth flower is the primrose – another connection. WIth her being the third girl in the family, we were getting pretty creative with names by that stage! Our other two girls are Tamsin (featured in NOTD on April 7, Primrose’s birthday!), and Imogen. We have used the nickname Rosie for her since she was born, although certain people, notably her grandmother, insist on calling her Primrose. After The Hunger Games was published, our Primrose decided to reinvent herself as Prim over the summer, to see whether she liked it. It never really stuck, although I think it’s possible she may go back to it if she wants a less flowery name than Rosie. I hope The Hunger Games does’t make the name Primrose too popular – we really like that it’s quirky and unusual, yet with a very familiar twist!
I like Primrose a lot. I like “Rose” names in general, though. Alas, my husband is adamant– no flowers, no months, no gems, and nothing else that’s an ordinary word or sounds like it.
English Kate says
Thanks for the info on Primula, Jane. She doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily as Primrose but I like her all the same. I’m still mulling Primrose over and whilst I love her unique blend of ‘starchy playfulness’ there are such a plethora of beautiful Rose names to choose from like Verity says. Rosamond is lovely and Rosalie is just about as cute as a button!
Charlotte Vera says
I have never before considered Primrose as a given name — I’ve obviously yet to read The Hunger Games — but while I don’t exactly dislike it I can’t say it thrills me either. For some reason one of the first words that came to my mind when I saw this listed as NotD is “prissy”, probably because of the “prim” prefix.
I’m guessing Primrose will be the Hunger Games’ “Luna”. In my stepdaughter’s health class they recently did the “baby think it over” program and it seems that the HG names were quite popular.
Primrose feels very patrician, like a London Telegraph name. But at the same time, because of Appalachians setting of the Hunger Games,I keep thinking Primrose is the perfect name for a country girl… in the same vein as Dolly and Pearl.
That is a list I would love to see – what do teenagers name their baby-think-it-overs? And if asked, would they say it is a name they’d consider giving a real child, or would they acknowledge it was an outrageous choice prompted by project? Hmmmm …
My “grandchild” was named Bruno Garnett and my nephew (who is also in the class) named his son Dimitri. Her friends had children named Roux, Atticus, Adalyn and Evangeline.
I ask her about some of the others…
British American says
I did a search and picked these doll names out of a comment thread. These are names from 2005-2006 though:
Zachary and Sarah (twins)
Devan or Peyton for a girl
Conner or Braedan
Nichole Lee (Chloe for short)
Motoko “Momo” (Japanese doll)
One commenter who named the doll Harley said that she planned to name a real child Harlequin, with the nickname Harley.
Charlotte Vera says
Somewhat tangential, but I once worked at a summer camp with a camper who went by Quin. Her full name? Harlequin.
Lady Gwyn says
I rather like Primrose. It is pretty and sweet-sounding. I can see it more as a Victorian-era revival name as opposed to a flower name, which puts it solidly on my ‘like’ list. I like the above posters nickname Prose (even if it was an accident!), and Rose always works, too, although I kinda like Prim. It isn’t a word used a lot nowadays, so I think that works in its favor.
Laura Rose says
Rose is my absolute favourite name (although I love R
British American says
That sums up my thoughts on the name too. We have a Rose and never considered Primrose at the time. I’d probably like it better as a middle name – especially as a spin on the ever-popular-middle-name-Rose.
I once knew a Tongan girl called Primrose….she went by the nickname Lima. Sounds like a bit of a stretch, but it’s the Tongan pronunciation of the ‘rim’ in the first syllable.
Now that is fascinating!
Isadora Vega says
Primrose feels very British. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just not something that I would immediatly be drawn to.
kinda crazy, kinda awesome! that’s my take.
Yikes, I guess I’ll be the voice of dissent – I can’t imagine introducing myself as Primrose, and I’m guessing little Primroses born nowadays would ask to be called Rose or Rosie once they get to be school-aged. It’s fine as a middle name, of course. I much prefer Rosalie, Rosalind, Rosemary, R
Rosemary, Rosalind, and Rosamond are some of my favorites – so Primrose wouldn’t be for me, either. Actually, there are SO many good Rose names …
<3 Primrose 🙂 I think the nn Prim is adorable and the meaning doesn't bother me at all…then again Patience & Prudence don't seem to bother me either.
Sarah A says
I LOVE Primrose! I admit to hearing it first when I read The Hunger Games, but so what. Primrose is so absolutely lovely that I don’t care 🙂
I had no idea about her history or the fact that it can mean “I can’t live without you” – what better meaning for a beloved child’s name?
I think that Primrose could really work up front, for the more daring parents or those who don’t mind people asking ‘Oh, from The Hunger Games’ which will definitely happen if the movies are as big as the books have been. But lots of Andrews go by Drew, Abrahams by Bram, etc. that Primrose could easily go by Rose or Rosie if she felt burdened by the ‘Prim’ beginning.
In any case, I absolutely love this name and I will definitely recommend it to prospective parents who want something different and gorgeous.
I love the meaning. I have never heard of anyone being named Primrose. What a great name.
Yeah! I was so excited to see my suggestion of Primrose up here today. I wholeheartedly agree with many of the comments, whats not to love about Primrose?! There are tons of positive associations with ths name (aside from the first syllable Prim, which wasn’t such a bad thing in The Hunger Games). Thank you so much for writing about Primrose, Abby! 🙂
I love it. It’s one of my favorite flower names.
I love Primrose. What a beautiful sound and it is aesthetically pleasing too. A little starched with the prim but playful and fun with the rose.
What’s not to like?
English Kate says
I like flower names like Daisy and Poppy but fear that I will tire of their overly flouncy and little-girlish sound; not Primrose though, that proper-sounding ‘prim’ first syllable adds a lot more power to her flowery magic. She’s so distinctive and enchanting, I can’t help but smile when I hear her (which isn’t often thankfully).
I once read a book where one of the characters was called Primula – what does everyone think of that? Is the name related to Primrose? And one more thing, thinking about Primrose has made me think about Marigold for some inexplicable reason, has she ever been featured as a NOTD?
I know an adult Marigold – when I first heard her name I balked, but now, knowing her, I think it’s a gorgeous name.
I have primula flowers in my garden – sometimes also known as polyanthus – and they are lovely. Behind The Name says about Primula: From the name of a genus of several species of flowers, including the primrose. It is derived from the Latin word primulus meaning “very first”.
I saw a feature with a mum and her 2 small daughters in an Australian pregnancy magazine last year – the older daughter, about 2 or 3, was named Violette, and the new baby was named Primrose. Love it.
My cousin was named Primrose back in 1954. Her mother loved the flower, her father, it’s meaning (apparently primroses were in her wedding bouqet). Her birthday’s in September. I’ve always liked her name, it made people remember her. I used to wish it was mine when I was small). She goes by Prose within the family & Rosie outside. (Prose happened when her sister couldn’t say Primrose). She’s one of my favorite cousins.
I like the flower, love the sound. the meaning of the flower can’t be beat!
So pretty, Primrose!
Great suggestion, it sounds really fresh to me!