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Carnation Flower Meaning, Spiritual Symbolism, Color Meaning & More

As I embark on this fascinating journey into the world of flowers, my attention is irresistibly drawn to the humble yet profoundly meaningful carnation.

In this article, we will unravel the intricate tapestry of carnation flower meaning and its spiritual symbolism.

These charming blooms have adorned our gardens and events for centuries, holding secrets of love, emotions, and devotion within their delicate petals.

Join me as we explore the hidden language of carnations and discover the rich traditions and beliefs that these flowers have woven into the tapestry of our lives.


Key Takeaways

  • Symbolic Diversity: Carnations boast a wide range of symbolic meanings, with interpretations including love, fascination, admiration, and mourning, contingent upon the flower's color.
  • Spiritual Significance: Carnations are frequently employed in spiritual practices, representing purity, devotion, and divine love across various cultural contexts.
  • Historical Significance: Throughout history, carnations have held significance in art, literature, and folklore, symbolizing lasting beauty and profound emotions.
  • Etymological Origins: The term "carnation" has etymological roots, possibly connected to "coronation" or derived from the 15th-century French word for "complexion."
  • Multifaceted Symbolism: Carnations, cultivated since ancient times, have gathered a range of symbolic meanings, including fascination, devotion, and individuality.
  • Carnation Flower Colors: Different colors of carnations carry distinct meanings, such as purple for capriciousness, white for purity, and yellow for disappointment.
  • Cultural Significance: Carnations hold cultural significance, with associations to figures like Mary in Christianity and roles in mourning traditions in various cultures.
  • Symbolic Carnation Tattoos: Carnation flower tattoos symbolize love, admiration, grief, fascination, and individuality, reflecting diverse personal meanings.
  • Dream Interpretation: Dreams involving carnations often signify love, affection, and admiration, with the color of the carnation in the dream carrying additional meanings.

The Significance Of Carnation Flowers

Carnations aren’t just a bouquet staple. Since the 1980s, these flowers have been sent to loved ones across the world to signify love, honor, and devotion.

However, their meanings are much broader than this. Here are just a few of the most common meanings of the carnation flower.

  • Strength
  • Love
  • Protection
  • Healing
  • Fascination
  • Grief
  • Loss

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The Etymological Origins Of Carnation Flowers: Exploring Their Linguistic Roots

Corruption of “coronation” Possible origin of the term “carnation”
Derived from “carnation” Derived from the 15th-century French word for “complexion”
Used in painting A term used in painting to describe flesh representation

As with most flowers, we can broaden our understanding of the carnation by examining its etymological meaning.

‘Carnation’ is the common name for the Dianthus Caryophyllus, a type of flowering plant native to Europe.

The carnation has been cultivated since ancient times, and it’s favored for its beauty and fragrant scent.

The origins of the word are somewhat vague, however, there are theories around its creation.

If we examine early spellings of the word, ‘carnation’ may be a corruption of the word ‘coronation’.

The flower may also get its name from its bold, pink colorings, deriving from the 15th-century French word ‘carnation,’ meaning “a person's color or complexion.”

This 15th-century term has its roots in Latin and Italian; in Italian, the dialectal ‘carnagione’ meant “flesh color”, and in Late Latin, ‘carnationem’ meant “fleshiness.”

In English, the word had been borrowed for two separate meanings.

The first was to mean the “color of human flesh” in the 1500s, and in the 1700s, it was a term used in painting to describe the “representation of the flesh, nude, or undraped parts of a figure.”

The Multifaceted Symbolism of Carnation Flowers

As we’ve established, carnations have been cultivated since ancient times. As such, these flowers have come to collect a broad range of symbolic meanings.

Though these may differ between cultures, there are a few key things that carnations are believed to symbolize.


Carnations are captivating with their bold colors and distinct appearance, symbolizing admiration and fascination

Devotion and Love

Historically used in Renaissance art to represent devotion and divine love, carnations remain a popular symbol of love, often featured in bridal bouquets and wedding decor.


Carnations' unique shape, often in the form of bisexual flowers with radial symmetry, makes them a symbol of distinction and individuality.

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If you have a quirky, loveable person in your life, gifting them a bunch of carnations can be a great way to express your admiration for their character.

Decoding Carnation Flower Colors: What Do They Symbolize?

As with most flowers, the meanings of the carnation can vary according to its color. So let’s take a closer look at some of the most common colors of the carnation and how they shape its meaning.

Purple Capriciousness, royalty, and nobility
Light Pink Motherly love and gratitude
Dark Pink Tenderness and fondness
White Good luck, purity, cleanliness, sympathy
Yellow Disappointment and rejection
Light Red Subtle expression of love and admiration
Dark Red Profound and passionate love

Purple: Represents capriciousness and is associated with royalty and abundance.


  • Light pink: Symbolizes motherly love and gratitude.
  • Dark pink: Signifies tenderness and fondness, suitable for expressing affection.

White: Symbolizes purity, good luck, cleanliness, and sympathy, making it versatile for various occasions.

Yellow: Associated with disappointment and rejection, suitable for times of sympathy or apologizing.

Light Red: A subtle expression of love, ideal for adoration or admiration.

Dark Red: Represents profound, passionate love, conveying strong emotions.


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Delving into the Profound Botanical Traits of Carnation Flowers

Many knows the carnation or Dianthus as the Peruvian lily, Ulster Mary, or Inca lily.

The carnation comes from the Caryophyllaceae family and is available all year round.

These flowers are one of the most versatile and abundant in the world. Despite only having a vase life of around 14 days, many often paired carnation with other flowers such as sunflowers, lilies, or large-headed roses to create a profound, awe-inspiring bouquet for almost any occasion.

Carnations usually start to bloom around May time. However, these plants can last deep into the summer months, depending on the species and location.

Whether you want a statement flower for a gifting occasion or a striking addition to a flower bed or rock garden, you can use the carnation for various purposes.

The carnation is most commonly in a light pink color.

This plant is loosely-tufted with a wood-like appearance. Its notoriously tall stems stand at around 30 inches, and its fragrant flowers nestle beautifully between a backdrop of linear, gray-green foliage.

The visual appeal of the carnation has made it a popular flower for years. Its history dates back to the Romans and ancient Greeks when they used it in decor and artwork.

Some physical attributes of the carnation have also built some strong associations with Christianity.

Carnations in Celebration: Signifying Special Occasions

Are you looking for the perfect flower to complement your gifting occasion? You’ve come to the right place.

There are few flowers as diverse and distinct as the carnation. So let’s explore some of the most common gifting occasions for the carnation below.

Mother’s Day Expressing motherly love
January Birthdays Birth month flower
Sympathy Gifting in times of loss
Anniversary or Wedding Symbol of love and passion

Mothers Day

The carnation has strong associations with motherly love and affection. Choose the carnation if you want a unique flower to express your gratitude to your mother or a motherly figure.

January Birthdays

Did you know that carnations are the official flower for the January birth month? If your loved one has a birthday in January, give them a beautiful display of carnations to celebrate their day with.


Although the carnation has many positive associations, it also linked to grief and loss. Flowers are one of the most popular gifts to offer someone in a time of loss.

If you want your flowers to have more of a personal touch, offer your loved one a bouquet of carnations instead.

Anniversary Or Wedding

These flowers are also symbolic of love and passion.

For example, if you have a wedding or anniversary coming up, why not show your love with the carnation?

Dark red carnations represent strong romantic love; so, if you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional rose, the carnation may be the display of affection you’re looking for.

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The Rich Cultural Significance of Carnation Flowers

Christianity Associated with Mary, Jesus, and motherly love
Ancient Greece Known as the “Flower of the Gods”
France Traditional funeral flower and condolence message
Netherlands “Carnation Day” symbolizing resistance against German occupiers

Like most flowers, the meanings of the carnation vary between cultures. So let’s take a look at some of the most profound cultural interpretations of the carnation.


In Christianity, the carnation associated with Mary, Jesus, and motherly love. In one Christian legend, when Mary watched Jesus carried to the cross, carnations grew from her tears.

Ancient Greece

People sometimes called carnations the Flowers of God. These associations stem from the meanings of Dianthus, the scientific name for the carnation. In Greek, Dios means “Zeus” and Anthos means “flower.”


In France, the purple carnation is a traditional funeral flower. They usually give carnation as a condolence message to someone who’s recently lost a loved one.

‘Carnation Day’ In The Netherlands

The 29th of June 1940 became known as ‘carnation day’ or ‘Anjerdag.’ On this day, the birthday of Prince Bernard, the Dutch people saw this as a pivotal moment, showing the Germans that national socialism does not interest them.

White carnations were signs of resistance against their German occupiers.

Discovering Intriguing Carnation Flower Facts

Now, let’s explore some of the most interesting facts about the carnation flower.

Nickname “Flower of the Gods” Traditional nickname
Edible Petals Carnation petals are edible
January Birth Flower Official flower for January birthdays
Soil and Conditions Well-drained, neutral to slightly acidic soil
Academic Traditions Worn by Oxford students during exams
  • The carnation is known as the ‘Flower of the Gods’
  • Carnation petals are edible
  • This flower is the official flower of the January birth month
  • Carnations require well-drained soil, that’s neutral or slightly acidic
  • At the University of Oxford, carnations are worn to the students' exams. White is worn for the first exam, pink for the middle exams, and red for the final exam

Versatile Applications of Carnation Flowers

The Carnation also has a range of practical uses. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones below.

Decorative Purposes

People most often use the carnation for decorative purposes. It can be in bouquets, arrangements, corsages, and even boutonnieres, the floral decorations traditionally worn by men on their wedding day.

Herbal Medicine

People also use it for medicinal purposes. The carnation contains substances that help calm the nervous system. This can reduce inflammation and swelling.

The carnation can also treat coronary disorders. People extract the oil of the carnation flower as it has therapeutic benefits. Some people use this oil to treat skin rashes like eczema and even facial wrinkles.

Carnation tea is another popular medicinal treatment. Carnation tea can treat diarrhea, alleviate stomach aches, and treat fevers. It also help depression and anxiety.

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Culinary Purposes

Carnation petals are edible. These petals can be made into candies, used to flavor fruits, or be added to soups and even salads.

Carnation petals are even added to beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks to add extra flavor.

The Symbolic Meaning Behind Carnation Flower Tattoos

Love and Admiration Universal symbol of love and admiration
Grief Symbolizes grief and loss
Fascination and Distinction Represents unique and quirky personalities

If we asked you to think of the most popular tattoo designs, the carnation probably isn’t one that springs to mind.

However, this flower comes in many shapes and sizes and has many meanings, making it a diverse tattoo design for any ink lover. So let’s explore the symbolism of the carnation flower tattoo below.

Love And Admiration

The carnation is a universal symbol of love and admiration. If you’re looking for a tattoo to signify your love for yourself or someone else, the carnation is an excellent choice.

You may prefer to get this design in either deep or light red, depending on the nature of the love you want to symbolize.


The carnation also signifies grief and loss. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, the carnation can be a beautiful tattoo design to commemorate your person.

Fascination And Distinction

Are you a quirky or unique person? Do you find beauty in everything around you and constantly seek out new experiences or thrills?

If you want a tattoo that captures your personality, the carnation is an excellent choice.

Interpreting Carnations in Dreams: Unveiling Their Symbolic Significance

Dreams involving carnations often symbolize love, affection, and admiration. Seeing a carnation in your dream can represent the emotions and feelings you have towards someone in your waking life.

The color of the carnation in the dream may carry additional meanings; for instance, a red carnation typically signifies romantic love, while a white carnation may represent purity and innocence.

These dream interpretations are quite subjective and can vary depending on an individual's personal associations with carnations and their specific dream context.

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Final Thoughts

The carnation is one of the most recognizable flowers in the world. If you’ve ever received flowers, the chances are, you’ve had a carnation or two in your bunch.

These beautiful flowers symbolize many things, from love and hope to grief and loss.

Whatever the occasion, the carnation flower is the ideal way to show your feelings, add some color to your home, or express your individuality through a tattoo.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the spiritual significance of carnations?

Carnations hold various spiritual meanings across cultures. They are often associated with love, purity, and devotion. In some spiritual traditions, white carnations symbolize purity of heart and divine love.

Are carnations used in religious ceremonies?

Yes, carnations are frequently used in religious ceremonies and rituals. They symbolize deep spiritual love and are offered as a sign of devotion in many faiths.

What is the symbolism of red carnations in spirituality?

Red carnations are often associated with deep love, passion, and sacrifice. In some spiritual contexts, they symbolize the profound love of a spiritual teacher or guide.

How do pink carnations relate to spirituality?

Pink carnations symbolize gratitude and appreciation. They can represent the love and respect one has for spiritual figures and mentors.

What do yellow carnations signify in a spiritual sense?

A5: Yellow carnations are associated with happiness and positivity. In a spiritual context, they may symbolize the joy and light that spirituality brings to one's life.

Are carnations linked to any specific spiritual traditions or figures?

Carnations are often associated with figures like Mother Mary in Christianity, and they are used to symbolize her maternal love, purity, and compassion.

Can carnations be used in meditation and mindfulness practices?

Yes, some individuals use carnations in meditation as a way to focus on love, purity, and spiritual devotion. The flower's beauty and symbolism can aid in creating a serene and spiritual atmosphere.

How can I incorporate carnations into my spiritual practices?

You can use carnations as offerings on your altar, in prayer or meditation, or simply as a reminder of your spiritual journey. The color of the carnation can align with the specific intention or emotion you wish to express.

What is the symbolism of multiple carnations in a spiritual context?

A9: Bouquets of carnations may symbolize unity, community, and the interconnectedness of all beings in a spiritual sense. Each flower can represent an individual's unique spiritual journey, coming together to create a beautiful whole.

Can I combine carnations with other spiritual symbols and practices?

Absolutely. Carnations can be integrated with other spiritual symbols, rituals, or practices that resonate with you. They are versatile and can complement various aspects of your spiritual journey.

Carnation Flower Meaning, Spiritual Symbolism, Color Meaning & More