Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 30, 2011. It was substantially revised and re-posted on April 21, 2014.
She’s a floral choice as dear as Daisy, as unexpected as Azalea.
Thanks to Fran for suggesting Tansy as our Baby Name of the Day – and to Bertram Bergamot for suggesting she was due for an update!
Unlike Lily or Rose or many a name from the garden, Tansy doesn’t immediately read botanical.
And yet, Tansy is a member of the aster family, native to Europe and Asia. Some of her common names are less than flattering – mugwort, for one – and she’s considered a weed in some parts of the world.
Despite her weedy status, she’s really quite pretty – a homespun nature name more akin to wild Willow than elegant Calla. Maybe we should call her a wildflower instead.
Plus, Tansy’s reputation as a stubborn, rugged species hints at her appealing meaning. The name ultimately derives from the Greek athanasia – immortality – via the Late Latin tanacita.
Like many plant names, she’s been worn occasionally over the years. In the twentieth century, more than five girls received the name about 1/3 of the years from 1900 through 2000.
A 1921 British silent film called Tansy featured Alma Taylor in the title role. Taylor’s Tansy is a shepherd’s daughter who finds herself embroiled in a scandal when she’s attacked by a farm laborer. Tansy’s father dies, but she finds work as a shepherdess, and after some more trials and tribulations, there is a happy ending.
Maybe that’s why she remains slightly more common in England, where there are a handful of Tansys that come to mind, like 21st century composer Tansy Davies. There’s also a hedgehog in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques who answers to the name.
It is possible that Tansy just missed her moment. She brings to mind former favorites, like Tammy, Tracey, and Nancy.
Or maybe she just requires a formal name. There are possibilities:
- It is a lot of name, but Athanasia was worn by a ninth century saint in the Byzantine Empire.
- My personal favorite is the unrelated – but still very workable – Constance.
- Tansy makes me think of Tanya, and Tatiana, or maybe the equally Russian Natasha – those those are all more of a stretch.
Of course Tansy doesn’t need a formal name. If her weedy associations don’t trouble you, then she fits with other nature babe picks that stand alone, like Daisy – currently ranked #172 as of 2012, or diminutives like Molly and Sadie that have graduated to independent given name status.
Other spellings are possible. Hilary Duff played Tanzie, a Paris Hilton-esque character in 2006 big screen flop Material Girls. It’s a flashy spin on the name that provides some distance from the garden, but is in step with modern innovations like Kenzie. Plus, she’s a natural short form if your heart belongs to the Spanish Constanza or German Constanze.
If you’re looking for a quiet, unexpected botanical with an informal charm, then Tansy is one to consider.