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Borago officinalis

Borago officinalis



Borago: If we trace the word back to ancient Latin, we might end up with burra, a feminine noun which equates to a meaning of a “shaggy garment”, a usage found in the Anthologia Latina (5.133.5) (L&S). Borage is covered by tiny, thick hairs, hence the possible reference to shagginess. The Old French is in fact the same spelling as its most popular common name: borage.

It is widely circulated (cf. Grieve) that the botanical Latin Borago is a corruption of the Latin corago, which in turn breaks down into the noun cor (heart) and the verb ago (I bring). Borage has long held a reputation for lightening the heart and dispelling grief. John Gerard’s (1545-1612) herbal contains a traditional verse on Borage:


ego borago, gaudia semper ago

“I am borage, I always bring joy.”


Pliny the Elder, the Roman polymath of the 1st century AD, discusses three remedies of a plant that may well be Borage. (Naturalis historia, Chapter 40). He remarks that if the plant is placed in wine, it promotes joy and good humour (hence its Greek name of euphrosynum):


iungitur huic buglossos, boum linguae similis, cui praecipuum, quod in vinum deiectaanimi volutates auget et vocatur euphrosynum (Mayhoff’s Latin text).


COMMON NAMES: Burrage (Grieve); French: Bourrage.



Calendula officinalis


Calendula officinalis


calendula herbal etymology

Calendula: In Italy you might find this flower called fiore d’ogni mese or in France still referred to as fleur de tous les mois: “flower of every month”. Indeed, the name goes back to the ancient Roman calendar, to the days called kalendae in Latin (the calends were the first day of each month, when interest payments were due). This may be because Calendula flowers in most months. (I personally note that Calendula easily stays in bloom almost year-round if regularly deadheaded, making it a flower indeed for every month).

Mrs. Grieve remarked, without citing her source, that “it is said to be in bloom on the calends of every month, hence its Latin name.” The Collins English Dictionary suggests that the name Calendula may be due to the herb’s “supposed efficacy in curing menstrual disorders” (a peculiar suggestion; Calendula is in fact a menstrual regulator).

COMMON NAMES: Bull’s eyes, Gold bloom, Golding, Golds (Grieve), Gowlan, Jackanapes-on-horsebacke, Mally gowl, Marybud, Marigold, Marygold (Grieve), Mary Gowles (Grieve), Pot Marigold,  Ruddes (Grieve), Sunflower; French: Fleur de tous les mois, Souci, Souci officinal, Souci des jardins; Italian: Fiore d’ogni mese; Latin: Aureola, Caltha, Oculus Christi (Grieve), Solis sponsa (Grieve), Solsequia; Ancient Greek: Chrysanthemon; Cherokee: a ga do li (“Eye” flowers); Gaelic: Blath Mhuire.


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