She’s a refreshing twist on a tired botanical.

Thanks to Corinne for suggesting Jessamine as Name of the Day.

Jasmine is a Disney princess. Her heyday was the 90s, following the release of Aladdin, but she remains in the Top 100 throughout the English-speaking world. She’s also inspired creative coinages aplenty like Jazzmin, Jaslyn and Jaslene.

Nouveau variants aside, Jasmine remains as wearable a floral as Lily or Rose.

Thanks to Rita Hayworth’s daughter Yasmin Aga Khan, British-Iranian model Yasmin Le Bon and Baywatch-alum Yasmine Bleeth, the Arabic versions of the names are also familiar in the US and can be found in the Top 1000.

Jessamine remains the rarest bloom. The Arabic yasmin or yasamin became jessemin in medieval French, and eventually jasmin in French and jasmine in English. Jessamine held on as a sometimes-given name, along with Jessamy and Jessamyn, but none of the three were ever common. One notable bearer was the writer Jessamyn West, a California Quaker remembered for her 1945 novel The Friendly Persuasion – and for sharing a family tree with Richard Nixon.

Like many a flower, jasmine has meanings attached. The Victorians attributed different meanings to different colors of jasmine. White signified amiability; yellow meant grace. The blooms have meanings elsewhere in the world, too:

  • Jasmine is the national flower of the Philippines and Pakistan;
  • Damascus, Syria is known as the City of Jasmines;
  • They’re used in wedding ceremonies in Indonesia;
  • India and Thailand are big on jasmines, too.

Strictly speaking jessamine refers to cestrums, while jasmine is a different plant. Both have much in common and share etymological roots, so unless you’re a botanist – or trying to grow cestrums in northern climes – you can forget that fact. You won’t find a cestrum in the UK, though you’re slightly more likely to find a Jessamine there.

Jessamine straddles Europe and the East, and also offers a satisfying mix of the feminine and the tailored. If Madeline and Caroline are too common for your tastes, Jessamine might offer an alternative. She’d also work well in the middle spot. And Jessamine is far more interesting than fading 80s favorite Jessica.

Choose this for your daughter and she’ll have nickname options aplenty, including:

  • Tomboyish Jessie or Jess;
  • Even Sam could be pulled out of Jessamine, though it is a stretch;
  • Girlier options include Mina/Minna and Jessa.

The pronunciation is often listed as JESS ah meen, but in the US, you’d probably hear JESS ah min.

Perhaps the only issue for parents seeking an underused gem is the possible perception that Jessamine is a modern creation, a mash-up of Jessica and any of the ends-in-ine choices. Choose the Jessamyn spelling and the name appears even closer to Jazlynn.

If that bothers you, there are plenty of other choices to consider. But Jessamine truly is an elegant, little used choice that bridges the East and the West, the modern and the medieval.

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. When I was young, I read a Sweet Valley Twins book about their family past, “coincidentally” full of twins. One of them was a Jessamine. I loved the name then and I still think it’s beautiful. I don’t care for Jess or Jessie as nicknames, but I like the old west like quality of Jessamine. I can see an old saloon girl going by Jessamine. Am I the only one who remembers this book? I would say circa 1994?

  2. There’s also a quirky (not in a funny way, but in an unusual way) young adult book called The Strange Night Writing of Jessamine Coulter, with a protagonist named Calamine (after the lotion). It’s a good book but prevented me from liking the nickname Callie or Jessamine.