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. My daughter is a Dahlia, and we named her precisely because of Anders Dahl. I wanted a flower / nature name, but my husband wanted to continue what we started when we named our son Isaac – naming the kids for scientists. Anders Dahl is a Swedish botanist who worked under Carl Linnea, so the flower named for him provided exactly the solution we needed.

  2. I’d have to agree that Dahlia and Dalia are pronounced differently. I much prefer Dahlia, sounds dark and mysterious. Dalia sounds like it would fit it with loads of names, while Dahlia just has a more unique sound to it, it sticks out.

  3. I loved the name Dahlia when I was 12-14; I thought it was so pretty and unique. I don’t like it as much now, though, because the H makes it seem a bit affected. It’s the kind of name I would love to hear on other people’s kids, though.

  4. I’ve never really warmed to the Dahlia spelling. I prefer Daliya or Dalia. Ditto chaneltara on the pronunciation.

  5. I really love Dahlia, and have flirted with it in combos for years. I adore the nickname Dolly, so cute! I say it kind of in between DAHL-ya, and da-LEE-ah, more like dolly-uh. I think it’s beautiful!

  6. Two little girls is not enough to make me remove this from the list 😆 It would have to make it to the TOP 100 before I consider doing that 🙂