Zinnia photo by Zach Etienne

Take Zoe and Zara, cross with Lily and Violet and what do you get?

Today’s Baby Name of the Day, of course! Thanks to Paul for suggesting Zinnia.

You might not find Zinnia on a playground, but she’s popular in gardens. There are 20 different species, most of them are colorful, even showy.

Many a botanical baby name has been considered here, including:

Thanks to Zinnia’s vibrant style and her zippy z, she’s less ladylike than Rose or Jasmine. File Zinnia with the decidedly unexpected floral options for a daughter.

And yet she works quite well, possibly because her first syllable rhymes with modern staples Finn and Quinn. But also because ZINN ee uh sounds right at home with Olivia and Sophia.

Back to the plant. Zinnias are most common in Mexico, but range from the American Southwest to South America. They’re big with butterflies. You can even buy your small Zinnia a kit to grow her namesake plant and attract a Monarch or two.


For all her exotic beauty, Zinnia has a rather workaday origin – the German occupational surname Zinn. Zinn comes from the same soup as our word tin. If your profession involved working in pewter, you might’ve worn this name. Pewter, as it happens, is an alloy made up mostly of tin.

Eighteenth century German scientist Johann Gottfried Zinn was known for his work in anatomy and botany. Flower powerhouse Carl Linnaeus named the plant in honor of Zinn.

While Zinnia often surfaces on lists of possible botanical picks for girls, real life Zinnias are few. She’s never appeared in the US Top 1000. There was a ship in the Royal Navy known as HMS Zinnia, active during World War II.

Kid lit gives us two other bearers of the name:

  • Roald Dahl named Matilda’s mother – the not-quite-completely-loathsome Mrs. Wormwood – the first name Zinnia. Shades of Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter series!
  • Newberry Medal-winning author Sharon Creech penned Chasing Redbird in 1995. Her Zinnia is the central character – but most often answers to the nickname Zinny.

While it’s tempting to dismiss Zinnia as an unthinkable choice for a child, she has been worn in the 20th century. A quick search through the 1930 Census Records turns up women called Zinnia throughout the US. The same is true for previous years.

So if Zenobia, Zenaida and Zuleika all seem like much too much, the pretty, unusual but not too unusual Zinnia might be just right.

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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What do you think?


  1. My 3 year old is a Zinnia. I love her name and it suits her very well. I love that it is so unique and everyone comments on how lovely it is and those who know it is a flower are always delighted. We call her Zinn or Zin-Zin for short. It goes with my son’s name, which starts with an X.

  2. I love the name Zinnia but my husband has vetoed it on the basis that it rhymes with (sorry if this ruins it for anyone else) tinea. I still love it though!

  3. I can’t get past the Matilda association. I read the novel many years ago, and for a while my little sister watched the movie about once a week! Nope, I just can’t do it. And yes, Petunia Dursley most definitely reminded me of Zinnia Wormwood.

  4. Hmm, I really like Zinnia! Much more modern and punchy than Daisy, Olive, Rose, Fern or Iris. More unique than Heather, Holly, Lily or Ivy. More delicate than Dahlia and Saffron.

    I’m with Mir, though: I grew up pronouncing this as ZEEN-yah, not ZIN-ee-ah. Either way is still lovely.

  5. I read this post on my lunch hour, but didn’t have time to comment until now.

    I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t care for Zinnia, until I got back to work…it reminds me of White Zinfandel. But then, I work for a wine importer, so most people won’t make that connection.

  6. This name is so pretty! I don’t know what it is about the name, but it just sounds like a bell. When I asked my mom if she like the name, she brought up a person we knew named Xenia, which, admittedly, is very familiar, but doesn’t hold the same appeal for me.

  7. I love this name! I read Chasing Redbird when I was fairly little and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I also like Saffron (maybe a bit more than Zinnia; there’s this hilarious children’s series that I grew up with about a family called the Cassons, and their second-eldest is named Saffron.)

    And, it’s not on the top 1000!