Iris flower meaning, origins, history, and most interesting facts

Purple flowers
Beautiful purple iris flower

Sometimes called ‘the eye of the sky’, the iris flower forms the Iridaceae family that consists of more than 300 colorful species. If you love flowers, you have most certainly heard of Iris. It is a beautiful and delicate flower that comes in many different colors. Let’s take a look at the iris flower meaning, origins, and other interesting facts.

Iris flower meaning

The name of iris comes from the Greek word which means rainbow. Some researchers attribute the origin of the name to the wide variety of iris flower colors. Also, the flower shares its name with the ancient Greek goddess of the rainbow. In Greek mythology, Iris is a beautiful young maiden with the wings on her back. She is the messenger of the gods and brings the news to the mortals. Rainbow is a link between heaven and earth, which she uses to travel back and forth.

Goddess of the rainbow Iris
Image via Pinterest

Therefore, one of the main meanings of iris flower is hope and good news. Of course, the image comes from the Greek goddess Iris, and we know that sometimes the news can be bad. But overall, the arrival of Iris gave people hope.

The ancient Greeks were fascinated by the wonderful colors of the rainbow. For them, it was a miracle and a gift from heaven. So, another iris flower meaning is a miracle and a pleasant surprise. Thus, the iris is a perfect gift on a child’s birth. Iris is also a woman’s name. It represents a strong, temperamental and initiative personality. Iris is the birth flower of February in the US, so it is a perfect idea to name your daughter if she’s born on that month.

Meanwhile, the ancient Egyptians considered that the three iris petals contain faith, courage, and wisdom. We can see that they share similar concepts with the Greeks. The Egyptians also believed that this flower can communicate with the divine world.

Three Iris petals
Image via zabrinadiana

Another symbol of the iris flower is royalty. It became an emblem of royal families of France in the 12th century. Since then, we can find fleur-de-lis in many flags, coat of arms and other objects.

Iris flower colors and different meanings

Since there is a wide range of iris colors, the meaning may slightly vary. So, you should have this in mind before giving an iris as a gift or decorating your home with this flower.

  • White iris flower meaning. This color is a symbol of hope and provides strength to a person who is going through an illness or a rough personal patch. White iris helps to maintain faith. It reminds us that all the bad things will end and that we’ll soon overcome our problems. So, to give a white iris is to invite a person not to give up. It may also express one’s love for the other person.
White iris meaning
Image via rainbow68
  • Purple iris flower meaning. Most of the iris flowers have a violet or a purple shade, and these colors symbolize nobility and religious devotion. So, if you’ll plant purple iris in your garden or decorate your home – you’ll provide spiritual harmony for your place. Purple iris is also a symbol of wisdom and intelligence, so you can put them near when you work or study.

→ Click here ← if you want to learn more about other purple flower meanings

Purple iris flower meaning
Image via anoldfox
  • Blue Iris flower meaning. This color is a symbol of good news. In Victorian-era, it was usual to send a blue iris with a letter that brought good news. When a person opened up a letter, he or she would see the iris and know that the news is good. Nowadays, people give this flower together with a birthday gift.
Blue iris
Image via ben_mancino
  • Yellow iris flower meaning. Yellow symbolizes sexual passion and female lust. It’s a good idea to give yellow iris to your wife or husband to rekindle the passion in your relationship.
Yellow iris
Image via onejbdigitalmedia

Iris flower in different cultures

Fleur-de-lis is a well-known heraldic symbol. Although it translates as ‘flower of the lily’, it reflects the yellow iris flower. And to prove that fact – there are no wild yellow lilies anywhere in Europe. In the 12th century, Louis VII adopted it as a symbol and since then Fleur-de-lis became the symbol of France. According to Dumas, the fleur-de-lis symbol was burned on the skin of criminals to mark them for the rest of their lives.

Fleur-de-lis meaning
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In general, the fleur-de-lis is a symbol of power, sovereignty, honor, and loyalty. In French heraldry, it is a religious, political and dynastic symbol. It may also signify the purity of soul and blood. As we’ve mentioned before, it first occurs as the emblem of the House of Capet in the 12th century. But we can also find it in religious art, architecture, military, sports, and other fields. It is a universal symbol of the Scout Movement.

In some parts of the world, people call iris flowers flags or swords. This image comes from the royal symbolism in heraldry. The sharp leaves of iris are also the reason why in Christianity it represents Our Lady Of Sorrow. They are an allusion to the swords that pierced her heart.

Iris flower meaning
Image via lostinblooms

There is a species called Iris anguifuga which means a ‘snake chaser’. This name comes from the Chinese folklore as people believed that this plant keeps the snakes away from the garden.

Characteristics and usage of Iris

There are about 300 species and more than 50,000 varieties of the iris flower. Botanists usually divide iris flowers into two groups – bearded iris and beardless iris. They range from huge flowers that reach five feet or more to small dwarfs that grow up to eight inches.

As the name suggests, the bearded iris has a small ‘beard’ – the lower fuzzy petal which is hanging downwards. Bearded iris doesn’t have a blurry appearance and reproduces through their swollen roots. Meanwhile, the beardless iris has a round tube called a rhizome which produces small bulbs.

Blue iris flower
Image via iriska_vinn

The wild irises, usually blue or purple, grow throughout the US. People often call them ‘blue flags.’ These blue or purple wild irises are similar to the Siberian irises.

In the olden days, people used iris roots to treat skin infections, syphilis, digestive problems, and hydropsy. Nowadays, some people still use it to purge the liver. Alternative medicine specialists use yellow iris to treat dandruff and white iris to treat asthma and bronchitis. They also use white iris as a compress to treat acne.

Purple water iris
Image via _ivygarden_

We can also find the iris flower in perfume and cosmetics industry. It is the roots of the iris that contain the fragrance. The roots are dried and then crushed to produce a powder called ‘iris root.’ People use this powder in herbal remedies or in potpourris to preserve the scent of the dried herbs.

Blueflag iris flower meaning
Image via digitalstill
Pink iris flower
Image via godunova_tatiana
Mint fresh iris
Image via lostinblooms
Dutch iris meaning
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Yellow flag iris
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Cover image via thecuratedfeast