Baby Name of the Day: Zinnia

Zinnia

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.

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29 Comments

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

I love Zinnia! The flowers are awesome, and it’s just a beautiful word! I also love Zinna as a name, though it appears to just be a misspelling of Zinnia. I would use Zinnia, and Azalea.

Oh, my favorite Z-name by a mile! Our naming “theme” if you can call it that is not to repeat first initials among our children. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that we have four, we’re starting to realize if we keep having children, this could become more restrictive than the Duggars’ J-theme as more and more of the assessible letters get used up! Anyway, Zinnia could get used here someday, and Xanthe, and Quincy (only if #5 happens to be a boy). The really tough one would be Y… but who’s having 26 kids? Not me 🙂

I love Zinnia. I just love unusual nature names, particularly Azalea, Magnolia, Saffron and Marigold. My friend and I were obsessed with Sharon Creech books when we were in 5th grade. We read every chapter book of hers. That’s how I first came across Zinnia. Zinny is cute. Zia or Nia could work too.

I love Zinnia pronounced ZINN-ee-ah, but growing up, my mom always pronounced the flowers ZEEN-yahs, which I don’t like as much. I’m not sure if I can pronounce it correctly in my mind, and then I think there would forever be pronunciation issues. Maybe it was just my mom, though.

The pronunciation was ZEEN-yahs in the South during the 50’s and 60’s were I grew
up loving all my relatives gardens. It was later in Ohio in the 90’s a much newer generation was calling them ZINN-yahs.

I love Zinnia and tried to fit it (or Azalea) in as an mn when we didn’t yet know what we were having… but both seemed too long with the fns we’d landed on so Fern and Ivy became the mns of choice… and then it was moot when we got the word we were getting Ollie! But I think Zinnia is fun and very wearable.

Photoquilty – nice photo! That carseat looks familiar! And Linden is one of my very favorite botanical names, too… it’s pretty, tailored and gives a leafy green street sort of feeling to me.

I don’t know about this one. When it comes to nature names, I’d be more likely to use Linden, Aven, or Saffron. I especially like Saffron.

Great picture !

I’m really surprised that you go for Linden & Saffron. They seem like outliers to what you normally appear to like. It’s a nice surprise !

Aww, thanks.

Yeah, I don’t know why those names appeal to me. I’ve liked Saffron since Absolutely Fabulous was on the air. It’s irrelevant, though, as my husband is waaaaay too traditional – and we’re done having kids.

Oh well, there’s always animals . And if you write, you could use the names.Who knows, maybe you’ll be one of those couples who have a surprise when their kids go off to college ! 🙂

I just did the math – I’ll be 46 and 50 when my children enter college. A new baby would be nothing short of a miracle!

I love Zinnia!!! The beautiful photo you chose to accompany this post makes me love it even more. The NN Nia could bring is down to earth for noon-believers. This post actually sparked something in my brain though. When I read about Zin = Tin it made me think it would make a cute name for a child born on your 10th year of marriage. I wonder if there exists a compiled list matching names w/ traditional anniversary gifts. It’s early but I’m quite fond of this idea. . .

I like Zinnea. I don’t like it enough to actually consider a future child, but it’d awesome on another person’s child. 🙂 I’d probably call her Zins or ZinZins as a nn.

I actually know of a young Zenobia (in her 20s) and there’s Zuraida which also fits in with the names you mentioned. The names you mentioned make me think of Zuraida Jardine. Also, what about Poppy & Daphne !? I think Daphne, Zinnia & Matilda would be an awesome sibset.

Also, I like the picture 🙂 It’s fun to see Etienne as a LN, because I’m used to seeing it as a FN . Nice name to suggest for NOTD Paul !