The Language of Flowers

Update, September 16, 2002

Hello everyone! Welcome to the new home of my Language of Flowers site. I hope you continue to enjoy it here at its new location. I've added a guestbook -- you can find it down at the bottom of the page.

I wish I didn't have to say this next bit. It seems obvious to me, but evidently it isn't. Please, please, show respect for intellectual property. Do not reproduce this site on your own site, or copy my material in any other format without my permission. You may freely link to this site; the more the merrier! But don't copy it. And if you should happen to find, somewhere on the Web, a copy of this material, please let me know so I can contact the person who put it there.

That said, on to more pleasant things. Enjoy the site!

Florally yours,

What's this list about?

In Victorian times, the gift of a flower or a bouquet carried more messages than such a gift might today. I've always been rather intrigued by the whole concept, and I wonder how seriously the people at the time really took it.

 I inherited an 1883 advice and etiquette book from my grandmother, and in it is the longest and in some ways strangest list of meanings I've ever encountered. It has become the starting point for this ongoing project: to accumulate a list of flowers and the various meanings assigned to them in different guides.

The organization of this list

There are now two versions of the list, one broken down by flower name and one by meaning. The flower name index uses tables and has been separated alphabetically to avoid having one long page; the meaning page is, well, one long page, and doesn't use tables. A plain text version of the first 1883 book is available, as is a plain text version of the 1885 book is also available, courtesy of Brent Ross.

Right now, I have six sources for Victorian-era flower language. In the tables that follow, they are referred to by their print dates (1853, 1883(I), 1883(II), 1885, 1892, and 1899). They are:

1853: Chauncey, Mary, ed. The Floral Gift, from Nature and the Heart. New York: Leavitt & Allen, 1853. The copy I have is, unfortunately, missing pages 65-78 (between "Honeysuckle" and "Lily, White").

1883(I): Our Deportment, or the Manners, Conduct, and Dress of the Most Refined Society; including Forms for Letters, Invitations, Etc., Etc. Also, Valuable Suggestions on Home Culture and Training. Compiled from the Latest Reliable Authorities, by John H. Young, A.M. Detroit: F.B. Dickerson & Co., 1883.

1883(II): Hill, Thos. E. Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms. Chicago: Hill Standard Book Co., 1883.

1885: Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers, 1885. From a plain text file provided by Brent Ross.

1892: Robinson, Nugent. Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. New York: P. F. Collier, Publisher, 1892.

1899: Parsons' Hand-Book of Forms: A Compendium of Business and Social Rules and a Complete Work of Reference and Self-Instruction, with Illustrations, 13th ed. Battle Creek, MI: The Central Manufacturing Co., 1899.

As it happened, the 1885 and 1892 lists proved to be absolutely identical except for some spelling variations. Thus, in the index by flower name, I've combined them into one column.

Since the names used for some flowers are obscure to modern readers, I've used the Oxford English Dictionary to try to find more recognizable equivalents for the unfamiliar names. I'd appreciate any suggestions for the ones I haven't identified. I'm also always on the lookout for more sources -- ideally ones actually published in the nineteenth century, rather than modern versions. Comments and suggestions are always welcome -- please send me mail!

And now, onward!

Index by Flower Name

Index by Meaning

visitors since September 16, 2002.

Copyright © 2002 Katherine L. Bryant. All rights reserved.