And as the snowdrop is one of my favourite flowers, and the mild winter we’re having here in the UK mean the snowdrops are are already in flower, Snowdrop is my choice today.
The snowdrop is one of the most beloved of flowers; so delicate — and yet so tough and hardy, often flowering even when blanketed in snow, the simple, pure white flowers, like dainty bells, quivering on their slender stems. Although all around seems cold and dead, still, there she is, a pioneer of the new season of life returning as the Wheel of the Year begins to turn towards the strengthening sun.
Small wonder she stands for so many concepts, from purity, simplicity, and grace to hope and fortitude in the face of adversity. The snowdrop particularly symbolizes hope in the language of flowers.
It has also been suggested that the snowdrop is the real flower behind the mysterious mythical herb moly, used by Odysseus to thwart Circe‘s potion to turn him into a pig.
Among Pagans, snowdrops are now considered the flower of Imbolc — the cross-quarter festival celebrated on or around February 2, but really, the snowdrop is queen of the whole quarter bwtween the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, often at her peak around the start of February, but frequently in full bloom in January and lingering here and there into March.
Snowdrops are now generally regarded as one of the birth month flowers for January, though as some of their other names include “February’s fair maids” and “candlemas bells,” the associations with February too run deep.
But, be warned, it has long been considered unlucky to bring snowdrops into the house, picked or growing. The ones we put on our nature table are always ones we’ve made ourselves!
The plant’s name is pure English, simply a combination of “snow” and “drop”, just as in “dewdrop” and “raindrop,” and it was first recorded in the seventeenth century.
Snowdrop was first used as a given name — along with other “flower names” — in the nineteenth century. Unsurprisingly, many of the little girls called Snowdrop were registered in the first quarter of the year.
No doubt many of them ended up with the delightful fairy-like nicknames of Snowy or Snowie, as well as plain Snow, which, with that fashionable “-o” gives a little Snowdrop plenty of choice as she grows up, not to mention, somewhat amusingly, Poppy, as a rhyming nickname from the “-drop” bit.
It has always been very rare, never featuring in the American published name data, or featuring in the British equivalent in the last fifteen years.
But if Snowdrop itself is too much of a “word-name” for your taste, there’s still many a lovely option in other languages:
Eirlys, for instance, the Welsh for “snowdrop,” is an established Welsh girl’s name, while the beautiful Endzela is a girl’s name in the former USSR state of Georgia.
Some of the words for snowdrop in other languages with name potential are:
- Bucaneve — Italian
- Freidolina — Piedmontese
- Galanthus — meaning “milk-flower” in Greek, Galanthus is the flower’s botanical name; very similar is Galanthis, the name of a nymph in Greek mythology, who was turned into a weasel
- Galanto — Galician
- Ghiocel — Romanian
- Gul Hesret — Persian
- Hóvirág — Hungarian
- Kardelen – Turkish and Azerbaijani
- Kokiche — Bulgarian
- Lliri de neu – Catalan
- Lulebore — Albanian
- Lumikello — Finnish
- Perce-neige — French
- Praleska — Belorusian
- Sněženka — Czech
- Snežienka — Slovak
- Snieguolė — Lithuanian
- Yarguy — Mongolian
- Zvonček — Slovenian