Nature is waking up again! Let’s celebrate by checking out which nature names are the most popular for baby girls right now. Ironically the top 50 list below includes all the seasons except for “Spring,” but it does feature lots of springtime things: flowers, birds, trees…
For this list I stuck to names that are also correctly spelled English words. This means that I skipped names that are non-English words (like Stella and Luna) and alternative spellings of words (like Brooke and Briar). I should also mention that several of the above (including Rowan, Robin, and Clementine) do have more than one etymology to choose from.
Spring is here! Let’s celebrate with some flower names.
But let’s do something a little different. Instead of the same old suggestions, like Lily and Rose, let’s check out some relatively modern flower names that ultimately come from Latinized surnames (via genus names).
Here’s a list of 20. Most of these are rarely used for humans, so if you’re looking for an unexpected nature name for a baby girl, this is a good place to start.
Abelia flowers are white or pink, and usually scented. The genus Abelia is part of the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae).
Abelia was named for British surgeon and naturalist Clarke Abel (1780-1826). Clarke’s version of the surname Abel is likely based on the Hebrew name Abel, meaning “breath.” An identical German surname is based on a pet form of Albrecht, made up of elements meaning “noble” and “bright.”
Camellia flowers are white, pink, red, and sometimes yellow. The genus Camellia is part of the Theaceae family. Leaves of the species Camellia sinensis are used to produce tea.
Camellia was named for Czech Jesuit missionary and botanist Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706). The surname Kamel is derived from a word meaning “camel.” Camels are not endemic to Europe, but they were commonly used on house signs in central Europe during the later Middle Ages.
The baby name Camellia is currently ranked 2,597th.
Cattleya flowers come in a range of colors: purple, orange, white, yellow, etc. The genus Cattleya is part of the orchid family (Orchidaceae).
Cattleya was named for English merchant and horticulturist William Cattley (1788-1835). The first element of the English surname Cattley is based on either Catta, a personal name, or a word meaning “(wild) cat.” The second comes from the Old English word leah, meaning “woodland; clearing.”
The baby name Cattleya is currently ranked 1,684th. It was very rare until a character named Cataleya was featured in the 2011 movie Columbiana. The character’s name was based on the genus name.
Clintonia flowers are white, red, or green-yellow. The genus Clintonia is part of the lily family (Liliaceae).
Clintonia was named for U.S. politician and botanist De Witt Clinton (1769-1828). The English surname Clinton is based on one of two different place names. One place name was derived from Old English words meaning “enclosure, fence” + “settlement,” while the other means “Glyme (river)” + “settlement.”
Pronunciation: DAL-yah (first syllable can rhyme with “gal”, “doll,” or “dale”)
Dahlia flowers come in a wide range of colors. The genus Dahlia is part of the daisy family (Asteraceae).
Dahlia was named for Swedish botanist Anders Dahl (1751-1789). The Swedish surname Dahl is based on the Old Norse word dalr, meaning “dale, valley.”
The baby name Dahlia is currently within the top 1,000, ranked 719th.
Pronunciation: for-SĬTH-ee-ah or for-SĪTH-ee-ah (chiefly British English)
Forsythia flowers are bright yellow. The genus Forsythia is part of the olive family (Oleaceae).
Forsythia was named for Scottish botanist William Forsyth (1737-1804). The surname Forsyth is based on Fearsithe, a Gaelic personal name made up of the Gaelic words fear, meaning “man,” and sith, meaning “peace.”
Gardenia flowers are white or pale yellow and strongly scented. The genus Gardenia is part of the coffee family (Rubiaceae).
Gardenia was named for Scottish-born American naturalist Alexander Garden (1730-1791). The English surname Garden is based on an occupational name for a gardener. It ultimately comes from the Old Norman French word gardin, meaning “garden.”
Kerria flowers are bright yellow. The genus Kerria is part of the rose family (Rosaceae).
Kerria was named for Scottish gardener and plant hunter William Kerr (d. 1814). The Scottish surname Kerr is a topographic name referring to a patch of wet ground overgrown with brushwood. It ultimately comes from the Old Norse word kjarr, meaning “copsewood, brushwood, thicket.”
Magnolia flowers are fragrant and come in white, pink, red, purple or yellow. Because they predate bees and butterflies, they’re typically pollinated by beetles.
The genus Magnolia was named for French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715). The French surname Magnol may be based on either the Latin word magnus, meaning “great,” or on a French place name of uncertain derivation.
The baby name Magnolia is currently within the top 1,000, ranked 831st.
Monarda flowers are various shades of red, pink, and purple, and highly scented. The genus Monarda is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae).
Monarda was named for Spanish physician and botanist Nicolás Monardes (1493-1588).
Plumeria flowers (also known as frangipani) are very fragrant and come in several colors. The genus Plumeria is part of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae), like Allamanda.
Plumeria was named for French botanist Charles Plumier (1646-1704). The French surname Plumier is based on an occupational name for either a feather dresser or a plumber. The former occupational name ultimately comes from the Latin word plumarius, meaning “embroidered with feathers,” while the latter comes from the Latin word plumbum, meaning “lead.”
Zinnia flowers come in a wide range of colors (red, purple, orange, buff, yellow, etc.) and shapes. The genus Zinnia is part of the daisy family (Asteraceae), like Dahlia and Gazania.
Zinnia was named for German anatomist and botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759). The German/Jewish surname Zinn is based on an occupational name for a pewter worker or tinsmith. It ultimately comes from the Germanic word zin, meaning “tin, pewter.”
More recently, I discovered a set of all-girl quadruplets born in the Philippines in 1963, on New Year’s Day. They had similar names — Adelia, Bella, Celia and Dina. (Sadly, I don’t think any of them survived.)
Which set of alphabetical quadruplet names do you prefer? Why?
Source: “Quads Arrive; That Makes 10.” Miami News 2 Jan. 1963: 5B.
I’ve got a post on the top names in England and Wales scheduled for Monday, but until then here are a couple of “biggest changes” analyses. We’ll do the girl names today and the boy names tomorrow.
The tables below include two versions of each list. On the left are the top raw-number differences, taking all names into account. On the right are the top ranking differences, taking only the top 1,000 names (roughly) into account.
Biggest Increases in Popularity
Raw Numbers (all names)
Rankings (top 1,000)
Sienna, +586 babies
Reeva, +4951 spots
Eleanor “Elea” Nickerson of British Baby Names mentioned the rise of Reeva yesterday on Facebook, attributing it to Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend Oscar Pistorius allegedly murdered. That sounds like a good explanation to me. In fact, the murder early last year (and the ongoing news coverage) might explain why Oscar itself saw such a big increase in 2013.
Can you think of explanations for any of the other names? (Well, besides Khaleesi. I think we all know where that one comes from at this point.)
Biggest Decreases in Popularity
Raw Numbers (all names)
Rankings (top 1,000)
Amelia, -1491 babies
Gemma, -402 spots
Top Debut Name
Fewer than 3 baby girls got the name in 2012, but 21 baby girls were named Everly in 2013. Everley, Everleigh and Everlyn have been on the list before, but never Everly. (I only have the full England and Wales baby name lists going back to 2007, though.)