Naming the Fishes

A Blog For Name Lovers Everywhere


celandine_flower_fairyWhen we think of botanical names, the first to come to mind might be Rose, Violet, Dahlia… But have you ever thought of Celandine, a rare name with interesting origins.

Celandine is the common name for a species of yellow flower with medicinal qualities. It was a drug plant in the Middle Ages used for jaundice, cancer, eczema and other diseases. It was also used for removing film from the cornea of the eye, which Pliny (a Roman naturalist) tells us was discovered by swallows, part of the reason how Celandine got its name.

The name Celandine (sel-an-deen) is actually an English corruption of the Greek word Chelidon “a swallow.” It received this name because it would come into flower when the swallows arrive in April and fade at their departure. According to medieval folk belief, the swallows would use the sap of the plant to impart sight to their young. ¬†Because of this Celandine has the symbolic significance of “imparting sight.’ Celandine was also gifted to its bearer the power of settling conflicts.

Considering that Celandine comes from Chelidon, it also comes with some Greek mythology baggage. In one tale Chelidon is the daughter of Pandareus. She has a sister called Aedon who had married Polytechnos, a carpenter.

At the beginning Aedon and Polytechnos were very happy, but one day they conceived the idea that they loved each more than Zeus and Hera. Not a good idea. The gods were angered so Hera sent Eris to create a rivalry between them. They had to compete as to which of them would finish his work first, the winner would be given a servant from the defeated. It turns out Polytechnos lost, so he told Pandareus that Aedon had asked him to bring Chelidon to her. When he had Chelidon in his power, he raped her, shaved her head and threatened to kill her if she told anyone what he did. After this she became her sister’s servant who did not recognize her. Of course eventually Aedon realised her servant was Chelidon and wanted to avenge her. Several conflicts happened afterwards, and Zeus deciding that enough was enough turned the whole family into birds. Aedon and Chelidon became nightingales.

Even though Celandine is a botanical name and can be seen as androgynous, due to its history (and pronunciation) it tends to be considered feminine. The most famous Celandine is female, albeit fictional, in the Touchstone trilogy by Steve Augarde. That is not to say you cannot call a boy Celandine though.

Despite having interesting origins, Celandine is quite a rare name. It has never entered the top 1000 in the US, or any other country for that matter. This might be because it is such a clunky name, perhaps impractical, but I’m sure the nicknames Sely and Dina might help it out.

So if you are looking for a botanical name that is different, Celandine might be the name for you.

4 comments on “Celandine

  1. Pingback: Celandine | Name News |

  2. jazzy
    August 22, 2013

    Oh yay, a post on Celandine :) I never knew that Celandine came from Chelidon (which is the name of another character of mine, as well as Aedon). Pretty cool though.

    And thanks for the post on Alyssum. I’ve already seen it.

  3. celly
    March 4, 2016

    This is my name! Although it’s spelled Celendine. I usually get called “Celly”.
    I’m so excited to see it here!

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This entry was posted on August 19, 2013 by in Ladies, Names and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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