Thanks to Kristin for suggesting Daisy as our Baby Name of the Day.
Daisies are usually white petals around a sunny yellow center. Plenty of related flowers might be called daisies, and they extend the range of colors well beyond the conventional yellow-white.
They’re associated with children and innocence, and innocent children sitting in fields making chains of daisies. It’s the original bloom associated with “He loves me, he loves me not.”
The scientific name is pleasing, too – bellis perennis, everlasting beauty.
Daisy comes from the Old English daes eage – day’s eye. Chaucer called it “eye of the day.” The yellow center was thought to symbolize the sun, and the whole flower closes at night and opens in the morning.
It was once known as Mary‘s Rose. It seems like daisy wasn’t the typical name for the bloom until pretty late in the game – maybe the 1700s.
She was imported from the garden as a given name in nineteenth century for two reasons:
- Victorians were nearly as inventive as twenty-first century parents, and they adored floral names.
- A happy coincidence associated sweet Daisy with the enduring Margaret.
Margaret comes from the Greek word for pearl. But Marguerite – the French form of the name – became associated with the daisy in French. It’s said that daisies were the “pearls” of the field, and so became known as marguerites. Marguerite was also the French form of Margaret, so by a bit of folk etymology, the French Marguerite and Spanish Margarita both became associated with the flower.
The connection was borrowed in English and other languages, and caught on:
- Louisa May Alcott gave the grown-up Little Women character Meg a daughter Daisy – but they’re both named Margaret.
- Princess Margaret of Connaught was one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, and Crown Princess of Sweden. She was nicknamed Daisy.
- One of Princess Margaret’s children was Ingrid. The Swedish princess married the future King Frederick IX of Denmark. Their eldest daughter is Margarethe, named for her grandmother – and currently Queen of Denmark. She’s also known as Daisy.
But not every Daisy is a Margaret.
Henry James’ 1878 novella Daisy Miller lends the name a literary bent, but his Daisy was born Annie. She’s a flirtatious American abroad. She ends badly, but there’s little doubt that Daisy is an innocent – clearly the reason for her name. A 1974 film adaptation starred a young Cybill Shepherd as Daisy.
F. Scott Fitzgerald gave us an even more famous Daisy. Jay Gatsby longs for the lovely – and unhappily married Daisy – and has since before he made his fortune. Thanks to an upcoming Baz Luhrman adaptation, all of the Great Gatsby names could get a boost.
Then there’s “Daisy Bell,” a song you probably know better as “Bicycle Built for Two.” Harry Dacre penned the song in 1892. It’s remained popular ever since.
Pop culture gives us:
- Daisy Duck
- Daisy Duke
- Driving Miss Daisy
- The assistant cook on Downton Abbey
- Celebrity babies: Meg Ryan has Daisy True; Jamie Oliver has Daisy Boo Pamela. Jon Cryer and Lucy Lawless also chose the name.
Overall, Daisy is darling. If you fret that she’s not substantial enough on her own, you can always put Margaret on her birth certificate. But in our age of floral favorites, from Lily to Violet, Daisy seems like a lovely botanical option for a daughter.
Original photo credit: Bigtallguy via Flickr