This post was originally published on March 22, 2010. It was substantially revised and re-posed on March 2, 2015.
Here’s another distinctive floral name, recently boosted by a television show baby.
Thanks to Lyndsay for suggesting Marigold as Name of the Day.
Marigold: Mary’s Gold
At first glance, Marigold might seem like yet another outlandish botanical name.
We’re all about blooms these days, from pan-botanicals like Florence and Blossom, to flower names like Lily and Azalea, to flowering trees, like Magnolia and Rowan. If it grows in the garden, it could be considered for a child’s name.
And yet Marigold is, in a subtle way, a spiritual name, too. It’s a contraction of the phrase “Mary’s gold.” While the Virgin Mary was poor as a church mouse in life, the golden flowers have long been associated with the saint. There’s even a great legend about Mary being accosted by a gang of thieves. When they opened her purse, marigolds fell out instead of coins.
That’s probably apocryphal, especially since the name marigold didn’t definitely attach to the flower until the 1300s.
All of this makes Marigold an offbeat elaboration of Mary, and a name with meaning beyond the garden.
Marigold: Victoriana to Today
I’ve seen Marigold listed as a flower name used by Victorians. The US Census records give us a smattering of girls by the name in the mid to late 1800s, so that feels right.
In the early twentieth century, two notable uses of the flower as a child’s name occurred, one real and one fictional:
- Winston Churchill and wife Clementine gave the name Marigold Frances to their fourth child, born just days after the end of World War I. Unfortunately, Marigold died of an illness when she was just three.
- Lucy Maud Montgomery penned Magic for Marigold in 1929. Her Marigold was a well-to-do farmgirl named after an aunt. The story details Marigold’s experiences growing up.
In the last fifteen years or so:
- Jean Ferris has written a young adult series about a Princess by the name. The first book is called Once Upon a Marigold, and the fourth installment in the series is expected soon.
- Rufus Wainwright’s “Rebel Prince” is about a girl named Marigold.
- In 2007, a Bollywood-meets-Hollywood musical/comedy/romance was titled Marigold. Ali Larter
played the main character, an American B-list actress stranded in Mumbai after a movie falls through. Instead, Marigold lands a role in a local flick and falls for the choreographer, played by Bollywood’s Salman Khan.
- Then came The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a 2012 movie about a group of British pensioners who chose to retire to a hotel in India for a variety of reasons. Based on a 2004 novel called These Foolish Things, the movie was enough of a success to inspire a sequel, in theaters February 2015.
While the name has never cracked the US Top 1000, 26 girls were given the name in 2013 – a new high.
Marigold: Downton Abbey
If you’re watching Season Five of Downton Abbey, there’s another little Marigold that will come to mind: Lady Edith’s secret daughter.
There’s no reason given for the choice of the name – at least, not yet. But it’s the kind of profile-raising exposure that could have more and more parents considering the name for their daughters.
With nicknames from Mari and Mary to Margo, Goldie, and maybe even Maggie, this is the kind of bold name that stands out and fits in. If you’re after a feminine name with meaning and strength, Marigold is one to consider.
What do you think of Marigold? Will the Downton Abbey association make this name more popular? Is Marigold the new Violet?