Lily Meaning and Symbolism

Lily Story and Origins

Lilies are part of the genus Lilium, which is known as the group of “true lilies”. Though many other flowers use the word lily in their common name, they are not part of this genus (and therefore are not true lilies). Examples include water lilies, calla lilies, daylilies.

The lily is often associated with the story of Hera and Zeus, though the calla lily can be associated with this story as well. According to the myth, Zeus wanted baby Hercules to drink the milk of Hera, his wife. Because Hercules was born of another woman, Hera disagreed. Zeus brought Hercules to Hera to drink her milk while she was sleeping, but she awoke and pushed him away. The drops of milk that spilled on the ground grew into lilies.

Lily Meaning

Lilies most commonly mean devotion or purity, though meaning can vary by type of lily, culture, and color.

  • Because of the Greek myth of Hera and Zeus, lilies are associated with rebirth and motherhood.
  • In China, lilies are used in weddings because they are tied to 100 years of love. They are also tied to good luck.
  • Assyrians and Babylonians associated lilies with the goddess of fertility, Ishtar.
  • Christians associated lilies, especially Madonna lilies, with the Virgin Mary.

flower meanings lilies

Lily Symbolism & Colors

Lilies commonly grow in white, yellow, pink, red, and orange.

  • White lilies symbolize purity and virtue.
  • Pink (stargazer) lilies symbolize prosperity and abundance.
  • Red lilies symbolize passion.
  • Orange (tiger) lilies symbolize confidence, pride, and wealth.
  • Yellow lilies symbolizes thankfulness and desire for enjoyment.

Lily Cultural Significance

William Blake, an influential Romantic poet, wrote a poem entitled “The Lily” that encompasses its sweet and innocent beauty.

The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,

The humble sheet a threat’ning horn:

While the Lily white shall in love delight,

Nor a thorn nor a thread stain her beauty bright.

lily types and meanings

Lily Facts

  • The lily is the 30th anniversary flower, which is fitting because it means devotion.
  • Lily is the most popular of all flower names for girls.
  • They are extremely toxic to cats.
  • Lilies are very fragrant, and are often used in perfumes.
  • Lily bulbs should be planted in during the fall, as they require a cold, dormant period. They bloom during the summer.

Lily Uses

Lily roots and bulbs have been used for medicinal purposes. They were boiled into teas to treat stomach disorders, fevers, and assist women in labor. They have also been used topically to treat sores and burns.

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