Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Top Ten Floral Names For Baby Girls

In Victorian England, beginning around the middle of the 19th century, little girls were routinely named after flowers. The flowery nature of that era – which gave rise to countless Violets, Hyacinths, and even little Buttercups – extended into the early 20th century, after which time, both in England and the United States, floral baby names faded from sight almost completely.

In the England of the Industrial Revolution, perhaps as a way of maintaining a connection with a fast-disappearing natural landscape, house plants were introduced into homes, and floral names were bestowed on girls. Names such as Blossom, Dahlia, Marigold, Primrose, Posy, Poppy, and even Daffodil, are all recorded in the authoritative Dictionary of First Names, by Hanks and Hodges, as having been popular girls' names in Victorian England. Their popularity extended beyond the turn of the century, and a few, such as Poppy, stayed in vogue even until the 1920s. After that time, the use of floral names tapered off considerably. The most notable exception is the name Heather, which was not really a Victorian favorite, but surprisingly, was extremely popular in the United States in the 1970s through the 1980s.

Today, while floral baby names are still unusual, they retain a special niche, and in some cases are enjoying a resurgence. In the past year alone, at least five celebrities have used the name Rose for their daughters. Inexplicably, as if they liked the name "Rose" but lacked confidence in their choice, the name was used each time as a middle name! The actress Anna Gunn, of HBO's Deadwood; the English soccer star John Terry; singer Melissa Etheridge; actor Jon Favreau, and comedian Jon Stewart all bestowed the name Rose as a middle name on their newborn daughters.

This list of today's top ten floral names is based for the most part on data from the Social Security Administration's Baby Names website. The number ten name, Marguerite, is ranked number ten based on its most recent census ranking, because like many floral baby names, it does not appear on the Social Security Administration's top 1000 list, and thus its exact ranking is not known.

The list is a purely floral list, meaning the names that appear are either the names of flowers, or have a close association with a floral term. Specifically, the list does not include any of the beautiful baby names that are actually plants, shrubs or trees – names such as Holly, Willow, Juniper, Fern, and so on. Beautiful as these names are, they do not truly belong on a baby names list based on flowers.

As of 2005, the top ten floral baby names in the United States, in order of popularity, are:

Jasmine Lily Daisy Heather Rose Iris Violet Rosemary Yolande Marguerite

If Rose is the hot new middle name, there are four other names in this list that are increasing in popularity. Daisy, Jasmine, Lily, and Violet have all become more common in the last decade or so. In the case of Daisy and Violet, it represents a return to an earlier popularity: both were in the top 100 girls' names in the United States a century ago. The names Jasmine and Lily are extremely popular in the U.S. today, and may just connote a new interest in the rich choices of floral baby names.

Neil Street is co-publisher of Baby Names Garden, a website dedicated to helping prospective parents choose a baby name. He has written about floral baby names and many other aspects of baby naming, including popularity and trends. He is also the editor of the Celebrity Baby Names Blog.

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