Flower Etymologies For Your Spring Garden

22 May 2024
any of a genus taraxacum of yellow flowered composite herbs with milky sap especially one sometimes grown as a potherb and nearly cosmopolitan as a weed

Though widely considered a pesky weed, the name dandelion has a majestic meaning: it comes from Anglo-French dent de lion which literally means "lion's tooth" because of the toothed shape of the ends of its petals.


The name for this delicate flower is deeper than it seems: the word pansy is related to the word pensive. It comes from Middle French pensée meaning "thought," from the past participle of penser "to think," and ultimately from Latin pensare "to ponder."


Borrowed from Greek azaléā, the feminine of azaléos, azalea means literally "dry, parched, withered." Apparently this flowering shrub was given its name because of its ability to thrive in a dry climate.


What is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of the soft, fluffy flowers called carnations? Probably not flesh. But the word carnation actually comes from Middle French, from Old Italian carnagione, from carne meaning "flesh." It is related to words like carnage and carnivore. Why is a flower named after flesh? Because of the fleshy hues of some varieties.

any of a genus tulipa of eurasian bulbous herbs of the lily family that have linear or broadly lanceolate leaves and are widely grown for their showy flowers

The name of the cup-shaped tulip comes from the Turkish word tülbent which means "turban." The flower got its name from the resemblance of its overlapping petals to the folds of fabric in a turban, a headdress worn chiefly in countries of the eastern Mediterranean and southern Asia.


Daisy is from Old English dægesēage, from dæg meaning "day" and ēage meaning "eye." This is because the flower opens or "wakes" in the morning and closes or "sleeps" at night. The ray-like appearance of the daisy as it wakes and sleeps with the sun reminds one of an eye that opens in the morning and closes at night.


The name of this frondy flowerless plant comes from Old English fearn which is related to a Sanskrit word parṇa meaning "wing," probably from the shape of its fronds.

shrubs having opposite leaves and showy clusters of usually sterile white pink or bluish flowers

The hydrangea, a popular flowering shrub, gets its name not from the shape of its flowers or leaves, but from the shape of its seed pods: from Greek hydr- meaning "water" and angeîon meaning "vessel, container," the name refers to the cup-like capsules that hold its seeds.


The calendula, a plant in the daisy family, probably gets its name from Italian calendola "the plant Calendula officinalis," from calenda "first day of the month" because it blooms monthly. Another name for the calendula is marigold which comes from Middle English Mary (mother of Jesus) and gold, in recognition of Mary, and for the golden color of the flowers.

Photo: Getty Images

The pretty petunia with its trumpet shaped flowers gets its name from the Tupi word petí̵ma which means "tobacco." While petunias are ornamental and the tobacco plant is grown for its leaves, the two plants are botanically related.

a plant with long pointed leaves and large blue or yellow flowers

The word iris is borrowed from Latin īrid-, īris "rainbow," borrowed from Greek meaning "rainbow, iridescent halo around the moon." The etymology of this word is for both the flower and the colored part of the eye.