Thanks to Lyndsay for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
FROM THE GARDEN
If there was nothing more to the baby name Marigold than flower power status, it would still be rising in popularity. Names like Azalea and Dahlia are racing up the popularity charts, after all. Trees and herbs are big, too.
Nearly anything growing in the garden has potential.
So at first glance, Marigold just fits in with this bigger trend – a flower that sounds sufficiently like a girl’s name to capture parents’ attention.
But it turns out that the name Marigold has all sorts of meaning.
The name’s English origin is a contraction of the phrase “Mary’s gold.”
While the Virgin Mary was a humble, ordinary woman in the stories about her life, the golden flowers have long been associated with the saint. Marigolds were placed by her statue, symbolizing her golden crown. Legend tells about a time Mary was accosted by a gang of thieves. When they opened her purse, marigolds fell out instead of coins.
Of course, the name marigold didn’t definitely attach to the flower until the 1300s. In Old English, it was simply called golde.
All of this makes Marigold an offbeat elaboration of Mary, and a name with meaning beyond the garden.
MORE than MARY
Marigolds are also strongly associated with the sun, particularly in Hinduism.
The Aztecs used them in religious ceremonies. That’s probably why they’re such significant flowers for Dias de los Muertos celebrations today.
They were used for medicinal purposes in the ancient world. By the Victorian era, they were a flower more strongly associated with mourning and remembrance.
These many meanings reflect how common marigolds are across much of the world.
While the baby name Marigold has never been particularly common, it’s not unknown.
The US Census records give us a smattering of girls by the name in the mid to late 1800s, and it often appears on lists of Victorian flower names.
The early twentieth century gives us two notable uses.
Winston and Clementine Churchill named their fourth child Marigold Frances. She was born just days after the end of the first World War. Sadly, she died of illness at the age of three.
A few years later, Lucy Maud Montgomery penned Magic for Marigold. The 1929 story was about a farmgirl named after an aunt. The story details Marigold’s experiences growing up.
MORE RECENT MARIGOLDS
Marigold has slowly been attracting more and more attention over the last two decades.
- Jean Ferris has written a young adult series about a Princess by the name. The first book is called Once Upon a Marigold. Sequels followed.
- 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 star 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 2015 sequel.
Then came Downton Abbey’s fifth season. Warning: spoilers ahead.
After hiding her secret pregnancy, middle Crawley sister Edith gives birth to a daughter. She names her Marigold. Instead of giving her up for adoption in Switzerland as originally planned, she brings her to Downton, and persuades a local farmer and his wife to take her in. But Edith can’t bear to be parted from her daughter.
Drama follows, but there’s ultimately a happy ending.
The show never reveals why Edith chose the name, but the Crawley family also includes the imposing Violet and cousin Rose, so Marigold fits right in.
BY the NUMBERS
How common is the name Marigold?
As of 2021, it had never cracked the US Top 1000.
In 2014, the year we learned Edith’s daughter was named Marigold, 30 girls received the name. By 2016, that number increased to 93 births.
As of 2021? 247 girls received the name.
It’s a significant leap, enough to suggest Marigold might join the Top 1000 popularity ranks soon.
If the popularity of the name Marigold increases, it won’t only be thanks to the TV show.
The nickname Goldie is another draw – and Goldie is an increasingly popular name, too, recently returning to the US Top 1000. It can also be shortened to Mari or Mary, Margo, and maybe even Maggie.
Parents who love Violet and Daisy and Juniper might be interested in finding even more bold botanical names. The baby name Marigold fits right in.
Factor in additional meanings and significance, as well as a famous fictional character that puts the baby name Marigold on parents’ radar, and it’s easy to imagine this floral name will continue to flourish.
What do you think of the baby name Marigold?
This post was originally published on March 22, 2010. It was revised and re-posed on March 2, 2015 and again on May 3, 2023.