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Lily Flower Meaning – The Complete Guide to Lily Meaning and Symbolism

Lily Flower Meaning – The Complete Guide to Lily Meaning and SymbolismUpdated on December 12, 2020 | Published on November 30, 2020

Lily Flower Meaning

Lily flower meaning has strong significance from time immemorial. The Greeks and Romans have associated this flower with their religion and customs. Lily is a flower of every occasion. From birth or weddings to death and mourning, lily flowers are the perfect messengers of our emotions.

Lilies have been associated with the history, folklore, and our day to day lives. Read this article to know what lily means to us spiritually, culturally, and emotionally. 

Lily Meaning


The name lily comes from the Greek word “leiron” that meant “white, pure, lovely”. It is also thought that the word “lily” could come from “li-li”, an old Ghana word meaning “white-white”. Lily flower has varied meanings across different cultures. Lily is the 30th wedding anniversary flower and May birth flower.

Usually, this graceful flower is considered as a symbol of purity or devotion from ancient times. Lily flowers are elegant to look at and these denote beauty and serenity. These flowers are reminders to focus on the positive while releasing any negative ideas from our minds. Lily flower meaning is also associated with transformation and self-love.

Lily flower facts


• True lilies belong to the genus Lilium. There are more than a hundred species of lilies. Not all flowers with the word “lily” in their common name are a part Araceae family of this genus because they are not true lilies.

• Lily was first discovered in Crete, Greece around 1580 BC.

• To the Italians, white lily flowers are a religious symbol. Lily is the national flower of Italy.

• Lily flowers can stay up to three weeks in a vase if you could maintain these flowers. You have to just remove the pollen from the center!

• Although lilies are considered to be an ornamental plant, certain species of this plant are grown only for their edible bulbs. There are edible varieties of lily and it is used in cuisines in many parts of Asia.

• Lilies are the favorite bouquet flowers. After roses, it is said lilies are the most favorite flowers all over the world!

• They are called social plants because these grow best in groups.

• Lily is a perennial plant which means they can grow and survive without human intervention.

• It is said that lilies have been discovered 2,400 years back.

• Though lilies are not toxic for us, never bring these flowers near a cat. Lilies are toxic to them.

• The white lily and the tiger lily are the ones that emit fragrance.

• Lilies are excellent for pollination to happen. Insects are drawn to it for its flashy petals and delicious nectar.

Lily Flower Meaning - The Complete Guide to Lily Meaning and Symbolism
Lily Flower Meaning – The Complete Guide to Lily Meaning and Symbolism

Lily spiritual meaning


The spiritual meaning of lilies differs among the various species. In different cultures, the spiritual meaning of lily would vary. But usually, it is considered to be a symbol of purity, chastity, devotion and commitment.

  • Lily flower is often a symbol of the departed souls and offered at funerals.
  • The Christians consider Madonna lilies as the symbol of the Virgin Mary.
  • According to Greek mythology, lilies were born from the milk of goddess Hera and so these flowers were considered as symbols of purity, motherhood and rebirth. 
  • To the Babylonians, lilies were connected to Ishtar, the goddess of fertility.
  • In China, lily flowers are used at weddings because it is a symbol of eternal love in their culture. The Chinese believe that lilies can bring 100 years of love. Therefore, lilies are favorite wedding flowers in China.

Is Lily the flower of death?


Lily flowers are used in funerals and offered to express sympathy to someone who has lost their loved one. So, lilies are often called the funeral flowers, mourning flowers or flowers of death. But lilies have no negative significance.

Death is also a reality of life. Symbolically lilies represent that the soul will return to a state of innocence. Lilies are a sign of purity, tranquility, death, and rebirth.

Lily in myths and legends


Greek legend

According to the Greek legend, the god Zeus went to his wife Hera, the Queen of the gods to breastfeed his newborn son, Hercules. He wanted his newborn son to drink Hera’s milk and obtain supreme qualities. With the help of Somnus, the god of sleep, Hera was put in a deep sleep. But when she realized this, she pushed the baby away as it was not hers. In another version, it is told that baby Hercules refused to drink the milk and pushed Hera away. By this time, her milk overflowed and formed the Milky Way. Drops of milk of the goddess also fell to the ground from the sky. Beautiful white lily flowers sprang on the ground from the milk of Hera.  

In another Greek legend, it says that Apollo, the Greek God, presented the Lily of the Valley to the great healer, Asclepius. In ancient Greece, lilies were also considered as a symbol of fertility.

Roman legend

Venus, the Roman goddess of love, when saw a lily flower became envious of its beauty. Out of hatred, she gave the flower a distinct long pistil to make it unattractive.

European Folklore

The lily of the valley was the protector of gardens from evil spirits. Fairies were believed to live in these bell-shaped flowers.

German legend

Each inflorescence of a lily has an elf which is born with it and also dies with it. The flower buds are the bells of these elves.

Lily flower across cultures and religions


In Victorian Era

In the 19th century in Britain, lilies depicted love and passion for the beloved in the Victorian language of flowers. The orange lily flowers represent happiness and warmth.

In France

Lilies became a symbol of royalty in France in the Middle Ages. The Bourbon family used it as an emblem. Fleur-de-Lis, a three petal lily was considered as a trinity symbol that represented hope, faith and clarity. It also symbolizes royalty and prosperity.

In Egypt

In ancient Egypt, people believed in the healing properties of lily flowers. The Egyptians used these flowers to enhance beauty. They considered the beautiful trumpet-shaped lily as a symbol of Upper Egypt.

In Japan

A soldier of World War I brought Easter lily bulbs back home and from then these flowers became native to Japan. To the Japanese, lilies have ornamental value. They also consider these white flowers as a symbol of chastity and purity. 

In the United States

Lily flowers have always been popular here. But after World War II, these beautiful flowers became scarce and expensive. In the United States, lilies are the wedding flower, anniversary flower and also offered at funerals.

Christian belief

The red lilies are a symbol of Christ’s blood. Legend says when Jesus Christ was crucified his blood fell on the white lilies which turned red. From then, this flower was named Easter Lily. Also, it is said that the tomb of Virgin Mary was embellished with white lily flowers. In Christianity, the lily is a sacred symbol of purity and virtue. 

Lily is the symbol of the Virgin Mary and an emblem of purity. There are paintings where angel Gabriel is offering a lily flower to Mary. In Christian traditions, lily flowers are a sign of purity, devotion, chastity, and virtue.

Jewish belief

The Jews believed that the lilies of the garden of Eden were the first to know that Eve yielded to temptation.

Buddhism

The Tiger lily portrays mercy and compassion. In both Buddhism and Hinduism, the aquatic plants – water lilies and lotus flowers are considered a symbol of purity and enlightenment.  

Lily symbolism


Lily flowers are symbolic of peace, purity, virginity, innocence, hope, faith, fertility, motherhood, promise, passion, transformation, and death. Lilies are the pretty flowers you could gift anyone on any occasion!

The many symbolisms of lily flowers are –

Purity and Virginity

In the Christian faith, white lilies are associated with purity and virginity. These flowers are often associated with the Virgin Mary. White lilies are also used in weddings and bridal decorations.

Transience

Lilies are the mourning flowers used in funerals. These flowers are often used to denote transience and death.

Meanings of lilies based on colors

• Red – represents affection of the giver

• Orange – denotes happiness and warmth

• Pink – symbolizes wealth, joy and youth

• White – signifies purity, humility, and innocence

• Yellow – friendship, joy and gratitude

Lily flower meaning


Each variety of lilies holds a unique significant message. The colors of the petals denote different meanings to us. Let us discuss the different meanings based on the variety of lilies.

Calla lily meaning

The word “calla” comes from a Greek word meaning beautiful. Calla lily blooms in late spring to early summer. Popular varieties are pink calla, white calla lilies, purple calla lilies, and yellow calla lilies. The Greeks considered it a symbol of beauty while the Christians regarded it as a sign of devotion, faith and purity. Calla lily flower stands for grace and strength.

Peace lily flower meaning

This variety is not a true lily. It symbolizes prosperity, serenity and also offered to someone to express sympathy especially after the passing of their loved ones. In Feng Shui, the white petals of these flowers are said to harmonize the energy of your home and calms your mind.

Tiger lily flower meaning

Tiger lily represents pride, fortune, optimism and luck. These beautiful lilies are common favorites.

White lily flower meaning

The white lilies have been associated with Christianity. It represented purity and virginity. White lilies are symbols of the Virgin Mary. These are also used in weddings and bridal bouquets.

Asiatic lily flower meaning

These majestic flowers are symbolic to commitment, new beginnings and purity. The white variety is a sign of commitment in marriage while the pink ones indicate budding romance. The yellow and orange flowers symbolize new beginnings and celebrations.

South African lily flower meaning

The common lilies that grow in South Africa are called Agapanthus. It is considered as a symbol of love. These flowers also portray purity, fertility and beauty.

Water lily flower meaning

The water lily blooms to form beautiful lily pads. White water lilies symbolize peace, purity and pleasure. These have spiritual significance across cultures. The Nymphaea water lilies represent innocence, hope, rebirth, wellness, fertility and pleasure. The blue water lily also called sacred blue lily or blue lotus is an ancient Egyptian emblem. In the Egyptian legends, a blue water lily is the sign of the sun god and rebirth.

Yellow lily flower meaning

The yellow color represents joy and happiness. Yellow lilies express the message of warmth, gratitude and happiness.

Arum lily flower meaning

These moderately fragrant flowers are sophisticated and classy. These are popular wedding flowers that symbolize truth, elegance and honor.

Leopard lily flower meaning

These are flower symbols of love and budding romance.  

Royal lily flower meaning

The Royal lilies represent royalty and privilege.

Easter lily flower meaning

Easter lilies represent Jesus Christ’s resurrection. These flowers are said as the “white-robed apostles of hope” in the Christian faith. Easter lily signifies hope, a new beginning, innocence and purity.  

Rain lily flower meaning

Atamasco lily or Rain lily is a splendid flower that symbolizes hope, new beginnings, marriage, happiness, prosperity, resurrection and rebirth. Pink rain lilies are also called fairy lilies and these blooms in the spring after a good shower. 

Blue lily flower meaning

The blue lilies symbolize feminine energy. The Egyptians considered this type of lily sacred and they considered it to be a symbol of the sun and an indication of rebirth.

Red spider lily flower meaning

These flowers are popularly called “Red Magic Lily” or “Hurricane Lily”. These are gorgeous flowers to see because there are no leaves when it blooms. It symbolizes the rebirth of a soul. 

Kaffir lily flower meaning

These ornamental flowers are a sign of commencement of spring. These are offered in religious ceremonies.

Oriental lily flower meaning

These are signs of purity, commitment and rebirth. Oriental lilies are celebratory flowers used in weddings.

Stargazer lily flower meaning

This type of lily flower was created by Leslie Woodriff by cross-pollinating between Oriental and Asiatic lily. Most common are the pink stargazer lilies but white and yellow stargazers are also available. The stunning pink stargazer lily symbolizes success, prosperity, wellness and abundance. You can gift someone a bouquet of stargazer lilies to wish them prosperity and success.

Purple lily flower meaning

Purple lily is a symbol of royalty. These gorgeous flowers stand for success, pride, admiration and accomplishments.

TIP
The pollen of lily flowers can cause unpleasant stains! When you wear it make sure the flower isn’t wet or it could leave a stain on your dress.

Why should you gift lily flowers to someone?


Lilies are pretty flowers you can give to anyone to brighten up their day. It’s the most gorgeous at the time of summer solstice. You can give these flowers to friends or family to make them happy.

Lilies can be gifted on weddings, anniversaries or to congratulate someone. You can just give to someone you want to wish wealth, peace, success and purity in their lives. Lilies are flowers that create a good impression of the sender.

Most importantly, it is your heartfelt genuine desire that you want to convey through these flowers. Lily flowers can have different meanings based on its type but it boils down to this – the sender wants to give their warm wishes and unconditional love through these lovely flowers.

Uses of lily flowers


Aside from being a gorgeous gift, bridal bouquet or an indoor flowering plant, lilies are used in medicines, skin ointments, diuretics, laxatives and beauty products. Native Americans used it in preparing their tea. In Asia, lilies are used as an ingredient in cuisines from soups to pork dishes.

Lily in Dreams


If you dream of lily flowers it could indicate that the time is perfect for you to act on your plans. It also symbolizes personal balance, rest and peace.

Lily in Tarot


In the Tarot cards, the lily is present in the Temperance card, Magician card and the Ace of Pentacles card. Lily signifies health and prosperity in the readings.

Lily tattoo meaning


Are you considering a lily flower tattoo? Yes, lily tattoo designs are great for both men and women. You can have a lily tattoo anywhere in your body but it is better to understand what it signifies before getting it inked on your skin. You have to find what significance the tattoo would have for you. Read the following information before going to a tattoo parlor. Here’s a complete list on the lily tattoo symbols, just for you!

Lily tattoos are symbols of –
  • Life
  • Beauty
  • Peace
  • Innocence
  • Fertility
  • Faith
  • Innocence
  • Strength
Some lily tattoos idea for you.
  • Lily tattoo in grey and white
  • Tiny lily designs on fingers or ear lobes
  • Grey and pink lily tattoos on your back
  • Butterfly and lilies
  • Dragonfly and lilies
  • Pink lily flowers on your shoulder
  • Lily and Hummingbird tattoo on the thighs
  • Outline of lily flower
  • Skull and lily flower design
  • Blue lily flower tattoo
  • Yellow and orange lilies tattoo

Lily quotes


1. Faith is a lily, lifted high and white.

— Christina Rossetti
Faith is a lily, lifted high and white. -Christina Rossetti

2. The rose does best as rose. Lilies make the best lilies. And look! You – the best you around!

Rumi
The rose does best as rose. Lilies make the best lilies. And look! You – the best you around! -Rumi

3. We are all fairies living underneath a leaf of a lily pad.

Tori Amos
We are all fairies living underneath a leaf of a lily pad. -Tori Amos

4. I would far rather have two or three lilies of the valley gathered for me by a person I like, than the most expensive bouquet that could be bought.

— Elizabeth Gaskell
I would far rather have two or three lilies of the valley gathered for me by a person I like, than the most expensive bouquet that could be bought.-Elizabeth Gaskell

5. The world is growing gentle, but few know what she owes to the understanding lily and the judgment of the rose.

— Nathalia Crane
The world is growing gentle, but few know what she owes to the understanding lily and the judgment of the rose. - Nathalia Crane

6. But the lilies are slippery and wild — they are devoid of meaning, they are simply doing, from the deepest spurs of their being, what they are impelled to do every summer. And so, dear sorrow, are you.

— Mary Oliver
But the lilies are slippery and wild — they are devoid of meaning, they are simply doing, from the deepest spurs of their being, what they are impelled to do every summer. And so, dear sorrow, are you. -Mary Oliver

7. Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies, Let them live upon their praises.

— William Wordsworth
Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies, Let them live upon their praises. -William Wordsworth

8. Like the lily That once was mistress of the field and flourished, I’ll hang my head and perish.

— William Shakespeare
 Like the lily That once was mistress of the field and flourished, I’ll hang my head and perish. -William Shakespeare

9. Misfortune had made Lily supple instead of hardening her, and a pliable substance is less easy to break than a stiff one.

— Edith Wharton
Misfortune had made Lily supple instead of hardening her, and a pliable substance is less easy to break than a stiff one. -Edith Wharton

10. Consider the lilies of the field whose bloom is brief: We are as they; Like them we fade away As doth a leaf.

— Christina Rossetti
Consider the lilies of the field whose bloom is brief: We are as they; Like them we fade away As doth a leaf. - Christina Rossetti

The Noble Nature
by Ben Johnson (1572 – 1637)

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standng long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night —
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

Watch this video -> What’s up with lilies?

Closing Thoughts

Lily flowers are significant across cultures worldwide. These flowers have been associated with traditions, mythology, and religion. Lily flowers are popular gifting choices throughout the world. You can go wrong with rose flowers but you can never go wrong with lily. It’s not only for a special someone, but you can also gift it to anyone on any occasion and make them smile.