There’s Violet and Iris, Lily and Rose. So why not this botanical pick?

Thanks to Sophie for suggesting Dahlia as Name of the Day.

At first glance, Dahlia seems like a straightforward floral appellation. The perennial got her name courtesy of Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. Dahl didn’t name the bloom himself – instead, the director of a Madrid garden christened them in the 1800s, shortly after Dahl’s death.

Anders tripped over his future namesake in Mexico. Three dozen species flourish throughout Central America; oodles of hybrids have been cultivated. The Aztecs grew them back in the day.

As a name, Dahlia has something of a Victoriana vibe. In the early 20th century, British author P.G. Wodehouse bestowed the name on a character in his Jeeves and Wooster series. Dahlia Travers is Bertie Wooster’s “good aunt,” though she still manages to get him into all sorts of scrapes, often involving a sterling silver cow creamer. (You’ll have to read the series to understand – and to appreciate Jeeves’ ability to unravel a sticky situation.)

While dahlias come in many shades, there’s no such thing as blue – even today, the color does not appear in the official classification charts of The American Dahlia Society. And so the phrase “blue dahlia” means something impossible. In 1946, Raymond Chandler penned The Blue Dahlia, a film starring Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd. Lake plays a character called Joyce – the Blue Dahlia is a nightclub.

There’s also an Arabic and Hebrew name that’s just one letter different: Dalia. She’s still botanical, but in this case, Dalia is related to the word for a grapevine or olive branch.

One more Dalia of note: in Lithuanian mythology, Dalia is a goddess, associated with weaving and, naturally, fate.

Regardless of source, the common English pronunciation is DAHL yah. But drop the “h” and a few sources will suggest the three-syllable da LEE ah.

All of this makes for a sweet little floral moniker, with a nicely pan-global vibe and a sort of British gentility all at once.

But then there’s the Black Dahlia. And all of a sudden, this simple flower leans Goth.

While she wasn’t known by the name in life, the ill-fated Elizabeth Short is remembered to history as the Black Dahlia, the victim of a gruesome, unsolved murder from 1947 Los Angeles. The nickname was apparently a play on the Raymond Chandler movie title. While it is tempting to dismiss the reference as old news, the most recent film version of the story was just 2006.

Dahlia would be right at home with our gardens of girls. She’s a bit fussier than Lily and frillier than Violet. The nickname Dolly makes her wearable for even a small child. (Though the spelling is a stretch.) And while she appears in the US Top 1000, she’d only reached as high as #745 in 2008. Variant Dalia stood at #920. So while she could climb, for the moment, she’s still underused.

Dahlia is pretty, polished. sophisticated and surprisingly dark. It’s an interesting option for a daughter.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I hope this doesn’t become popular. That would be a real bummer. Another name that I would have to take off my list, like Violet, Sophia and Isabella over the the years 🙁

  2. I love the nickname Leelee!

    Elisabeth, two Dahlias? That makes me think that Sebastiane might well be removing it from her list any second now …

    And yes, Mookie – link away! I’ll return the favor as soon as I have a sec. I think I’m supposed to be working! 😉

  3. I really do like this name a lot — It’s one of those floral names that doesn’t sound like a floral name, you know? I still prefer Talia, or, even better, Tallulah. (I’d like to suggest Tallulah and Romilly for NoTD, if they haven’t been used already.) May I add you to my blogroll?

  4. I like Dalia. Love the Lithuanian goddess and flower reference. I prefer the unrelated Delia (deel-ya) though. I strongly dislike the h in Dahlia though. It ruins it for me. I’ve been seeing Dahlia/Dalia (mostly Dahlia) alot on Y!Answers, so I’m shocked to see that it’s so rare.

    I’d pronounce it Dahl-ya.

  5. I really enjoy saying Dahlia. It’s melodious and refined, yet not over-the-top. I know two infant Dahlias. The first one caught me pleasantly off guard, but now I expect to keep meeting more.

    I must say though, knowing that the flower was named after a guy named Dahl in the 19th century somewhat detracts from the name for me. The history just isn’t as long as I would like, Dalia notwithstanding. Perhaps I’ll stick to recommending another favorite, Thalia.

    Still, it’s gorgeous.

  6. Dahlia is pretty. That it is rare is one of its main attractions. I’m looking forward to seeing it rise just a tad in popularity.

  7. I adore this name. I love the Lithuanian goddess connotations and the floral ones. It has such a rich, exotic sound. I think its just beautiful to the ears.

  8. I had a great aunt named Dahlia. But for reasons I’ll never understand everyone called her (and she called herself) what sounded like “Day-ya”. I think Dahlia is lovely, and I would certainly pronounce it DAHL yah.

  9. I too love this name. I’ve also had the pleasure of knowing a Dahlia as a kid. She was a lovely girl, we went to school together for two years. I also know an Indian Dalia and she does say dah-LEE-ah. Sounds so pretty when she says her name.

    I think Dahlia’s sweet, lush and rich. Exotic too, as Sebastiane noticed. Absolutely lovely. Beats Violet in my book for ladylike prim too, just lovely. The Luthianian connection is an awesome one and I really hope with the floral craze that’s still growing, Dahlia shows up in my “garden” sometime soon. It’s one of the few florals that doesn’t hang in my tree and I toy with the idea of using it, to add it to the tree, when I can. I’d call a Dahlia of mine Leelee or even just Lia.