or gil·li·flow·er

  1. Archaic. any of several fragrant flowers of the genus Dianthus, as the carnation or clove pink.
  2. any of various other usually fragrant flowers, especially a stock, Matthiola incana, of the mustard family.

Origin of gillyflower

1300–50; alteration (by association with flower) of Middle English gilofre, geraflour < Old French gilofre, girofle < Latin caryophyllum < Greek karyóphyllon clove (káryo(n) nut + phýllon leaf) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gillyflower

Historical Examples of gillyflower

  • In a wet place the "gillyflower" was growing, suggesting our dentaria, or crinkle-root.

    Fresh Fields

    John Burroughs

  • "It's no use, Gillyflower," she would reply with a weary little smile.

    The Lamp of Fate

    Margaret Pedler

  • Even you couldn't cut through 'ropes of steel,' my Gillyflower.

    The Lamp of Fate

    Margaret Pedler

  • By the aid of a microscope, a 'gillyflower' was seen protecting a chrysalis.

  • "You're such a dear, Gillyflower," she said with that impulsive, lovable charm of manner which it was so difficult to resist.

    The Lamp of Fate

    Margaret Pedler

British Dictionary definitions for gillyflower



  1. any of several plants having fragrant flowers, such as the stock and wallflower
  2. an archaic name for carnation

Word Origin for gillyflower

C14: changed (through influence of flower) from gilofre, from Old French girofle, from Medieval Latin, from Greek karuophullon clove tree, from karuon nut + phullon leaf
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gillyflower

1550s, folk etymology spelling (by association of flower) of gilofre, originally "clove," c.1300, from Old French girofle "clove," ultimately from Greek karyophyllon "clove, nut leaf, dried flower bud of clove tree," from karyon "nut" (see karyo-) + phyllon "leaf" (see folio). The flower so named for its scent, so called from late 14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper