Lily, Lillian


Gender: Feminine
Origin: English

The name comes directly from the name of the flower, (in particular, in reference to lilium candidum, the classic white lily, also known as the madonna lily), and was a popular choice throughout the English-speaking world in the 18th and early part of the 20th centuries.

It has recently been revived. It is currently the 4th most popular female name in the United Kingdom (2009) and the 17th in the United States (2010). So far, this is the highest that Lily has ever ranked in U.S. naming history.

In other countries, her rankings are as follows:

  • # 6 (New Zealand, 2010)
  • # 7 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
  • # 8 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 10 (Canada, B.C., 2010)
  • # 13 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 15 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 45 (France, 2009)
  • # 51 (Belgium, 2008)
  • # 161 (Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 173 (Norway, 2010)

For several centuries, Lily was a symbol of purity and sometime of death, among Roman Catholics, the name was often a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

Other forms of the name include:

  • Lily (Dutch/English/French/German/Scandinavian)
  • Lilly/Lilli/Lillie (German)
  • Lili (Hungarian)
  • Lilja (Icelandic/Finnish)
  • Líle (Irish-Gaelic)
  • Lilia (Polish)
  • Lília (Portuguese)
  • Lilia/Liliya Лилия (Russian/Ukrainian)
  • Lilly (Scandinavian)

Vernacular forms of Lily, (that is names that are not derived from the Latin lilium but mean lily in their native tongue)

  • Kremena (Bulgarian: masculine form is Kremen)
  • Lis/Lys (French)
  • Shoshannah שׁוֹשַׁנָּה (Hebrew)
  • Crina (Romanian: masculine form is Crin)
  • Azucena (Spanish)

Another form of Lily is the Latin Liliana, which is derived from the Latin word, lilium, meaning, “lily.” This has spun off the English female name of Lillian, which has been in usage in the English-speaking world since the 16th-century. Careful on the spelling though, because if spelled with one L that makes it a French masculine name.

Lillian is also sometimes believed to have originally been a diminutive form of Elizabeth, in fact, the name Lily was commonly used as a pet form of Elizabeth.

Currently, Lillian is the 21st most popular female name in the United States, (2010) and is rising. She is somewhat of a vintage, she was the 10th most popular female name for 4 years in a row between 1898-1901. The lowest that Lillian has ranked in U.S. history so far was in 1978, coming in as the 486th most popular female name. Her rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 39 (Liliana, Hungary, 2010)
  • # 93 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
  • # 124 (Liliana, United States, 2010)

Other forms include:

  • Lilyana Лиляна (Bulgarian)
  • Liliana (Czech/English/Hungarian/Italian/Polish/Portuguese/Romanian/Spanish)
  • Lillian (English/Norwegian/Swedish)
  • Liliane (French)
  • Liljana Лилјана (Macedonian/Slovene)
  • Lilianna (Polish)
  • Lilias (Scottish)
  • Lilijana (Slovene)

Masculine French form is Lilian.

3 thoughts on “Lily, Lillian

  1. Polish also uses the form Liliana with one n in addition to Lilianna.

    There is also the form Lilla popularized by the 19th century play Lilla Weneda by Juliusz Słowacki.

    My Polish name book lists the masculine form as Lilian(same as the French though not in pronunciation). A Polish speaker on another site who had access to some sort of database similar to the Amercian SSN death index said they had never seen the masculine form actually used.

    I love your list of vernacular forms, very interesting!!

  2. I personally dislike Liliana. I find it very contrived. I do love Lilias. I think if more Americans knew about it, it would become very popular, especially with the fact that so many people in the States have Scots roots (like in Australia).

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