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Flora

Flora Macdonald

Flora (f) Latin, ‘flowers.’ The name of the Roman
flower goddess. Flora’s early use in Scotland was probably as a substitute for the Gaelic name Fionnghal, ‘fair shouldered,’ (which led to Irish Fenella, Finella). Flora
Macdonald (1722-90) naturally comes to mind when the
name is mentioned, and she must have been responsible
for the name’s rise to great popularity in Scotland. It was still frequently used throughout the nineteenth century,
and even in 1935 it was the 51st most frequently used
name for girls. Its use has continued to decline since then, and only 33 girls born in Scotland in 1958 received the name. It probably survives now, like so many old
favourites, as a middle name. In literature there is Flora
Maclvor in Scott’s Waverley (1814), while in his Talisman
(1825) he has a Florise. The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names makes the rather Johrisonian remark that Flora ‘was formerly considered (in England) a suitable name for a spaniel but not for a woman.’ This comment presumably derives from Charlotte Yonge, who explains that a Spanish woman called Florinda, but generally known as la Cava, ‘the wicked one,’ was responsible for the dog-naming. Miss Yonge also points out that Flora Macdonald often spelt her own name as Florie. Florrie is still a diminutive form. The televising of Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga in the 1960’s brought the name Fleur (French, ‘flower’) into use in Scotland and elsewhere. Flore was in fact the earlier French version of Flora.

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