Thursday, November 29, 2012


Yarrow - could it be the next Katniss or Rue?
One year when I was in primary school, a girl called Yarrow transferred to my school one year. I remember being enchanted by her name. Not only had I never heard it as a name before, I had never heard the word before. I'd consider this to be a Katniss/Rue 'Hunger Games'-esque style name - a cool sounding name that is rarely used, and is derived from a relatively common plant that has practical uses.

If you also haven't heard of Yarrow before, it's a flowering herb with feathery leaves and white or pale lilac flowers. It is said that it was discovered and/or used by Achilles, who would carry it on the battlefield to help treat the soldiers' cuts, wounds and abrasions. Hence, some of Yarrow's many aliases include Herbe Militaris, Knight's Milfoil, Soldier's Woundwort and Staunchweed. It's Binomial name is actually Achillea millefolium, named after Achilles.

Yarrow has often been thought to have magical as well as medicinal properties. The Chinese think it is a lucky plant that can be used for divining the future, brightening the eyes and promoting intelligence. It is said to grow around the grave of Confucius. Similar beliefs can be found in British customs, and Yarrow was one of the herbs used in Saxon protection amulets. It is not just positive magical properties that it is associated with though. Yarrow was thought to be used by witches in the middles ages for their spells. For this reason it has also been recognised by the names Devil's Nettle and Devil's Plaything.

White Yarrow Flowers
I've always fancied Yarrow to be a soft, gentle sounding name, but maybe that's just me. It's easy to say because it's basically arrow-starting-with-a-Y. This makes it familiar feeling, yet it's still a very rare name. Yarrow is a unisex name, which is typical of many other nature names which are usually considered to be unisex. The "OW" ending is pretty cool and also fairly gender neutral. Personally I prefer it as a girls name probably because my first introduction to the name was on a girl. But I can see how it could also suit a boy, with it's arrow sound and connections to the battlefield.

While I see most of the above points as positives, I can't help thinking that many of these things are the same reasons it hasn't caught on as many other nature names have. Perhaps people dislike it's soft, androgynous sound and past connections to battles and witchcraft. But if you're willing to look past that, you have one unique and charming name.


  1. While flowers are typically feminine, I can't help but view this name as masculine (or, as you say, androgynous, where I can't picture it on either sex). I can't entirely pinpoint why, either - but I've certainly never heard it before, so maybe that's why!

  2. Yarrow is gorgeous. I definitely see it as unisex, but I think I would lean towards feminine simply because of how dainty the Yarrow flower is. A few months back one of my dad's colleagues had a son named Larrow, which I liked then, but I think I prefer Yarrow.

  3. My son's name is Yarrow for the very reasons that you wrote about. I want him to embody the earth qualities that the name represents and always carry the responsibility of protecting our planet. But also seeing the name has magical elements, that he connects spiritually to the earth and is always in tune with its powers.

    Bethany Mitchell

  4. We named our daughter Yarrow Elizabeth. I had heard the name of someone's farm in college and had it in my head forever. I am also a gardener and love flower names. Our second daughter is named Sylvie Violet.