One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Any of a number of fragrant flowers, such as the wallflower, clove pink, or white stock.
- ‘Dianthus are known by numerous other names, including carnation, clove pink, cottage pink, gillyflower and pinks.’
- ‘Finally, and very much later, gilliflower became a name for flowers such as the white stock and the wallflower that, although sweetly scented, had no connection with the spice or the clove-pink.’
- ‘Then, as if to comfort him, a dove flew in at his window carrying in her mouth a sprig of gilliflowers.’
- ‘They said these flowers had been picked from places far away, where wild roses, gillyflowers and many unknown yellow wild flowers were often gathered by children and women to sell to those passing by.’
- ‘Apricots and gillyflowers, honey and wine are the least I can wish for my son and his beautiful new wife.’
Middle English gilofre (in the sense ‘clove’), from Old French gilofre, girofle, via medieval Latin from Greek karuophullon (from karuon ‘nut’ + phullon ‘leaf’). The ending was altered by association with flower, but gilliver survived in dialect.
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