While we don’t know for sure exactly when the lily was discovered, the earliest dated depiction of a lily comes from Amnisos in Crete, stretching back to 1580 B.C. The lily was believed to be sacred to the Minoans, and the flowers appear all over surviving works of art.
There are many varieties of lilies, from wild lilies to ones bred especially for a trait or their ornamental value, and few flowers symbolize as much as lilies do.
The true lily is one of the most impressive natural flowers found in the wild, and has inspired cultures around the world.
What does Lily (or “Lilium”) Mean?
Lilies fall under the flower genus Lilium, which refers to all plants which are considered to be true lilies. Some plant names have adopted the name lily, but aren’t related to any plants in the Lilium family.
Derived from the Greek word leirion, which is believed to mean the white lilies that have grown in the wild for thousands of years.
What does the Lily Mean?
While all lilies are beautiful, and broadly represent devotion and purity, the color of the bloom changes the meaning entirely.
To help determine the right meaning for you, a few examples of the colors and their associated meanings are below.
What does a White Lily Symbolize?
A white lily represents purity, virtue, and remembrance, and rebirth.
They can point to healing after a traumatic period, and these associations have meant that they’re often used at funerals, or to express sympathy.
What does an Orange Tiger Lily Flower Mean?
Orange lilies, or Tiger lilies, embody wealth, pride, and confidence.
As they’ve naturalized themselves in parts of the world that they’re not native to, these flowers also represent strength of will, and the tenacity needed to succeed.
What does a Yellow Lily Represent?
Yellow lilies symbolize joy, happiness, and friendship, as well as being thankful for someone in your life.
What is the Cultural Significance behind the Lily?
The main myth surrounding the lily is the story of Zeus and Hera. Zeus wanted Hercules, his illegitimate infant son, to drink Zeus’ wife’s milk.
Hera, Zeus’ wife, disagreed. In her opinion, Hercules was a symbol of her husband’s infidelity, which had happened a thousand times over.
Not someone to take no for an answer, Zeus carried Hercules to her as she slept. She woke up and pushed them both away, and the milk that was spilled turned into lilies. The flower has since stood for motherhood, and rebirth.
In China, lilies are commonly used at weddings. It’s believed that their appearance brings 100 years of a wealth of love and good fortune.
Going back further, both the Babylonians and the Assyrians believed that lilies were connected to Ishtar, the goddess of fertility.
In Christianity, lilies are associated with saints, in particular, the Madonna lily represents the Virgin Mary.
What does a Lily Tattoo Mean?
Lilies are often used as remembrance flowers, as well as having a strong spiritual connection.
Lilies in tattoos symbolize a deep connection with someone, or an event in your life that’s shaped who you are as a person.
They also represent beauty, and a love of nature, as lilies themselves have been hybridized for these reasons for thousands of years.
When Should You Give Someone a Lily?
Depending on the variety, late summer is usually the peak of lily flower production.
It’s when the flowers are at their best, when the colors are the most vibrant, and before the architectural petals begin to fade.
There are other types of lilies that flower earlier or later, such as the Easter lily which is forced to flower in spring, making it a good gift to recognize the potential of a new year unfolding around you.
The lily is also the traditional flower to mark a 30-year anniversary.
It’s also included in bouquets for its excellent cut flower quality and fragrance, which is why it’s used as a celebratory flower, symbolizing confidence, the wealth of achievement, and the pride that carries someone forward.
No matter the reason you choose or when you choose to give someone a lily, it won’t be a gift they’ll forget.