Say It With Flowers – A Short History on The Language of Flowers

Say It With Flowers – A Short History on The Language of Flowers

Language is an interesting system, developed over millennia by our ancestors before us and forever changing with the introduction of other languages, slang and popular “internet speak”. Human communication is a complex thing, rife with misunderstandings and even more head-scratching idioms that proclaim that “Seeing is believing” or to “Show, don’t tell”. Making us question if we truly need the spoken language in order to communicate our true feelings and emotions.


History of The Language of Flowers

A long time ago, possibly stretching back thousands of years ago, humans began communicating through flowers in a language of flowers known as Floriography. Although little scripture has been found that details the language of this time, the Language of Flowers can be seen referenced in literature dating back to William Shakespeare, prior to the interest in floriography being reintroduced to England in 1717 and Sweden in 1727.


The most popular use around this time was in Ottoman Turkey during the first half of the 18th century, although flowers weren’t given specific meanings and instead, were used as a mnemonic system in which rhymes could be recalled and reminded of with a certain bloom. The editor of the 1839 released The Language of Flowers, Frederick Shoberl, details an example of this;


“the word Armonde (Pear) rhymes among other words with omonde (hope), and this rhyme is filled up as follows:  Armonde – Wer banna bir omonde; (Pear – Let me not despair.).”


When the Victorians back in England picked up the Language of Flowers and the craze started to spread, it was suggested that Victorians used bouquets and bunches to covertly send messages between lovers. With individual flowers and even the orientation of certain blooms said to have meaning, however, little evidence can be found to support the claim. Instead, the Language of Flowers was heavily mentioned by writers, artists and poets at the time, including Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and Frances Hodgson Burnett.


Over the years, many authors have penned and released their own variation of The Language of Flowers although most include the dictionary listings in the appendix with largely agreed upon flower meanings and sentiments.


The most comprehensive of these was the Poetry of Flowers, released under the pen name C. M. Kirkland and thought to be Caroline Matilda Kirkland, a well-known magazine editor at the time. First published in 1848, the Poetry of Flowers book included an extensive dictionary and a large number of flower poems across the detailed 522 pages, although sadly went of print in 1886.


There are even references to the Language of Flowers in modern-day writings, possibly the most famous of these being the Harry Potter series.


language of flowers


The Language of Flowers

Flowers can be considered a condensed replica of human development, from plantation (pregnancy), growth (childhood), blooming (adulthood) and withering (old age) so it’s only fitting we use them as a representation of language too.


Although there are many people who give flowers “just because”, modern-day gifting does often reflect the occasion in the types of bouquets and bunches given to the special people in our lives. From roses to represent feelings of love, lilies to express sympathy or sunflowers to convey emotions of joy.


However, the recorded definitions may surprise readers on their “true considered meaning”. Bouquets of roses, for instance, translate as “Gratitude” while a garland of roses is regarded as a “Reward of Merit”. It is a single red rose that represents “Love and Respect” and white and red roses are given together to mean “Unity”.


Lilies have no tie to mourning, sadness or sorrow and instead range from “Beauty” for Calla Lilies, “Purity” and “Majesty” for lilies in colours of white and surprisingly “Hatred” for lilies in shades of Orange. Instead, flowers given for sympathy or sadness included roses of dark crimson, purple hyacinths and dead leaves.


It is interesting to consider that not only does spoken language change and develop over time but as has the language of flowers with many popular blooms carrying different meanings to their originally recorded definitions. The next time you choose a bouquet or potted plant for someone special, think about what the bloom used to mean and the meaning you want to convey with your gift. If you aren’t sure on the current flower meanings, talk to your local florist or an online florist like Flowers Buy Delivery https://www.flowersbuydelivery.co.uk/flowers-cat-1 who offer flowers sorted by season, style and occasion.




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