Spotlight on: Lily

Months ago one of you asked me via email if I would do a spotlight on Lily, and I’m delighted to oblige today!

There’s so much to say about Lily! First: the flower. The lily is a gorgeous flower, and a gorgeous flower name; as such it can fit in well with other nature-y names from Rose and Heather to River, Willow, and Sage. I love versatility! The lily flower also has a bunch of faith connections — according to this site they include:

The lily is a symbol of purity, and has become the flower of the Virgin. Originally, in Christian symbolism, the lily was used as the attribute of the Virgin Saints. The lily among thorns has become a symbol of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin because of the purity she preserved amid the sins of the world.  The Annunciation, is very much associated with lilies. In many of the scenes of the Annunciation executted [sic] during the Renaissance, the Archangel Gabriel holds a lily, or a lily is in a vase between the Virgin and him. Thus, the lily is also an attribute of the Saint Gabriel.
 
Sometimes the Infant Christ is represented offering a spray of lilies to a Saint, symbolizing the virtue of chastity. As a symbol of chastity, the lily is the attribute of several Saints, among them St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clare, and St. Joseph. The fleur-de-lis, a variety of lily, is the emblem of royalty. A fleur-de-lis was chosen by King Clovis as an emblem of purification through Baptism, and this flower has since become the emblem of the kings of France. This is why the flower is the symbol of St. Louis of France and St. Louis of Toulouse, both members of the royal house of France. The fleur-de-lis was also the emblem of the city of Florence. As an attribute of royalty, the fleur-de-lis appears on crowns and sceptres of kings and Saints, and is given to the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven.

… The lily of the valley is one of the flowers that signals the return of spring. For this reason it has become a symbol of the Advent of Christ. The whiteness of its flowers and the sweetness of its scent it is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, especially of her Immaculate Conception. The latter meaning is based upon Canticles 2:1 ‘I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valley.'”

A more compact list of holy people and events with whom lilies are associated is here. I also liked this bit from this site:

Flower associations with Mary’s divine prerogatives include, for example, those associated with her Assumption … Among these are the apocraphyl legend of the roses and lilies found in p[ace [sic] of Mary’s body in her tomb; St. Bede’s 6th Century discernment of the tranlucent [sic] whiteness of the petals of the white lily as symbolizing the purity of Mary’s body and the gold of its anthers as symbolizing the glory of her soul, as she was assumed into heaven … Besides the Assumption flowers previously mentioned, there is the white day lily, known as Assumption Lily from it’s mid-August bloom around the time of the August 15th liturgical feast of the Assumption

So lots of beautiful connections for Lily!

But wait! There’s more!

Lily is also a traditional nickname for Elizabeth! Abby at Appellation Mountain explains it thusly:

Before you cry, “No, nope, never – Lily just cannot be a nickname for Elizabeth. That’s all Lillian,” pause and consider this. Lily and Lillian probably started out as nicknames for Elizabeth, at least some of the time. My best guess is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t know this – I’ve found a few message boards with comments like “Lily is not a nickname for Elizabeth.” So, okay, it’s not common knowledge. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. The current Queen of England, Elizabeth II, was called Lilibet as a child, which makes me think that the Lily-Elizabeth connection was alive and well until sometime in the early twentieth century.”

At least one of you readers has a daughter named Elizabeth who goes by Lily (you know who you are! If you want to chime in, please do! 😊), I love that option! (I spotlighted Elizabeth here.)

There are lots of Lily names, all of which can trace back to the same faith connections mentioned above. Of course there’s Lillian, which is perfectly in tune with names like Alice, Clara, and Eleanor. Liliana is another gorgeous option, which pulls in St. Anne. 🙂  (Liliana could totally be a Mary+Anne name, or an Elizabeth+Anne name, love it!) Lilia/Lilya is a Slavic variant that I love so much it’s on my long list. Lilly, Lilli, Lili are all legit variant spellings of Lily.

What do you think of Lily, and/or what more do you know about it? Would you name a daughter Lily, or have you? If you would/did, would Lily be the name on the birth certificate, or would it be a nickname for something longer — and if so, what?

Updated to add: How could I forget to include the connection to St. Kateri?? She’s known as the Lily of the Mohawks. 💕

37 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Lily

  1. My youngest daughter is Liliana who goes by Lily. We picked it because according to Behind the name, Liliana is an Italian form of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a family name on my side but also a name that we couldn’t use on my husband’s side so this was our compromise. I can totally see the Elizabeth/Lily connection!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Lily is a versatile name indeed!
    It can also be a reference to how much we should trust in God: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.” (From the Gospel according to St. Luke.)
    And I agree with you about St. Anne! I see her as the patron saint for girls named Brianna, Diana, Christiana (Jesus + his grandma!), Leanne…

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  3. Daughter #2 is named Elizabeth, daughter #4 is Susanna Lily (which is redundant I know bc Susanna means ‘lily’ : )… had no idea Lily was a nickname for Elizabeth! Interesting.

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  4. I saw you added Kateri – the Lily of the Mohawks. I thought of her too. On a similar note, though not as prevalent, I have seen that St. Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal is sometimes referred to as “The Lily of Portugal” which would give another Elizabeth-lily connection.

    I also have noticed that a fair number of paintings and other artistic renderings of the Visitation include lilies, which are really for Our Lady but I think having them is still a link to her cousin Elizabeth.

    Lilies are used for so many saints as mentioned. Looking at the list linked I was surprised to find St. Maria Goretti and St. Agnes (of Rome) missing. Those would be two I think of for sure.

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  5. My grandmother’s aunt (my great-grandmother’s sister) was named Elizabeth and went by Lily. This was around the 1890’s. I did not realize this wasn’t common knowledge! (Her mother—my great-great-grandmother—was the original Elisabeth and we have had an unbroken chain of Elizabeths in my mom’s family since. I reclaimed the original spelling for my first daughter.)

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  6. This is a great post! I had seen that Lily was a nickname for Elizabeth somewhere else and chose it for my own daughter’s middle name. She’ll go by Josephine Lily. I’m so excited to rejuvenate the Catholic tradition of holy and meaningful names!

    Liked by 1 person

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