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.