carnation flower meaning

Carnation Flower Meaning and Symbolism

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You may recognize the carnation as the quintessential graduation flower, given to graduates when they complete their degrees or to other people who have completed some sort of impressive feat.

Carnations can be given on many occasions, but did you know that these flowers actually hold deep symbolism beyond their versatility?

Here are some of the many meanings behind this beautiful flower.

What Does Carnation Mean?

Carnations are often referred to as pinks – while many people think that this is due to their color, that’s not the case. In fact, carnations are often found in multiple other shades, including white and red. 

However, there is some truth to that nomenclature. The first carnations were usually pink and the word originated from the Latin phrase carnis, which means flesh. 

Other people believe that the word “carnation” is derived from the word “coronation” because it was used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Still more believe that carnations are called pinks because they look as though they were cut with pinking shears.

Either way, the scientific name for carnation is Dianthus caryophyllus

What Do Carnations Symbolize?

Carnations can be found in all kinds of colors, including white, pink, yellow, red, and scarlet. Since they can easily be dyed, it’s possible to find carnations in just about every shade. Each color has a different potential meaning.

Here is carnation meaning by color:

What Does a Red Carnation Mean?

red carnation

Red carnations are usually used to symbolize admiration – at least, when they’re light in color. Darker red carnations usually represent affection and love. 

What Does a White Carnation Symbolize?

White carnations symbolize purity, as is expected for most white flowers, but they can also symbolize good luck.

What Does a Yellow Carnation Mean?

Yellow carnations symbolize rejection and disappointment, an uncommon negative connotation for a yellow flower to have (they usually carry more positive symbolism). 

What Does a Pink Carnation Mean?

pink carnation

Pink carnations usually represent gratitude.

What is the Cultural Significance of a Carnation?

Some people believe that the name Dianthus originated from the myth of Diana. There are several variations to this story, but in one, Diana, the goddess of the hunt, was coming back from a not-so-successful hunting trip when she found a shepherd playing a flute. She blamed him for her poor hunt and plucked out his eyes. 

As she calmed down, she regretted her actions and saw that, where his eyes fell, there were red carnations growing out of the drops of blood. 

In Christian tradition, carnations grew from the tears of the Virgin Mary as she watched Jesus carry the cross. In Dutch culture, white carnations are used to commemorate World War II and veterans of various wars. In France, they are the classic funeral flower. 

The carnation is a flower that has been commemorated in many songs and poems, including the British song Ye Shepherds Tell Me by Joseph Mazzinghi. 

What is the Symbolism of a Carnation Tattoo?

Each color of a carnation flower holds its own special meaning when choosing a tattoo. A pink carnation will symbolize a mother’s undying love, while a purple carnation will represent unpredictability and impulsiveness. A red carnation will symbolize admiration for something or someone. 

When Should You Give Someone a Carnation?

Carnations are the second most popular cut flower in the country (following closet after roses). They are also the birth flower for the month of January and are given on first wedding anniversaries as a sign of lasting love and undying commitment. 

They are appropriate on practically every occasion as they symbolize distinction and love. They’re often given to graduates and on special events, like Mother’s Day. 

*Photo by frenta/depositphotos

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