It’s a traditional symbol of luck, but would it bring good fortune to your daughter?
Thanks to Corinne for suggesting Clover as Name of the Day.
Lily and Rose are ladylike choices. Most botanicals, from the fashionable Violet to the dated Myrtle, are undeniably feminine.
Not so Clover. She’s more like Daffodil – plucked straight from the field and still a little wild.
The word was imported from Germanic, to become clafre in Old English, and eventually clover. But unlike Aven or Azalea, she’s not just an overlooked nature name. Clover also connotes luck, good fortune and spirituality, too:
- Four leaf clovers have been considered lucky since at least the sixteenth century. It’s even possible to find clovers with five or more leaves – some have reported eighteen, twenty-one or even twenty-seven leafed clovers;
- Various folk traditions attach meanings to the leaves, but the most powerful association is with the regular ol’ three-leaf version, also called a trefoil. Saint Patrick is said to be the first to link the three leaves of a clover to the Holy Trinity;
- Shamrock is Irish for little clover, so clover is also a symbol of Ireland – though almost comically so;
- The expression “in clover” dates back to at least the eighteenth century. It means something like financially set, prosperous. That’s most likely because clover makes the livestock fat.
Clover is common, found from the mountains to the tropics. Besides pigs and cattle, butterflies lunch on clover, too. Some species – there are 300 – flower.
You’re more likely to trip over a four leafed clover than to meet a woman answering to the name. Clover has never ranked in the US Top 1000. The two notable uses are both fictional, and separated by more than a century:
- On the heels of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – a literary blockbuster in 1868 – Susan Coolidge wrote What Katy Did. The 1872 novel tells of Katy, a tomboy transformed to an invalid after an accident. Katy’s little sister is Clover;
- 2006’s The Good Shepherd starred Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie in a work of semi-historical semi-fiction about the establishment of the CIA. Jolie plays Clover, the wife of Damon’s character, but in her case Clover is a nickname. She’s actually Margaret – and the story’s no fairy tale.
If you do find Clover on your family tree, there’s a chance it will be a surname. Nineteenth century medical pioneer Dr. Joseph Clover was an innovator in the field of anaesthesia. There’s also modern day poet Joshua Clover.
Most suggest that Clover isn’t about the green and leafy, but about cleavers or possibly cleves. In the first case, that makes Clover an occupational surname for someone who split boards; in the second case, a geographic name for someone who lived near a cliff.
Clover seems like a longshot. Except that she does meld the sounds of Top Ten Chloe and rising star Piper. She’s frills-free, sprightly and unusual without being outlandish. Weighed down with a more substantial middle name, Clover might just wear well.
Just don’t name her brother Crimson.