Poppy: Baby Name of the Day


Editor’s note: This post was originally published on May 21, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on July 29, 2013.

She’s a big hit elsewhere in the English-speaking world, but remains a rare bloom in the US.

Thanks to Elisabeth for suggesting Poppy as today’s Name of the Day.

Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz, when the Wicked Witch curses the field of flowers?  She’s plotting to keep Dorothy and friends from ever reaching Emerald City.  Can’t you just hear Margaret Hamilton cackling, Poppies … poppies will put them to sleep.”

Poppies are the source of opium, a powerful drug used in medicine – and also the source of heroin.  They’ve long been associated with rest, peace, and death.

The flower’s name is pretty straightforward.  In Latin, it is papaver.  In Old English, popæg.

It is tempting to link Poppy to Poppaea, an Ancient Roman name worn by a wife of Nero, among others.  But there’s no evidence to link the two.  Instead, Poppy seems to be just what she seems – a floral name, inspired by the vibrant flower most often seen in shades of red.

The US celebrates Veterans Day on November 11th, in honor of the day fighting stopped during the first World War.  (The treaty wasn’t signed for seven more months.)  It’s called Remembrance Day elsewhere in the English-speaking world, and the poppy is the flower associated with commemorating veterans and those who lost their lives in war.

Why this flower?  As the war ended, wild poppies grew in the fields where so many lost their lives.  Two poems cemented the connection: Canadian John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields and American-born Moina Michael’s We Shall Keep the Faith, a response to McCrae.

A handful of women were given the name in the US in the nineteenth century, and more in the early twentieth century.  Some might have worn Poppy as a nickname for a longer, formal name – I’ve come across at least one Greek-born Poppy.  Or they may have been influenced by British actress Elsie Mackay, who used Poppy Wyndham as a stage name, beginning in 1919.  1919 is the first year more than five American girls received the name.

Speaking of nicknames, there are plenty of ways to get to Poppy: Paula, Paulina, and Penelope all spring to mind.  I think Persephone, Coppelia and even Josephine could work, too.

But she can stand alone.  Notable bearers of the name include:

  • Australian actress Poppy Montgomery has sisters called Rosie, Daisy, Lily, and Marigold.  Her daughter is Violet.
  • Fictional characters abound, including EastEnders minor character Poppy Meadow and Harry Potter’s Poppy Pomfrey.
  • Jamie Oliver has a Poppy Honey Rosie, one of four nature-named children.  Anthony Edwards, Jessica Capshaw, and Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer all chose the name, too.

She’s a Top 20 choice in England, and almost as popular elsewhere in the UK and Australia.  But in the US, she’s never cracked the Top 1000.  That could change soon – while just ten girls received the name in 2002, 171 newborn Poppys arrived in 2012, putting her just outside the rankings.

If you’re crushed that Lily is so popular or worried that Azalea is too obscure, Poppy could be just the compromise – a bright, wearable botanical on the upswing, but still very much underused in the US.

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I’m always curious how people feel about this name which is so common in the UK, but nearly unused here. Personally I’m not the biggest fan, though I see why garden theme and sound repetition appeal to others. However, as others have said, I can’t get past the grandpa/dad association.

Poppy and the like for grandpa is very common slang where I live. I called my great-uncle Poppy, as did the rest of his grandkids. My little cousins on the other side of the family began calling their grandpa Pop all on their own because it’s just so easy to say — like papa. I’ve heard my brother affectionately call my father Pop as well. I call him Pops when I’m being a bit fresh. The list goes on and on for me. Many of my friends have similar experiences with the pet name. So to see it on a baby girl, or even a grown woman, throws me quite a bit. I think of the slang before the flower.

On the other hand, the flower and it’s WWII significance are both beautiful. I can definitely see why others are drawn to this name. It still seems quintessentially British to me though! I can’t imagine it picking up in the US — at least not in my community. Maybe the grandad slang is less common in other regions?

I’ve always wanted to like this name as much as I do Daisy and Violet, but like some mentioned above, I can’t shake the association with it as a grandpa nickname and, even more unfortunately, the infamous “Poppy peed!” line from Seinfeld. Sadly, not going to work for me.

I love Poppy. One of our top girls names is Penelope and I can never fully decided between Polly, Poppy and Penny. I usually lean towards Poppy, but Chris loves Penny. The only issue with Poppy for me is that my dad’s “grandpa name” is Pop Pop. And my parent’s neighbor’s dog’s name is Papi, lol. Not a huge deal obviously, but still something. The whole Papi thing (not the dog, just the word) bothers me more than anything. I grew up in a 90% mexican area and dads, grandpas, little boys and boyfriends are all regularly called Papi, I don’t live there anymore but my parents do and I often visit…

I’m naming my daughter Penelope and will probably use Poppy as her nickname. We are Greek, and in Greece the nickname for Penelope is Poppy. I think it’s very fitting and very cute and invokes images of a field of vibrant flowers.. much more refreshing than the overused Rose and Lily (IMO). I have gotten a less than enthusiastic response to this name though… with people referring to a “grandpa”. I think a Poppy as a flower or girls name is clearly different from “Pop” for a grandpa or “papi” as some of my Spanish friends have mentioned, but to each their own! I think I’ll stick with Poppy as I find it very cute and refreshing for a little girl, yet she’ll have the formal Penelope for when she’s older or wants to be seen as more serious.


The genus Papava, in a field of swaying corn,
Vivid against the ripened gold;
Or scattered randomly, along the hedgerows,
Petals at risk from the morning cold.

Symbollic of the gallant fighting forces
Alone, in the mud bogged trenches,
These scarlet heads sway in Summer breeze,
A jewel, beside rustic, roadside fences.


Hmmm, I don’t mind the name. I can understand it’s fresh, whimsical and simple appeal. It sounds joyous. Even though there is the funeral connotation- one can argue that it is a symbol of the life that someone lived.That it can be a face for vitality and vibrancy amidst the loss of someone and the drone of symbols. I view it more as a celebration, as opposed to something morbid

The name is one I prefer as a nickname, but I am one hundred % ok with it as a first. The name is HIGHLY popular in the UK. It’s popularity and consistent popularity at that, makes the name seem as accessible as Lily, Rose or Violet to me.

The teasing story that is always mentioned is that ‘I popped Poppy”; is def possible, but, the most innocent name like Jane or Isabella can be turned into a mockery.While I do think it is important to take into account how the child will be affected (more importantly the adult), I would rather focus on raising a child that can stand up for itself and treating people with dignity and not judging them by their name

I named my daughter Persephone and we use the nickname Poppy. It works really well. I wanted to just name her Poppy, but I couldn’t get my husband to go along with the idea.

I just love Poppy. I would definitely consider using it as either a nickname for one of my top contenders, Eponine, Pomeline, Persephone or Perpetua, or as a possible middle name option. I think Poppy can really spunk up a first name.

I can explain the connection between Margaret and Daisy. The name Margaret comes from margarita, the Greek word for daisy. So there you go.

I am a 20 year old (girl) from Sweden, my name is Lillielle.
In sweden there are only two people named Lillielle, and I would love to se more have my beautiful name. Do you know anyone named Lillielle? would like to know

kramar “Lillan”

Matilda Poppy Rae – that’s a GORGEOUS combo! And in the middle spot, it’s an unexpected shot, so the issue of whether or not a Poppy can be taken seriously as, say, a brain surgeon, is nicely sidestepped.

I have a real affection for names that end in y in the middle spot. Not sure why – and we actually haven’t gone that route – but I love them!

I absolutely adore Poppy. I may be biased, as it is my eldest’s middle name [Matilda Poppy Rae], but I love her zest and the reoccurring P sound is so enchanting to me!

Poppy may be set to spike on our shores, then – so often looking at the Top 50 in the UK is a good way to guess the next hot names in the US. You’re just a bit more fashion-forward than we are in this regard.

As for Lily – sigh. Add up the variants making the Top 1000 in the US in 2007 – Liliana, Lilianna, Lilliana, Lillianna, Lilyana, Lilian, Lillian, Lilia, Lily, Lilly and Lillie – there were 22,005 baby girls given this name. That makes it a Top Ten pick.

We’re living in a Garden of Girls these days.

I’m amazed that Poppy is not in the US top 1000 names because as Elisabeth noted, the name is incredibly popular in the UK. A friend of mine recently named her daughter Poppy as she was born on the aforementioned ‘Poppy’ day but I have to say that despite the obvious associations of this, I have never once linked the name to death (nor opium). It’s funny how people ascribe to a name such different connotations. For example – to me Holly is the least favourable of this name type as I cannot escape the image of a prickly, drab, winter plant.

The way I see it, (in the UK) Poppy like Daisy and Lily was seen as a natural, hippy cool, simple yet daring name to give your daughter 10-20 years ago but now seems a little ‘done’ and far too mainstream to be cool. To prove my point, the birth annoucement page in my local rag contained no less than 4 Lilys this week!

However, to my mind, the fatal flaw of these names is not their over-popularity but the ‘flimsiness’ that was mentioned above. Punchy, sweet and feminine they may well be, but they remain nicknames and can never transcend that status. For that reason, I adore your idea of using Poppy as a nickname for Penelope as much as I love the idea of Milly as nickname for the infinately more ‘proper’ Millicent….

I must admit, I am crazy about Poppy. Perhaps as a middle name or a nickname, but the triple P power and that orange-red color, not to mention that the poppies were in bloom in Provence when I was there, drives me wild. A little too wild, perhaps. The opium and heroine reference is not a great one, and I think a pre-teen could get terribly teased, so I too pause on this one.

Poppy is rated #28 in England for 2007.


I forgot about Uzi and Ari, LOL!

As for Miss Lillielle Jaidyn Maryssa – goodness, they packed every questionable naming trend onto one birth announcement, didn’t they? Well – she could’ve been called Lillielle Jaidyn Maryssa Destynii Savana, which would toss in misspelled noun names and place names, too. Wonder if they ran out of space on the form. 🙂

I like Uzi. It makes me think of The Royal Tenenbaums. Ari and Uzi are a great sib set, eh?

I saw a birth announcement for a Lillielle Jaidyn Maryssa a couple of days ago. It simply boggles the mind!

LOL at the seamy underbelly of baby names. Drugs, porn … time for a good name related to weapons. Gunnar, maybe? Uzi?

As for alstroemeria? I had them in my wedding bouquets. Maybe as a middle name. 🙂

I agree with you 100% on Lily – lovely but done to death. And Liliana, Lillianah, Lilyanna just crazes me. When you compare the stale Lily to the fresh Poppy – it sounds like quite the viable option.

Hey, if Maxim can make the list for boys with his own porn mag, Poppy can have drugs, right? 😉

I find it a fresh, English countryside sounding name. I’d love to hear it more than Lily right now. I’m so tired of Lily, even though it is such a pretty name and one of my favorite flowers. (I would never name a child Alstroemeria, which is my favorite flower!)