Native to Eurasia, carnations are cultivated for thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans used the flowers in ceremonial crowns, which might explain a name similar to ‘coronation’. Others though believe the carnation earned its name from the Latin word Caro, meaning flesh, as this was the colour of the first carnations. It is also thought to be derived from the Latin word Incarnation, in this case, the incarnation of God in the flesh. According to legend, the carnation flower appeared after the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Carnations sprang forth from each spot where mother Mary’s tears fell to the earth. The carnation’s scientific name, Dianthus, comes from a combination of two Latin words: Dios, meaning gods, and Anthos, meaning flower. More about Christian symbolism.
Carnations enjoy a varied and rich history, filled with symbolism and legend. What giving or wearing a carnation means, depends on the circumstances and the colour of the bloom. In The Language of Flowers a pink carnation would mean “I’ll never forget you” and a striped one “I’m sorry, but I can’t be with you”. There are also some general symbolic meanings that apply to all carnations. These are Love, Distinction and Fascination.