Floral names, a family tradition

I named this topic in a novelesque way because naming my baby due in spring has been a long and winding family saga a la “The Thorn Birds”. Floral names for girls have been a tradition in my husband’s family for generations and since the day we found out baby’s sex we’ve been trying to find a name that appeals to us both but that still honors this tradition, while also not being a repetition of names belonging to grandmothers, aunts, cousins and a niece. So far, the names we cannot use in the realm of flowers are Lily, Violet, Calla, Dahlia, Primula (I kid you not), Daphne, Iris and the simple but lovely, Rose.


We want something that is unique, packs a bit of punch, but that isn’t trying too hard in terms of uniqueness. We have debated the likes of Marigold but have decided that it’s far too cutesy. We’ve thought of using Camellia (a hassle, we’ve since learned, due to it being confused with Amelia, Camille, and even Camilla), Primrose (too prim and cutesy) and Xanthe, which I recognize is quite a stretch but has the hip and edgy feel I like in names, but isn’t at all something we imagine on our child.


We could really use some fresh ideas!


January 14, 2019 8:11 PM

Regulars here are probably familiar with my current obsession with the Greek -anthe- flower names, including Xanthe. The most familiar of these are probably Dianthe/Diantha (ultimately derives from something like "heavenly flower" or "god flower", now also the genus name for carnations and pinks) and Anthea ("flower"), if either of those appeal to you. Further afield (ahem) are names like Calanthe ("beautiful flower", a kind of orchid), Chrysanthe ("golden flower" = chrysanthemum) and Ianthe ("violet flower" = violets). Melantha and Iolanthe are literary coinages based on the -anthe model.

Moving from Greek to Latin and Romance languages, you could do something like Fleur or Flora or Florinda.

Other flower names with a strong history of use that aren't on your list here: Alyssum, Clover, Daisy, Heather, Hyacinth, Jasmine, Magnolia, Pansy, Poppy, 

There are also many, many specific flower names that are pretty name-y. You could just look through lists of actual botanical names to see if anything jumps out at you. Depending on your particular taste I could see names like Aster, Shasta (daisy), Trillium, Calliandra, Lotus, or Lobelia appealing.

January 15, 2019 2:51 AM

I once worked with a Diantha and I thought her name was a fantastic mixure of interesting and familiar/comfortable (thanks to the familiarity of Diane/a, which Diantha is separated from enough to make it not easily misheard). I've also met actual people named Azalea, Indigo, Zinnia, Briony, Acacia, and Hyacinth, and found all of them very comfortably settling into naminess, too, although some of them seemed very floral at first brush. Rosemary and Poppy are ones that were totally unsurprising to encounter as names. 

I've also enjoyed Jessamine, Pansy, Lavender and Myrtle in literary encounters, and all except for Myrtle seem like they'd wear well (Myrtle is only problematic because Moaning Myrtle, the Harry Potter ghost, is such a dominant association right now). 

Best of luck with a very exciting naming tradition!

January 15, 2019 8:56 PM

I really like the suggestions of Hyacinth, Flora, Anthea and Poppy, which I'll add to our 'for consideration' list. I love the 'anthe' sounds and 'th' in general, my choice for a baby boy would have been Theodore, though it's a lot more popular than I am comfortable with it's been an unwavering favorite for years, Theo for short. I worry whether using a 'thea' or 'anthe' name will render my boy favorite impossible to use in the future... Lots to consider.

January 15, 2019 10:10 PM

I dont think the anthe names would be a problem with Theodore.  Thea maybe depends on the name.  Yes if its Thea and Theo,  although I do know twins Janetta and Janette (pronounced Ja-net-ie

January 16, 2019 12:15 PM

You know, your comment about names for a baby boy made me wonder: are there good floral names for boys? I mean, yes, I get the whole societal association of flower = pretty = girl, and boy = please don't be delicate = stick to hard things, but I bet there's more to it from there, if you go by sounds.

Would names like Gladiolus, Jonquil, Oleander, Anther, Crocus, Arum work? This might be more in the realm of character naming than baby naming, but I bet there's some space here for it.

Otherwise, back to floral names for girls, Acantha, Salvia (or Sage... Sage would work on a boy, too, come to think of it), Erica, Cyrilla... I'm running out faster than I expected.

January 16, 2019 1:20 PM

Floral names for boys: Florian, Roosevelt, Anthony, Chrysanthos, Thales. (Anthony is floral by association only: it's a Roman name of uncertain etymology that was erroneously folk-derived from the Greek for "flower".)

January 16, 2019 2:53 PM

Cosmos is my favorite could-be-male flower name--it's floral and physics and metaphysics! I'd use it for a girl, too, but I think its similarity to Cosmo makes it read male very readily. (I probably wouldn't use Cosmo for a girl, because of the magazine association.)

January 17, 2019 10:05 AM

Do you pronounce it differently when you are talking about the flowers versus the universe? I'm not sure I've ever heard the flower name said out loud, but presumed it was like Cosmo with an added -s, so the last syllable sounds like the name Mo followed by -s, while I say Cosmos, the universe, sort of as though it ends with most but drops the T.

January 17, 2019 10:49 AM

I can't figure out the difference between those two pronunciations...

January 17, 2019 11:27 AM

I say the flower and the universe pretty much the same, with a long-O vowel in the second syllable and a soft-S at the end. I can imagine having more of a short-O or schwa vowel in the second syllable, and also having more of a hard-S/-Z at the end. In fact, if I pluralize Cosmo rather than thinking about cosmos as its own word I end up with a -Z sound at the end. (I think in British English the two vowels in cosmos are about the same—like the vowel in con and moss?)

January 16, 2019 4:03 PM

for a boy perhaps Jnquil, Arum and perhaps Oleander

others William, Florian,  Anthony, Briar, Alder, Bud, Cedar, Clem, Corey, Cypress, Elm, Indigo, Florent, Fiorello, Jared, Moss, Quill, Ren, Sage, Sorrell, Trevor, Watson, Yarrow, Aaron, Amit, Zayan

January 25, 2019 12:39 AM

The mythological Hyacinth was male.

January 25, 2019 3:38 AM

The Hyacinth in my in-law's family tree is also male. i was taken aback at first, but then discovered exactly what you write. Indeed a lot of legend to enjoy and it is very flamboyantly gay at that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyacinth_(mythology)

I would enjoy a film version please, along with that Hypatia biopic.

January 16, 2019 3:07 PM

I tend to agree with suzannembrown—I wouldn't be bothered by most of the -anthe names with a brother Theodore, but Anthea-called-Thea and Theodore-called-Theo would be too similar for me. If they're both going by full names or non-"The-" nicknames it's a bit more borderline. They still share a common stressed syllable, but they don't feel quite as similar as Michael and Michelle (real siblings I know) or Christopher and Christine (or Theodore and Dorothea), I think because they have different etymologies as well as different initials. Maybe you could practice saying "Anthea-and-Theodore" or "Theo-and-Anthea"—shouting it up the stairs, slipping it into conversation, etc.—and see whether it bothers you at all or if you like the repeated sounds.

With most of the -anthe/-antha names, the stress isn't on the "thee" part, so I don't think there would be nearly as much chance of Thea evolving as a nickname and the similarity to Theodore is much less obvious. Hyacinth and Theo(dore) would be a complete non-issue—it's the kind of connection that probably only you would notice, and could be a sweet tie between the siblings or something that never comes up.

January 14, 2019 8:33 PM

Jasmine, Delphine, Ivy, Daisy, Poppy, Lily, Marguerite, Nerida, Tiare, Melati, Leilani, Ione, Azalea, Acacia, Amaryllis, Aster, Briellen, Briony, Canna, Cassia, Ianthe, Calanthe, Evanthe, Fleur, Dalia, Hana, Heather, Florine, Jacinda, Jacinta, Jessamine, Indigo, Kalana, Lavender, Linnea, Liana, Lita, Lilac, Lillian, Amaranthe, Calantha, Crisantha, Danica, Fern, Fiorella, Gardenia, Holly, Iolanthe, Jolanda, Marigold, Peony, Phlox, Susan, Susannah, Verbena, Willow, Zinnia, Ren, Begonia, Blossom, Saffron, Clover, Sage, Olive, Sorrel, Fleur, Flora, Hazel, Aramantha, Yasmine, Alyssa, Erica, Tansy, Tulip, Lotus, Petunia, Viola, Eungenia, Elodie, Cyrilla, Blodwen, Ayanna, Fuchsia, Gilia, Ixia, Hyacinth, Manci, Ornelia, Zahara, Zesenia, Juniper

I love Camellia, Primrose and Xanthe


January 15, 2019 9:01 PM

Wow! What a list! Amaryllis is absolutely divine, I love it! Hadn't at all occurred to me... I also like the suggestions of Lavender, Viola, Heather, Gardenia, and Zinnia, though the latter is likely to need convincing. He's not a big fan of 'Z' names!

January 15, 2019 10:10 PM

maybe spell it with a X

January 15, 2019 10:50 AM

I won't attempt to find a floral name Suzanne might have missed, but will just say that a) redefining floral as botanical can open up a few more options, most obviously Rosemary and Ivy and b) it might sound further out on first encounter, but I knew a Lilac and thought her name was wonderful (as did she, as did everyone she met). 

Otherwise I'd probably start by identifying which flowers I liked best and seeing if any seemed acceptable names or moving the floral name to the middle now so you don't have further headaches with subsequent children down the line.

Any interest in Zinnia? It feels somewhat hip and edgy in the line of Xanthe.

January 15, 2019 9:03 PM

We thought of expanding our options to botanicals, but in general, I prefer the florals and husband's ok with that. It's just the matter of choosing that is a problem! I do love Zinnia for those reasons, but 'z' is a letter my husband isn't too fond of.

January 15, 2019 11:26 AM

My husband's nephew's wife's English name is Camellia, mostly shortened to Cam. (Her Chinese name is something completely different.) She hasn't mentioned having any trouble with it when she was at college in England. However, Camilla is also a floral name: it's the word for chamomile in many European languages.

Marigold does not strike me as cutesy. I'd file it with Juniper and Azalea: slightly unusual but not wholly unexpected floral/botanical names. On the hip and edgy end of this spectrum, I think of Lavender, Lilac, and Zinnia.

Any interest in the other direction: Margaret (or Marguerite) nn Daisy?

January 15, 2019 12:17 PM

My this may be a bit to cutesy for you. But my brothers wife loved flower names and they named thier two girls Cammomile (Whom we all call Milly) and Honeysuckle (whom we call Honey). When my nieces were born, I too was a bit wary that they would be a bit to different and sickly sweet. But the shortened versions make them more common but are still unique.

Or maybe you could just go for Flora? It is clearly a floral name and I didn’t see it on your list. I love the suggestions of Zinnia and Xanthe as well.


January 15, 2019 12:29 PM

Wow, people in your family sure do like to spell familiar names/words in unfamiliar ways, don't they. (Benjiman, Pheobe, Cammomile...)

January 16, 2019 5:37 PM

You can say that again! At this point it is actually incredible! My brother is Sybastian and my half sister is Ebenie! I think it’s more to the fact that no one really checked/realised they were spelt any differentry! And now most names are traditional. It is fun though (especially with Ebenie) to see people’s reactions when you tell them the actual name. When it came to naming Ben and I suppose Milly? We wanted to be just slightly more restrained.


By mk
January 15, 2019 5:16 PM

I know someone who goes by Amaranth (not her name, she just likes it) and I think it's pretty cool. I agree with you on Marigold, personally, but what about Amaryllis or Magnolia?

If you weren't limited to floral names, which does cover a pretty wide range, what names would you consider? I'd probably start with that and see if any floral names sound similar.

January 15, 2019 9:11 PM

The names I love and that are husband approved are Cleo, Phoebe, Eloise, Josephine, Zelda, Juno, Alice, and Cecilia, all of which are on the list for potential middle names and future daughters if we have them.  Thing is, I actually want a floral name and in several ways more than I myself expected at first, I've always been a huge fan of Violet, Lily, Rose and Iris, but now want a floral name that is a bit more outside of the box.

January 15, 2019 10:35 PM

I've seen Posey as a nickname option for Josephine-and it would technically be a twofer.   Juniper with Juno as a nickname would be another way to get a twofer.  Alice makes me think of Alyssa/Alyssum.

I don't think I've seen Linnea suggested yet.   I also like the idea of a "generic" flower name, something along the lines of Fleur or Flora.  Maybe Florence with Flora as a nickname?  I also thought of Blossom, but maybe it's still too associated with the TV show?


By mk
January 18, 2019 2:34 PM

I like the suggestion of Zinnia. It seems to be along the lines of what you like and are looking for, to me.

January 15, 2019 5:47 PM

Petal? But maybe not if you think Marigold is too cutesy (which I don't - to me it sounds quite distinguished and grown up).


I also see that Laelia is a type of orchid - that strikes me as a very usable name.

January 15, 2019 6:03 PM

I also thought immediately of Zinnia when reading your post so I'll add another vote for that. Whilst not floral Bryony and Hazel are not far removed and have a bit more edge than many flower names for me. I also have a Lilac in my extended family and while it's nms it might fit your unique-but-not-too-unique criteria. If your husband would be on board it might be worth pushing the theme a little (say to any botanical name or by putting the floral name in the middle spot), especially if you think you might have more children in the future. 

If you were not bound by the flower theme what girls names would be on your/your husband's list? That might help us think of names that fit your actual style better. 

January 16, 2019 5:08 AM

Here's a few I don't think have been mentioned...

Celandine, Belladonna (if you don't mind the deadly nightshade association), Jonquil, Forsythia, Betony, Senna, Rue, Wisteria

January 16, 2019 10:10 AM

I like NotAGuestAnymore’s suggestion of a two-fer suggested by: Josephine, nn Posey, or Juniper, nn Juno.

Of the many flower names already listed by others, I especially love Flora, Tansy, and Aster.

I had a coworker named Vinca, which I didn’t even know until then was a flower, but I thought it was beautiful.

By lulu
January 16, 2019 1:08 PM

Out of curiosity, how do y'all pronounce Zinnia? I love the name but haven't felt I could use it because I hear two different pronunciations. In the South, where I'm from, I hear ZEEN-ya, but I've heard others say ZIH-nee-uh.

January 16, 2019 1:37 PM

It's definitely three syllables, stress on the first one.

January 16, 2019 2:58 PM

I say it roughly ZIN-ee-uh. Definitely 3 syllables here.

January 16, 2019 3:12 PM

It's also definitely three syllables for me, but I put roughly equal stress on the syllables, I think (maybe a bit stronger on the second syllable). Something like ZIH-NEE-UH or Zin-NEE-Uh. I'm from the Upper Midwest, FWIW.

January 16, 2019 4:18 PM

3 syllables Zin e a

others Wisteria, Jacaranda, Cherry, Sharon, Gardenia, Plumeria, Laurel, Nerine, Maple, Plum,

boys Wolf, Ash, Jack, Hawthorne,

January 17, 2019 9:40 AM

The way I say it, an older person (hard of hearing and unfamiliar with today's wide variety in naming) would be most likely to mis-hear Zinnia as Cynthia, because the starting sounds are similar and the rhythm is the same.

January 25, 2019 12:30 AM

Personally I would say ZIN-ya.

January 24, 2019 1:37 AM

what a lovely tradition! names i would suggest are





















January 25, 2019 12:38 AM

Just because nobody has mentioned it, I'm going to bring up Eglantine.  (Any fans of Bedknobs and Broomsticks here?  "Eglantine, Eglantine, oh how you shine!")

Though it's not my taste, I've also run across suggestions of using Edelweiss as a name.

January 26, 2019 5:45 PM

Ok, so we now have a short list! Yay! We are deciding between Amaryllis, Zinnia, Viola, and Poppy, all of which I like a lot and my husband likes a lot. The addition of Poppy was surprising to me because I thought he would veto it for being too cutesy like Primrose of Marigold. Apparently, he thinks its spunky and cool and that if she turns out a redhead like my side of the family it will be extra "fun". I myself am leaning more towards Amaryllis or Zinnia while Viola we mutually love and think is our safe bet.

January 26, 2019 6:05 PM

Thta's great news! I do think there's quite a gap between Amaryllis and Poppy (with Zinnia and Viola nicely in the middle).

I wonder if Amaryllis would be likely nicknamed? Amy, Rilla, Mary, Marli - there's lots of possibilities, but it would lessen the floral connection. Something to consider.

I'm noever sure what to think of Poppy as a name because a lot of grandfathers here are called Poppy, so it seems a bit odd to me. That may not be an issue for you though.

I like both Zinnia and Viola a lot and either would be a lovely choice.

January 26, 2019 6:23 PM

I like them in this order  Zinnia, Amaryllis, Viola and Poppy

January 26, 2019 10:40 PM

That's a great list! I agree with your husband about Poppy sounding spunky---I think it's helped by its similarity to "peppy" and "pepper" and "pop" in that respect.

With Amaryllis and Viola in the mix, I'd have a movie night to screen The Music Man and Twelfth Night. Those are my two strongest associations with the name; I think both are pretty positive, and it might help to hear some people saying them. (Keeping in mind that people around you might not have the same accents as the actors.)

January 27, 2019 7:57 PM

That's a great short list! Zinnia is still my favourite as it's more unique within the family but I really like Viola as well (although I think of the instrument before the flower). Poppy is cute, and I agree with your husband it has spunk to it as well; it's probably lower down my list because it's in widespread use here (UK-it's at #8) so it doesn't feel as exciting to me. Amaryllis is nms but I do like the amount of nickname options it gives and it would certainly be more unique. 

Well done for cutting it down to a workable length list you're both happy with! You have a nice amount of time left to sit with them all and see if one emerges as a front-runner. 

January 28, 2019 1:07 PM

I agree with other commenters that you have a great short list, and you can't really go wrong with any of them. My vote is for Amaryllis, probably because I seem to have a thing for longer names, especially for girls. Zinnia comes in a close second, because I love the flowers. (They're a great plant in our area: they start flowering in June and keep going well into September, without me needing to do a thing with them after planting.)

February 13, 2019 4:54 PM

Of all the choices I love Zinnia! Maybe Zinnia Amaryllis or Zinnia Viola?

March 8, 2019 12:13 AM

I vote for Zinnia! 

January 29, 2019 11:24 PM

A wonderful multitude of names here, made for wonderful reading, everyone. I would add Nigella. :-)

OP, your short list is solid.

February 12, 2019 7:05 AM

I'm glad you've got it narrowed down a bit. This thread has some beautiful names and has got my wheels turning! 

Wisteria is beautiful. And I never thought of Gardenia, but I really like it! I believe gardenias are also called Tiare, which I see was mentioned earlier. They're related to tuberose and jasmine too.

Some other flowers I thought of: Syringa, hydrangea, hibiscus. Was hyacinth mentioned? Too bad mustard is named mustard, because the purple flowers on wild mustard plants are lovely. Plumerias are also called melia, and frangipani. That would be a bold choice!

Kamal means lotus. I have a neice named Glory, nicknamed Morning Glory. 

Now I'm really missing summer! Thanks for sharing all the gorgeous names!