Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

It’s St David’s Day — Wales’s national day — tomorrow, and to celebrate, it’s Welsh week here at the Nook.

For this week’s pick of the week, therefore, I’ve chosen Daffodil.

The daffodil is well-known as the national flower of Wales, and tomorrow will be worn proudly across the country.

We bought a few bunches of proper Welsh daffodils yesterday and they are now looking very bright and sunny on the kitchen table!

As well as the flower’s connection with Wales, the daffodil is celebrated as one of the symbols of spring par excellence.

Swathes of cheerful daffodils bobbing their heads in the spring sunshine are always an evocative and heartwarming sight after the bleakness of winter.

Indeed, they inspired probably one of the most famous  of all poems about flowers  — William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

In the language of flowers, the daffodil symbolizes both respect and unrequited love—but it can also stand for vanity and deceit—perhaps because for all its cheery charm, the daffodil is poisonous.

Neverthless, I’ve always been a bit surprised that Daffodil as a name is so rare. Like other flowers, it was first used in the nineteenth century, but for some inexplicable reason simply didn’t grab the limelight, even when the similar Daphne was enjoying its vogue (in the British Isles, at least) in the second quarter of the twentieth century.

But with flower names once more in fashion, and other rarities like Bluebell seeing more use, maybe Daffodil’s day is not far away.

It does have the fetching pet-form Dilly, as well as sharing Daphne’s nick-names Daff, Daffi, Daffie and Daffy.

The daffodil’s original name was actually Affodill — which has distinct potential too — and an old, rather charming variant is Daffodilly. Affodill arose from the medieval Latin afodillus and derives ultimately from the Greek asphodelosAsphodel.

Also known as king’s spear, the asphodel was grown as a garden flower and medicinal herb from at least the Middle Ages.  In the ancient world, it was believed that asphodels grew in the Elysian Fields and were the food of the dead. We know that their roots were certainly eaten by the living poor of Ancient Greece, and the plant was used as a remedy against snake-bites and as a protection from sorcery.

The daffodil’s Pagan connotations don’t stop there. Among modern Pagans, it has become the quintessential flower of the Spring Equinox, and is now particularly associated with the Goddess Eostre.

Some other great names with daffodil associations include:

  • Narcissus — used generally of a related flower, as well as being the botanical name for the genus. In Greek mythology, this was the name of the narcissistic youth who fell in love with his own reflection, and the name was often used as a given name in the classical period. The feminine form, Narcissa — pet-form “Cissy” —  occurs, of course, in Harry Potter as the name of Draco Malfoy’s mother.
  • Jonquil — the name of an old type of daff.
  • Narciso — the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish form of NARCISSUS.
  • Narcys — the Polish form of NARCISSUS.
  • Nargis — the Persian for daffodil, used as a girl’s name in Iran (derives ultimately from Narcissus).
  • Nergis — the Turkish for daffodil, used as a girl’s name in Turkey (also derives ultimately from Narcissus).

What better way to capture the spring in a name, than with Daffodil and friends?

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As promised, here’s the second part of Welsh Flowers that have great name potential. Pronunciation at the end if you want to sound like you were born and bred in the Land of Song.

  • Gwaedlys — pink persicaria
  • Gwendon — bedstraw
  • Gwenith y gog — figwort
  • Gwenonwy — lily of the valley
  • Gwern — alder
  • Gwlithlys (g-LITH-lis) — sundew
  • Helogan — celery
  • Helygen — willow
  • Helyglys — lesser willowherb
  • Isop— hyssop
  • Lili Mai — lily of the valley
  • Ller — darnel
  • Llin — flax
  • Llwyfen (“LHOO-ee-ven”) – elm
  • Llyriad — broad-leaved plantain
  • Maglys — lucerne
  • Meillion — clover
  • Melenydd — hawkweed
  • Melyn euraidd — golden rod
  • Melyn Mair — marigold
  • Melenllys — greater celandine
  • Merllys — asparagus
  • Merywen — juniper
  • Mesen — acorn
  • Miaren — briar
  • Murlys — wall pellitory
  • Onnen — ash
  • Oren — orange
  • Pabi — poppy
  • Pansi — pansy
  • Pengaled -(pen-GA-led) – knapweed
  • Persli — parsley
  • Pren — tree
  • Pren Ceri — medlar tree
  • Pren Eirin — plum tree
  • Rhedyn — fern
  • Rhos Mair — Rosemary
  • Rhosmari (ros-MA-ree) — Rosemary
  • Rhosyn — rose
  • Saets — sage
  • Safri — savoury
  • Serenyn — squill
  • Siasmin — jasmine
  • Suran — common sorrel
  • Syfi — strawberries
  • Syfien — strawberry
  • Taglys — field bindweed
  • Tansi — tansy
  • Tegeirian (te-GAY-ree-an) — orchid
  • Teim — thyme
  • Tormaen — golden saxifrage
  • Tresi Aur — laburnum
  • Trilliw (TRI-lhee-oo) — pansy
  • Trydon — agrimony
  • Ywen — yew

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” ipronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

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The adoption of “word names” is much more widespread and accepted in Welsh, and are regularly heard within Wales.

Names of flowers and trees are, naturally, a popular choice too.

But there are still many that have been little used so far, names which are accessible to English-speakers too.

So if you have Welsh heritage you want to honor, or simply a love of Celtic lands, here’s a collection of Welsh flowers and trees for you:

(If you want to say ’em like a native, general pronunciation guidance given at end — unless something is particularly tricky)

  • Aethnen — aspen
  • Afal — apple
  • Afallen — apple-tree
  • Afan — raspberries
  • Afanen — raspberry
  • Alaw — water-lily (also means “melody”)
  • Arian Gwion — yellow rattle (literally Gwion’s silver)
  • Banadl — broom
  • Bedwen — birch
  • Blodyn — flower
  • Bronwerth — borage
  • Brwynen — rush
  • Brythlys — scarlet pimpernel
  • Calon Afal — devil’s bit scabious
  • Camri — camomile
  • Cawnen — reed
  • Ceian — carnation
  • Ceilys — pink
  • Ceirios — cherries
  • Celyn — holly
  • Celyn Mair — butcher’s broom
  • Cenawen — catkins
  • Clais yr hydd — dog’s mercury
  • Clais y moch — clary
  • Clefryn — sheep’s bit scabious
  • Collen — hazel
  • Corsen — reed
  • Crinllys — dog violet
  • Crys y brenin — henbane
  • Cyren — currants
  • Dail Arian — silverweed
  • Danadl — blind nettle
  • Delia — dahlia
  • Derwen — oak
  • Draen — briar
  • Draenen ddu — blackthorn
  • Draenen wen — hawthorn
  • Dringol — common sorrel
  • Drysïen (“DRUH-see-en) — briar
  • Dwyfog (“DOO-ee-vog”) — wood betony
  • Eglyn — golden saxifrage
  • Eirin — plums
  • Eirinen — plum
  • Eirlys — snowdrop
  • Eithen — gorse
  • Elinog — bittersweet
  • Erwain — meadowsweet
  • Eurlys — yellow vetch
  • Fandon — woodruff
  • Fioled — violet
  • Ffarwel haf — Michaelmas daisy
  • Ffion — foxgloves
  • Ffwsia — fuchsia
  • Gellygen — pear-tree
  • Glesyn — borage
  • Greulys — groundsel

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” pronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

Part 2 next week!

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The darker mood of Hægl and Nyd remains as we reach Is — Ice — in the runes.

The forms it takes in the various runic systems are:

In the runic poems, the focus is on ice’s appearance and nature — it is “the bark of a river,” and “a floor forged by the frost.”

But emphasis is also placed on the danger it brings, both tangible (such as slipping on it), and more metaphorical (for the perils that cold presents, both to the body and environement).

But ice also stands for winter, and as well as its dangers (so real and frightening in those days when famine was always a hair-bredth away), it is a time of rest and introspection.

Nature turns inwards, and so must we. After its sleep beneath the ice, new life will come in the spring.

Modern rune interpretations follow on from all this. Is is a distinct, virtually physical obstacle placed before us. It can represent sudden frustration in endeavours, something that stops us in our paths and threatens to prevent us from moving forward.

Indeed, to some extent it is actual tells us that we might need to stop and take time to think. Time to allow what will be to be. Just like Nature in wintertime. The spring will come.  We just need patience…

And so to the names…

Is is, of course, identical to “is”; I have encountered it as a nickname for Isabella and all her forms, and, after all Will’s resemblance to “will” hasn’t hindered him. Isaz is distinctly exotic, though not a thousand miles from Isis and Isaac.

His? Maybe, maybe not.

But lovely Isa has to be one of the best “rune names” of all. An old short form of Isabella, etc, particularly in Scotland, it has that “great-granny” charm going too, but has yet to be rediscovered in her own right (only 5 in 2010 in the UK), though it features in a lot of other names. In addition to all the variations on Isabella, there’s all these among the girls:

Aanisah, Alisa, Anisa, Anisah, Annalisa, Arisa, Beatrisa, Denisa, Elisa, Elisabeth, Elisabeta, Elisabetta, Ellisa, Eloisa, Elouisa, Erisa, Faisa, Ibtisaam, Ibtisam, Isadora, Isatou, Isatu, Larisa, Lisa, Louisa, Luisa, Khalisa, Khalisah, Maisa, Maisarah, Mandisa, Marisa, Melisa, Nafisa, Nafisah, Nisa, Nisanur, Parisa, Raisa, Ramisa, Romaisa, Risa, Rumaisa, Temisan, Tulisa, Unaisa, Unaisah.

Then there are all the great names beginning with Is-. As well as Isaac, the Isabellas and Isadora, there’s:

Isabèu, Isaiah, Isambard, Isamu, Isao, Isca, Iseult, Isfael, Isfandiyar, Ishaq, Ishara, Ishkur, Ishtar, Isidore, Isioma, Isis, Iska, Iskander, Iskra, Isla, Islay, Islwyn, Islyn, Isra, Issachar, Issoria, István.

Then there’s the meaning; and what leaps out first is Ice itself, along with Icie and Icy and “ice” or “icy” in other languages:

  • Ais — Malay: “ice”
  • Akull — Albanian: “ice”
  • Akulli — Albanian: “icy”
  • Bīng — Mandarin: “ice”
  • Buz — Turkish: “ice”
  • Duramen — Latin: “ice”
  • Eis — German: “ice”
  • Eisig — German: “icy”
  • Gelido, Gelida — Italian: “icy”
  • Gelu — Latin: “ice”
  • Glace — French: “ice”
  • Glacial — French: “icy”
  • Glacies — Latin: “ice”
  • Hielo — Spanish: “ice”
  • — Welsh: “ice”
  • Izotz — Basque: “ice”
  • Jää — Estonian, Finnish: “ice”
  • Jäine — Estonian: “icy”
  • Jäinen –Finnish: “icy”
  • Jaleed — Arabic: “ice”
  • Jég — Hungarian: “ice”
  • Jeges — Hungarian: “icy”
  • Kerakh — Hebrew: “ice”
  • Kori — Japanese: “ice”
  • KryerosKryera, Cryerus, Cryera — Greek: “icy”
  • KrymosKryma, Crymus, Cryma — Greek: “icy”
  • Krystallos, Crystallus — Greek: “ice”
  • KryosKrya, Cryus, Crya — Greek: “icy”
  • Led — Croatian, Czech: “ice”
  • Ledas — Lithuanian: “ice”
  • Ledovy — Czech: “icy”
  • Ledinis — Lithuanian: “icy”
  • Ledus — Latvian: “ice”
  • Lód — Polish: “ice”
  • Lyed — Russian: “ice”
  • Oighreata — Irish: “icy”
  • Oighir — Irish: “ice”
  • Pegylis — Greek: “icy-cold”
  • Rhew — Welsh: “ice”
  • Stiria — Latin: “icicle”
  • Thalj — Arabic: “ice”
  • Xeado — Galician: “icy”
  • Xeo — Galician: “ice”
  • Yax — Persian: “ice”
  • Yelo — Filipino: “ice”

It also inspires the following in English:

  • Berg
  • Cryo
  • Crystal
  • Diamond
  • Floe
  • Frazil
  • Frost
  • Frostflower
  • Frosty
  • Gelid
  • Glacier
  • Glacieret
  • Glaçon
  • Glaze
  • Glitter
  • Glittery
  • Hail 
  • Icicle
  • Kittly
  • Kulfi
  • Lollipop
  • Lolly
  • Nilas
  • Popsicle
  • Rime
  • Rone
  • Sparkle
  • Sleet
  • Star
  • Thaw
  • Varve
  • Winter

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Rune Names — Hægl

Hægl is the ninth letter of the Runic Alphabet. As with others, its name varies depending on which Runic Alphabet is being used:

In all cases, it means “hail,” and the poems focus on its cold, hard nature, though the Old English one does offer a kind of hope when it points out that it melts away to water.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and all that.

Even today, hail can be devastatingly destructive; I can remember a storm in Lincolnshire about ten years ago when hailstones as big as golf-balls fell, smashing greenhouses and damaging cars.

But to people in the past, a bad hailstorm could destroy crops — and that might mean the difference between life and death. In one — sometimes brief — storm, people’s lives could be overturned.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, Hægl is a rune which symbolizes destruction, but the vicissitudes of fate, and of sudden, unavoidable change, and the raw power of nature. Coming after jolly old Wynn, it feels a bit like a bolt from the blue — and that’s deliberate.

Just when everything’s going well, life’s good — all it takes is something unexpected to happen, your world is turned upside down, and you’re left running for whatever cover you can find.

Hægl reminds us who is really boss — Mother Nature.

As a name, I think all the variants could work, as well as Hagel, the Modern German, Dutch and Swedish form, or Hagl, the Norwegian and Dutch. There’s also, of course, the plain English Hail, and its Middle English variants Hayl and Hayle.

There are also many other weather phenomena which share same wild, untamed, raw spirit of Nature:

  • Blast
  • Blizzard
  • Blow
  • Bluster
  • Blustery
  • Bolt
  • Cyclone
  • Deluge
  • Flash
  • Flurry
  • Gale
  • Gust
  • Hurricane
  • Lightning
  • Monsoon
  • Rain
  • Rainstorm
  • Sleet
  • Snow
  • Snowstorm
  • Squall
  • Storm
  • Stormy
  • Surge
  • Tempest
  • Thunder
  • Tornado
  • Torrent
  • Twister
  • Typhoon
  • Whirlwind
  • Wind

Many of these present interesting options in other languages:

  • Aëlla — Greek: “stormy wind,” “whirlwind” (source of Aëllo, the name of a harpy)
  • Aëma — Greek: “blast,” “wind”
  • Aëtes — Greek: “blast,” “gale”
  • Anemos — Greek: “wind” (source of Anemone, the “wind-flower”)
  • Angin — Indonesian, Malay: “wind”
  • Aquilo — Latin: “North Wind”
  • Asterope, Sterope — Greek: “lightning”
  • Astrape — Greek: “lightning”
  • Audra — Lithuanian: “storm”
  • Aura — Latin: “wind,” “blast,” “breeze”
  • Awel — Welsh: “wind,” “breeze”
  • Blesk — Czech: “lightning”
  • — German: “squall”
  • Boreas — Greek: “North Wind”
  • Breshër, Breshëri — Albanian: “hail”
  • Broche — Greek: “rain”
  • Bronte — Greek: “thunder”
  • Chimon — Greek: “wintry weather,” “storm”
  • Chion — Greek: “snow” (source of Chione, the name of a number of characters in Greek mythology)
  • Chioni — Modern Greek: “snow”
  • Corwynt —  Welsh: “hurricane”
  • Dilyw — Welsh: “deluge”
  • Eira — Welsh: “snow”
  • Elur, Edur — Basque: “snow”
  • Erë — Albanian: “wind”
  • Eriole — Greek: “hurricane,” “whirlwind”
  • Eső — Hungarian: “rain”
  • Euri — Basque: “rain”
  • Flamen — Latin: “wind,” “gale,” “blast”
  • Fulger — Romanian: “lightning”
  • Fulgor, Fulgur — Latin: “lightning”
  • Fulgora — Roman Goddess of lightning
  • Fulmen — Latin: “lightning”
  • Fulmine — Italian: “lightning”
  • Furacán — Galician: “hurricane”
  • Grad — Croatian, Polish, Russian: “hail”
  • Grêle — French: “hail”
  • Grando — Latin: “hail,” “hailstorm”
  • Granizo — Portuguese, Spanish: “hail”
  • Grom — Russian: “thunder”
  • Guntur — Indonesian: “thunder”
  • Gwynt — Welsh: “wind”
  • Haize — Basque: “wind”
  • Helicias — Greek: “forked lightning”
  • Hóvihar — Hungarian: “blizzard”
  • Hyeteria — Greek: “rainy weather”
  • Hyetia — Greek: “rain”
  • Hyetos — Greek: “rain”
  • Hysma — Greek: “rain”
  • Imber — Latin: “heavy rain”
  • Lailaps — Greek: “hurricane,” “furious storm”
  • Lauso — Basque: “sleet storm”
  • Lietus — Latvian, Lithuanian: “rain”
  • Lluvia — Spanish: “rain”
  • Löök — Estonian: “blow”
  • Lumi — Estonian, Finnish: “snow”
  • Lyn — Danish, Norwegian: “lightning”
  • Molinya — Russian: “lightning”
  • Mvua — Swahili: “rain”
  • Neige — French: “snow”
  • Nevasca — Portuguese: “blizzard”
  • Neve — Portuguese: “snow”
  • Nieve — Spanish: “snow”
  • Nimbus — Latin: “pouring rain”
  • Ningor — Latin: “fall of snow”
  • Nipha — Greek: “snow”
  • Nivalis — Latin: “snowy”
  • Nix — Latin: “snow”
  • Ombria — Greek: “rain,” “rainy”
  • Ombros — Greek: “heavy rain”
  • Ondée — French: “heavy shower”O
  • Orkan –Danish: “hurricane”
  • Ouragan — French: “hurricane”
  • Pagi — Estonian: “squall”
  • Petir — Indonesia: “lightning”
  • Pluie — French: “rain”
  • Pluvia — Latin: “rain”
  • Prahara — Indonesian: “tempest”
  • Prester — Greek: “hurricane”
  • Procella — Latin: “violent storm”
  • Radi — Swahili: “thunder”
  • Rafală — Romanian: “gust”
  • Rafale — French: “flurry,” “squall,” “blast”
  • Raffica — Italian: “gust,” “flurry”
  • Rahe — Estonian: “hail”
  • Rhagden — Greek: “in torrents”
  • Rhyax — Greek: “torrent”
  • Sade — Finnish: “rain”
  • Salama — Finnish: “lightning”
  • Snežana — Croation: “snowy”
  • Szél — Hungarian: “wind”
  • Taran — Welsh: “(peal) of thunder”
  • Tempesta — Italian: “gale,” “tempest”
  • Thunor — Old English: “thunder”
  • Thyella — Greek: “gale,” “tempest”
  • Topan — Indonesian: “typhoon”
  • Tourbillon — French: “whirlwind”
  • Trono — Galician: “thunder”
  • Trovão — Portuguese: “thunder”
  • Trumoi — Basque: “thunder”
  • Tuono — Italian: “thunder”
  • Tuule — Estonian: “wind”
  • Tuuli — Finnish: “wind”
  • Tximista — Basque: “lightning”
  • Tymestl — Welsh: “storm,” “tempest”
  • Umeme — Swahili: “lighning”
  • Uragan — Albanian, Romanian: “hurricane”
  • Vánice — Czech: “blizzard”
  • Vėjas — Lithuanian: “wind”
  • Vējš — Latvian: “wind”
  • Vētra — Latvian: “storm”
  • Vihar — Hungarian: “storm”
  • Villám — Hungarian: “lightning”
  • Viscol — Romanian: “blizzard”
  • Xita — Maltese: “rain”
  • Zale — Gree: “squall,” “storm,” “driving rain”

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Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t be doing Snowdrop as a “Pick of the Week,” but in my “Names from Nature” spot, but I do like breaking rules, especially my own!

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

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We had a bit of a nasty surprise when we opened our box of Yule decorations at the weekend.

The mice had got in.

And as well as demonstrating a rather strange taste for fairy-light cables, they had also muched their way through all the cinnamon decorations and dried oranges, which we’d made in past years :(.

Off we duly trotted to the supermarket to stock up on industrial quantities of cinnamon and apple sauce to make some more.

But the incident put in mind the idea to feature Cinnamon as a seasonal choice for Pick of the Week.

In America, “cinnamon” is often used for the spice usually called “cassia” in the UK — namely Cinnamonum aromaticum, also known as Chinese cinnamon — as well as Indonesian and Vietnamese cinnamon, both of which are different to true Cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum), which grows in Sri Lanka.

Its a popular spice, probably familiar to most from edibles and quaffables such as Danish pastries and mulled wine.

Often sold in powdered form, cinnamon sticks — the preferred form for popping into a mulled wine — give a clue to its origin: the bark of a tree.

But there’s much more to Cinnamon.

It has been known in Europe since ancient times, although the type called kinnamomon by the Ancient Greeks was yet another variety, Cinnamonum iners, a native of the Middle East. The Greeks got the name from the Phoenicians, and a word cognate with the Hebrew qinnamon “cinnamon.”

This was the “cassia” spice of the Bible — from qetsi’āh, the Hebrew name of the tree from which cinnamon was taken — source of the biblical name Keziah. This derives from a root meaning “to strip off,” referring to the way in which the bark is removed to make cinnamon.

Cassia, of course, also makes a rather lovely name choice too.

Herbalists value true cinnamon for its effectiveness in treating colds and flu, as well as easing digestive complaints.

It is used in magic to enhance psychic powers, for protection, and in spells relating to love.

As a given name, Cinnamon is older than some might think, with the first examples dating to the early twentieth century. Mostly used for girls, there are some example of it in use for boys.

It also shortens to nicknames such as Cin, Cinna, Cinny or Cinnie, Mon, Mona, Mony, Monie — even Minnie.

Most use, however, post-dates the appearance of the character Cinnamon Carter in the original television series of Mission: Impossible (1966-73), but it remains highly unusual; seven little girls were called Cinnamon in America in 2010, and less than three, if any, in the UK.

So, if you’re looking for a name for a baby born at yuletide that’s a bit less obvious than Holly or Ivy, why not mull over (pardon the pun) the lovely, spicy Cinnamon?

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