Lilies are one of the world’s most easily recognisable flowers. They look beautiful in bouquets of cut flowers and are long lasting too.
As with many flowers, lilies carry a great deal of meaning that date back several centuries. Let’s take a closer look at the symbolism behind these gorgeous blossoms and everything they represent.
Jump To a Section Below
Where Do Lilies Come From?
As with meanings in every other form, before understanding the meaning and symbolism of lilies, it’s important to know where the flowers can be traced back to. There are thought to be between 80 and 100 species of lilies grown natively all over the world. The flowers are most commonly found in the Northern Hemisphere in areas with more balmy temperatures such as Asia, Europe and North America.
Originally, it was thought that lilies only grew in forests, grasslands, marshes and mountains. However, these flowers can now be grown from a bulb and will likely thrive almost anywhere, making them and their symbolism universal.
True lilies are very durable flowers and have appeared multiple times over the course of human history. Ancient Egyptians believed the flower to be sacred, while Romans used their petals to fill their pillows.
What Does ‘Lily’ Mean?
The word ‘lily’ comes from the Old English phrase lilie, which comes from the Latin term lilium and from the Greek Ieirion. All of these refer to the flower.
In recent years, ‘Lily’ became a popular girls name across the world. Names like Susanna, Susan and Suzette are also popular and also mean ‘lily’!
What Do Lily Flowers Mean?
Lilies have long been associated with love, devotion, purity and fertility. The sweet and innocent beauty of the flower has ensured it remains tied to the ideas of fresh new life and rebirth.
While the above meanings are standard associations across the lily family, the meaning of the flower can alter slightly depending on its colour.
White lilies are perhaps the most popular, as they’re generally the first that come to mind when the flower is mentioned. They’re also symbolic of a feeling of rejuvenation within the soul. This rejuvenation can also lead to new beginnings or a different path.
These flowers are representative of purity, commitment and rebirth. In recent years, this meaning has come to be interpreted in several different ways, which is why the flower is now also commonly associated with death. However, the connection to death has more to do with those left behind once someone has passed away as opposed to the idea of death itself.
The colour pink has long stood as a symbol of femininity, love, adoration and admiration.
Pink lilies are generally sent as a gift to close female friends and family members. They are intended to let someone know that one is thinking of them, as well as lending their support during a challenging time.
Pink lilies have also become symbolic of a confidence boost for people struggling with self-esteem issues. They are representative of friendship as well, as they are connected to more feminine, caring characteristics and platonic love for one another.
Red is the colour of love and passion. In turn, red lilies have come to symbolise romantic love for someone.
In recent years, the red lily has become a more popular choice as a romantic gift. It has started to give the classic red rose a run for its money as people start looking for fresh alternatives!
Apart from romantic love, red lilies are symbolic of hard work and determination. They can be gifted to someone who has just achieved something major after setting a long-term goal, such as a university degree or high school diploma, or perhaps the completion of a marathon.
Orange has always been a colour that’s associated with a refreshing sense of confidence and energy. The bright, bold, showstopping colour speaks to feelings of warmth and positivity around the world.
Orange lilies are usually presented to someone as a gift when one wants to extend their well wishes or congratulations. Occasions that warrant orange lilies that carry plenty of meaning include a job well done, the beginning of a new job, moving into a new home, purchasing a new home or car, or any other personal achievement.
Yellow lilies are symbolic of numerous things, as the colour has several positive connotations attached. These include new beginnings, a sense of freshness, happiness, loyalty and sunshine.
The colour awakens plenty of symbolism, which is why yellow lilies serve very well as flowers to say “thank you”. They also serve well as a symbol of friendship, unity and togetherness. In general, yellow flowers are gifted between friends to show their love and appreciation for one another.
Mythology Linked To Lilies
Plenty of the modern-day meanings we attach to things like lilies are rooted in the mythology passed on to us from thousands of years ago.
The mythology linked to lilies commonly dates back to the story of Zeus and Hera, which is demonstrative of the meanings of rebirth and fertility that it still holds today.
According to mythology, Zeus wanted his son Hercules to drink some of Hera’s milk. However, because Hercules was born of another woman, Hera refused to feed the child her milk. Sneakily, Zeus then brought the baby to Hera to drink her milk while she was asleep.
When she woke up and realised what was happening, she pushed them both away.
It’s said that the drops of milk that fell onto the ground grew into the beautiful white lilies we all know and love today!