baby name IrisThe baby name Iris traveled from ancient myth to the garden by way of a rainbow.

Our Baby Name of the Day was inspired by this list.


Long before the baby name Iris bloomed among the garden of botanical girl names, it belonged to a goddess.

Iris means rainbow in Greek, and in ancient myth, the name belonged to a messenger. She traveled via rainbow, bridges that connected the otherworldly realms to the land of mere mortals. Homer and Euripides mention her, and artists depict Iris as a young woman with wings.

In Spanish, arco iris means rainbow today. And the English word iridescence – familiar to any child who has ever marveled at the shiny surface of a soap bubble – comes from the same root.

And yet, a rainbow isn’t necessarily the first image that comes to mind.


For many, the baby name Iris brings to mind a blue-violet flower.

Vincent van Gogh painted the world-famous Irises in 1889. (Though actually, he painted several works featuring the flowers late in his life.)

While the flowers come in many colors, the blue-violet hue is cemented in our minds – at least in part thanks to the artist. We’ve only used it as a color name since the 1910s.

In fact, it’s possible that the flower is called an iris because it comes in so many shades of the rainbow.

You might also think of our eyes. The iris refers to the colored part, which again, varies from person to person. Still, the association with our eyes somehow makes the baby name Iris a little more than a simple nature name.


For years, the baby name Iris felt steady. It has ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since the list began in 1880. But most of the time, it fell somewhere in the 200s, 300s, or even 400s. We all recognized Iris as a given name, but we weren’t using it – not really.

But lately, that’s all changed. As of 2019, the name reached #129 – a new high.

With names like Isabella and Isla, Lily and Violet in the US Top 100, perhaps the baby name Iris is poised to join them?


One more factor explains the rise of Iris.

In 1998, Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan starred in a romance with a supernatural side. It’s called City of Angels, and it was a modest success.

But the title song? The Goo Goo Dolls recorded “Iris” for the movie. But Meg Ryan’s character wasn’t Iris; her name was Maggie. Goo Goo Dolls lead singer Johnny Rzeznik borrowed the name from country singer Iris DeMent, after seeing her name in a magazine.

It’s completely random.

But the numbers suggest that the song – which has remained in rotation ever since the movie’s release – inspired parents. In 1997, the baby name Iris ranked #506. It’s climbed steadily nearly every year since.


For every Daisy, there’s an Iris.

Both are florals, and undeniably pretty. But while Daisy seems fresh and innocent, Iris conveys strength and intelligence.

Maybe it’s the more tailored sound of Iris.

Or maybe it’s due to figures like writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. (Kate Winslet played her in a 2001 biopic.)

And perhaps the soaring lyrics to the hit song layers on some depth. Maybe.

Overall, the baby name Iris balances so many qualities – it’s vintage, but modern. Familiar, but not too common. All of the associations feel pleasing and positive. And it’s the kind of name that feels just right for a daughter, but every bit as appropriate for a woman of accomplishment.

Would you consider the baby name Iris for a daughter?

First published on June 12, 2008, this post was substantially revised and re-posted on February 18, 2013 and again on December 10, 2020.

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. Ha! You make me laugh, Abby! I was just now thinking about how I names are a trend lately and it would be cool to make a list of those names, including Isabella, Ivy and Isla and of course Iris. But then I thought asking for a post on Iris would be weird coming from me lol And then I see this post 🙂

  2. I am of Romanian origins (and citizen 🙂 ) and my hubby is British-Cypriot. When I found out that I’m pregnant, I instantly came with a girl’s name: Iris (as Ee-r-ee-s). I’ve loved this name since ever. We wanted to choose something to embrace all her cultural heritage, to sound good in either Romanian, English or Greek language. And I am very happy and proud with our choice. We haven’t met another Iris yet, though is a Greek name and we live in Cyprus. Sometimes people refer to Irene with nickname Iris, but I really and truly don’t see/get the connection. So, sweet little names that we use for our daughter, are: Lyris, Irisuli

  3. I met a 4-year-old Iris around Christmas time. She was the child of friends of a friend. I was excited to meet a child with a name you don’t hear often.

    The other flower name I really like is Dahlia. It is often used in Hispanic and Middle Eastern cultures.

  4. One of my cousin’s twins has the middle name Iris… personally I prefer it up front, but it makes a smashing middle name. I can see why some people might prefer the peppy Lily or Poppy, but I think its the serious and grownup vibe of Iris that I like best.

  5. I think Mavis cd make a comeback! Love Iris and the rainbow connecting the realms! We thought of both Irene and iris for our first, but named her Ivy. She’s nearly 10 now.

  6. Iris is another one we considered for our daughter – it’s my mother’s favourite flower and my husband liked the rainbow goddess thing, and I liked its short simplicity. It works well in both French and English and is currently trending upward both in France and the US.

    Ultimately I found it a little too “old lady” for my taste, and now that my daughter is here I feel it wouldn’t have suited her very well. I do wonder if other -is names will come back into vogue – Phyllis, Doris, Mavis and Chloris don’t seem ready for a comeback, but maybe Lois will follow Eloise up the charts, and Avis will follow Ava? I guess we shall see. Lovely Greek names like Themis and Thais are charting upwards in France and I’d love to see them become more mainstream here.

  7. Ah! Why did i never think of this? Right this minute I’m reading a book called the Ugly Stepsister, about the sisters in Cinderella, told from the perspective of Iris, who is apparently one of the stepsisters. My mom’s favorite flower was the iris. She has passed away, and I’m not planning to use her name for future children, but everyone that knew her associated irises with her.

  8. Iris is my favorite flower and Iris is also my partner’s grandmother’s name- so there’s a strong likelihood we would use it if we had a daughter. But there’s something about it that is perhaps a little too on the stern side for me. Maybe because I have only known older (70-80 yr old) women named Iris.