Lily Names: Lilith, Liliosa and Liliane

English: Sancta Lilias

Lily is a Top 20 name, a floral favorite that appeals to many parents.  She’s as complete as Lucy, as tied to the natural world as Rowan or Skye, as vintage as Charlotte or Beatrix.  Lilies are said to symbolize purity, and they’re associated with Easter.

Layer in lots of fictional Lilys – from Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart to How I Met Your Mother’s Lily Aldrin, and the name reads as an enduring choice for a daughter.

No wonder she’s so popular.

But there’s more than one way to get to Lily, from the names that come to mind immediately to some obscurities that might appeal.  While Lily stands on her own, there are tons of possible formal options for Lily.

Looking for a longer form?  Here are some possibilities.

Lily Names: In the Top 1000

Lilly, Lillie – Lily is the most common spelling today, but Lillie and Lilly both have a long history of use.  I’m fond of Lillie, as in Langtry – a nineteenth century actress turned royal mistress.

Lillian, Lilian – She’s quite close to lilium, the Latin word for lily.  But it isn’t clear that she evolved from the Latin.  Instead, she may be an elaboration of Lily – or she could be a short form of Elizabeth.  Medieval diminutives ending with -an for girls were not unknown.  Marian and Susan were in use, too.

Liliana, Lilliana, Lilyana, Lilianna, Lillianna, Lilyanna, Lillyana – She’s a logical elaboration of Lily and Lillian.  But oh dear, how do you spell Liliana?  They’re listed here from most common to least, but each of these seven alternatives currently ranks in the US Top 1000.

Lilith – She’s sometimes called Adam’s first wife, a contrast to the (initially) obedient Eve.  Things didn’t work out between Adam and Lilith, and the first couple went their separate ways.  Lilith comes from an Akkadian word referring to the night.  Depending on your reading, Lilith could be a demon.  Or she could be a symbol of strong women – think Lilith Fair – since most accounts agree she and Adam parted ways when she refused to be submissive to her husband.

Lilia – Drop the ‘n’ from Lillian, and we have a name perfectly in step with current trends, a Lily version of all of those ends with -ia names.

Lily Names: Tucked in the Middle

Delilah, Dalilah – The Plain White Tees made Delilah a hit.  You could easily get to Lily from Delilah.

Galilea – She’s been at the edges of the Top 1000 for the past decade, boosted by names like Gabriella and Leah.  While she’s far from common, can’t you imagine Galilea answering to Lily?

Lily Names: Not Quite Lily

English: Lillie Langtry (no date)

Lila, Lilah – They’re from Arabic or Sanskrit, names that mean dark or night – more Lilith than Lily.  There’s Lyla, too, but she moves even farther away from Lily.

Lilac – She’s got those same Lil- letters, but Lilac is a different botanical name, one that is much less expected.

Lilou – She’s huge in France, either a smoosh of Lily and Louise, or a nickname for longer Lily names.  Or is she an invention of Luc Besson for The Fifth Element?  She’s very popular in France at the moment.  She’s not really a formal name option, but I’m adding her this list anyhow.

Lily Names: The Imports

Liliosa – She’s a ninth century Spanish martyr saint, wearing an exotic Spanish spin on the familiar floral.  She’s much less expected than any of the Liliana spellings, and gives you the possibility of nicknames like Lola, too.

Lilias – Liliosa is the Spanish, and Lilias is the Scottish.  The spelling Lileas is also in use.

Liliane – And yet another international variation: the French Liliane.  It’s the given name of actress Leelee Sobieski.

Lilwen – Have you ever heard of Lilwen?  She’s Welsh, and marries the best of the Lily names with the Welsh Gwen and company.  She’s a smidge less daring than Arwen or Eowyn.

Lily Names: The Unconventional Options

Elizabeth – There are oodles and oodles of nicknames for Elizabeth, and while she’s not common, Lily does have some history of connection to the evergreen Elizabeth.  Sure, Libby and Liza, Ellie and Beth are far more familiar.  But none other than Queen Elizabeth II was known as Lilibet as a young girl.

Elinor – If Elizabeth can lead to Lily, why not Elinor?  The ‘li’ is right there, just as with Elizabeth.

Louella, Luella – The oo sound is so strong in this name that maybe Lily doesn’t work.  But the repeating L makes me think that it isn’t completely out-of-the-question.

Lilibet, Lilibeth – It’s a Lily-Beth smoosh, or a slimmed down version of Elizabeth.  Either way, if we can consider Lizbeth for a daughter, why not Lilibet?

Tigerlily – An unusual floral name, part-smoosh and part-bloom.  If you’re looking for a fierce spin on a girls’ nature name, Tigerlily might be the one.

Which is your favorite formal name possibility?  Are there others that I’ve missed?

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22 Comments

If I ever have another daughter I will name her Lily:) I’m a huge Munsters fan & would love a middle name meaning white.

I just don’t understand how anyone could use the name Lilith. Maybe I’m superstitious, but she was a demon that killed babies before she was ever Adam’s first wife (and people usually forget that part about the story/parody too), so why would you want to name your child after her. Honestly, anyone that considers the name should really check out http://feminism.eserver.org/theory/papers/lilith/ The author did a fantastic job at laying out when the demon first appeared in order and the culture around each text.

Another import is the Scandinavian Lillemor. It means literally “little mother”, but I’ve always liked the way it feels like a smush of Lilly and Eleanor.

I discovered Liliosa recently and I’m so in love with it, but something about it feels hard to pull off to me. I like the idea of it as a middle name to spice up a first name that’s a bit plainer, though. Jane Liliosa?

I love Galilea too. I think it’s so pretty. I saw that it had broken into the top 1000 in 2011, but I hadn’t realized that it was reentering and that it had been on the fringe for a while. It’s mostly used in the Spanish-speaking community, I think? It’s gorgeous.

Lilias/Lileas is one of those names that I always think should be more popular in the name nerd community than it is. Might just be me.

Many vampire stories incorporate Lileth into the history of how vampires came into being — most recently on HBO’s True Blood. That kind of kills the name for me. She was also Fraser Krane’s horrible, nasty wife on Cheers and then later on Fraser so I have never found the name appealing.
Although not quite a “Lily”, my mother-in-law’s middle name is Lelane (has a simiilar sound to some of the names feautured in today’s post) which I have never heard on anyone but her and have always meant to ask Nana where she got it from.