May 17, 2012


updated Sept 2015
Magnolia ~ flowering tree ~ French

Magnolia is a lilting floral name that seems especially appropriate this time of year. Its feminine sound drips with charm and evokes a southern garden scene. It's what I would call a statement name, and while it's very unique it's also familiar and accessible.

History & Use
Magnolia is the name of a species of flowering trees, with varieties growing in Asia, Africa, and North and Central America. The magnolia tree is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol. The genus name magnolia was first used in the early 1700s. In the US, magnolia trees are found primarily in the East, with the most popular tree being the southern magnolia, found in the Southeast.

Americans used the name Magnolia with the most enthusiasm in the years 1902-1912. After that, statistics show that parents chose the name less and less until it fell out of the top 1,000 in the year 1941. But that gives this name a fantastic bit of vintage appeal.

The play Steel Magnolias, which debuted in 1987 and later became a blockbuster movie, brought to life a group of Southern women who were both strong and delicate. The popularity of the movie strengthened the public's association with magnolias, women, and the South.

(Potential) Popularity
When I first wrote this post, I was surprised to find that Magnolia hadn't yet returned to the top 1,000 names in America. Here's what I wrote right before that happened...

I do expect it to soon, in part due to the recent appearance of the character in Hart of Dixie. But perhaps a stronger reason why this name is due to rise in popularity is the growing trend of floral names as well as multiple-syllable names ending in -ia (think Olivia, Sophia, Amelia).

Magnolia is undeniably ready for its five minutes of fame and hopefully more! It's brimming with potential and Southern charm, and while people may be surprised to encounter it, they will probably wonder why they haven't heard the name more often.

Name Rank: 831 for 2014

Potential Nicknames
  • Maggie
  • Lia

Celeb Babies
  • No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and wife named their daughter Magnolia, born June, 2011.

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