What Do Lilies Symbolize and Why They Hold Great Significance

Lilies are more than just a beautiful flower. They represent different meanings depending on the variety and culture. Their unique features like petals, long stems, and scent have made them a popular choice for floral arrangements. Since ancient times, lilies have been a subject of interest for philosophers, poets, and artists who have tried to decipher their symbolic significance. In this article, we’ll explore what lilies symbolize and why they have been so captivating for people all over the world.

When it comes to lilies, there’s a lot of symbolism to unpack. White lilies, for example, convey purity and innocence, while pink lilies represent ambition, prosperity, and femininity. Orange lilies are associated with confidence, enthusiasm, and pride, while yellow lilies symbolize happiness and joy. In many cultures, lilies are considered a symbol of renewal, rebirth, and spiritual purity. Furthermore, lilies have played a significant role in religions such as Christianity, where they represent the Virgin Mary’s purity and grace.

If you’re curious about the symbolism of lilies, you’re not alone. As one of the most beloved flowers worldwide, lilies have an extensive history dating back thousands of years. From the Greeks to the Egyptians, many ancient civilizations prized lilies for their beauty and sacredness. With such diverse connotations, lilies have become a versatile flower for all kinds of occasions, from weddings to funerals, from art to literature. By exploring what lilies symbolize, we can better understand their role in human history and culture.

The History of Lilies as a Symbol

The lily is a flower that has been used as a symbol for various cultures throughout history. Originally native to Asia, Europe, and North America, lilies are believed to have been cultivated and used for decorative purposes for over 3,000 years. The lily’s symbolism has been associated with both positive and negative meanings in different cultures, depending on the context and the environment. In this article, we will explore the history of lilies as a symbol and their various meanings in different cultures.

  • In ancient Greece, the lily was considered a symbol of purity, innocence, and rebirth. The legend of Zeus and Hera illustrates this symbolism, where the lily represents the purity and innocence of Hera, the queen of the gods.
  • In ancient Rome, the lily was associated with the goddess Venus, who was worshiped as the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. The lily’s delicate and graceful appearance was seen as a fitting representation of Venus’s attributes.
  • In Christianity, the lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary’s purity and chastity. The association with the Virgin Mary led to the lily’s use as a symbol of the Annunciation and the Immaculate Conception.

The lily has also been associated with negative meanings in some cultures. For example, in ancient Egypt, the lily was believed to represent death and was often used in funeral wreaths. In Chinese culture, the lily is sometimes viewed as a symbol of bad luck or death when given in large numbers.

In modern times, the lily’s symbolism varies depending on its color. For example, the white lily is still considered a symbol of purity and innocence, while the yellow lily is associated with gratitude and thankfulness. The pink lily is seen as a representation of youth and femininity, while the orange lily symbolizes confidence and pride.

Color of LilySymbolic Meaning
WhitePurity, Innocence
YellowGratitude, Thankfulness
PinkYouth, Femininity
OrangeConfidence, Pride

In conclusion, the lily’s history as a symbol is rich and diverse, with different meanings attached to it depending on cultural context. From ancient Greece and Rome to modern times, the lily has been used to represent purity, innocence, love, beauty, death, and more. Its association with the Virgin Mary and Christianity, as well as its use in different color schemes, has ensured the relevance of the lily as a symbol in many cultures around the world.

Religious Significance of Lilies

The beauty and elegance of lilies have captivated humans for centuries, and many cultures and religions have ascribed different meanings to these flowers. In Christianity, lilies carry special significance as they are associated with several biblical stories and have a strong connection to the life of Jesus Christ and his mother, Mary.

  • The Annunciation: According to the Bible, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. The event is known as the Annunciation, and in many artworks, it is depicted with a white lily symbolizing purity and innocence held by the angel.
  • The Resurrection: In Christianity, lilies are also associated with the resurrection of Jesus. Legend has it that when Jesus rose from the dead and left his tomb, lilies grew up in his footsteps. As a result, Easter lilies have become a symbol of new life and hope.
  • The Madonna Lily: The Madonna Lily, also known as the Easter Lily, is a particular species of lily that is associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, the lily was created when Mary’s tears fell to the ground as Jesus was carrying the cross. Over time, the flower has come to represent Mary’s purity and innocence.

Beyond Christianity, lilies are also significant in other religions. In Buddhism, for example, the lotus flower is considered a symbol of enlightenment and spiritual growth, and it is often depicted alongside lilies in artwork and temple decorations. Similarly, in Hinduism, the lotus is seen as a symbol of divine beauty and purity, and the water lily, in particular, represents new beginnings.

In conclusion, lilies have been associated with religious and spiritual significance across various cultures and traditions. From symbolizing purity, new life, and hope to representing the beauty and innocence of important religious figures, lilies remain a timeless and revered symbol in various religions today.

The Cultural Significance of Lilies

Lilies have been cultivated and revered for their beauty for centuries. But beyond their aesthetic qualities, these stunning flowers have deep cultural significance and symbolic meaning in many cultures around the world. Here, we delve into the meaning behind lilies and their significance in various cultural contexts.

  • Christianity: In Christianity, the white lily is a sign of purity and chastity and is often associated with the Virgin Mary. This symbolism dates back to the Old Testament, where the Song of Solomon describes the beloved as a “lily among brambles.”
  • China: In China, lilies symbolize good luck, abundance, and prosperity. They are also used in traditional medicine and are believed to have healing properties.
  • Japan: In Japan, the lily is associated with death and funerals. According to Japanese legend, the souls of deceased children are said to reside in the petals of the lily. As a result, lilies are often used in funeral arrangements and as offerings to the dead.

Beyond these specific cultural associations, lilies are often seen as a symbol of renewal and rebirth. They are often associated with the spring season and the coming of new life. Additionally, different colors of lilies can symbolize different things. For example, white lilies are associated with purity and dignity, while pink lilies symbolize love and admiration.

The cultural significance of lilies has also led to their use in art and literature. The famous painter Claude Monet was known for his love of lilies and painted many works featuring the flower. In literature, lilies are often used as a symbol of innocence and purity. In William Golding’s classic novel, Lord of the Flies, one character compares the naivete of another to “a kid who’d had a go at a lily.”

WhitePurity, innocence, chastity, virtue
PinkLove, admiration, gentleness, femininity
YellowJoy, happiness, lightheartedness, friendship
OrangePassion, enthusiasm, desire, warmth
RedLove, passion, devotion, courage

In conclusion, lilies are a beautiful flower with deep cultural significance across the world. As a symbol of purity, rejuvenation, and new life, they hold a special place in many cultures and continue to inspire art and literature today.

Types and Varieties of Lilies

Lilies are not only stunning and elegant but they also hold significant meanings making them ideal gifts for various occasions. With over 100 varieties of lilies available worldwide, it’s possible to find a lily that perfectly matches your taste and requirements. When it comes to symbolism, lilies represent purity, innocence, devotion, and renewal, which has made them popular among various cultures and religions.

  • Asiatic Lilies: These lilies feature big showy flowers that come in different colors including white, red, pink, and yellow. They bloom early in the summer and are characterized by short stems and upward-facing flowers that make them perfect for cut flower arrangements.
  • Oriental Lilies: These are the “Queen of the Lilies” due to their large and fragrant blooms. They come in varying colors, including white, pink, red, and yellow, and bloom mid-summer. Oriental lilies also have strong stems that can withstand the weight of their big flowers making them the go-to lily for aesthetic appeal.
  • Trumpet Lilies: These lilies feature funnel-shaped flowers that open in an upward direction. They have a distinct perfume-like aroma and are commonly used in aromatic oils and perfumes. The petals of trumpet lilies are flared and come in colors such as white, pink, and yellow, and they can grow up to 6 inches in diameter.

Aside from these, there are other types of lilies that feature unique attributes and appeal that may cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences. The martagon lilies, for instance, are known for their recurved petals, and the tiger lilies are distinguished by their vibrant orange color and dark spots.

Furthermore, lilies have been classified into hybrids and species based on their genetic features. The hybrids are created by crossing various lily varieties while species entail lilies with similar characteristics such as shape, size, and color. Farmers typically plant these various lily types depending on their climatic conditions and overall taste preference.

Type of LilyFlower ColorsBloom Time
Asiatic LilyWhite, Pink, Red, YellowEarly Summer
Oriental LilyWhite, Pink, Red, YellowMid-Summer
Trumpet LilyWhite, Pink, YellowLate Summer

In conclusion, understanding the types and varieties of lilies can go a long way in helping you choose the perfect lily for your event or loved ones. By taking the time to familiarize yourself with these gorgeous blooms, you are sure to make a lasting impression no matter the occasion.

Lilies in Art and Literature

Throughout history, lilies have been a popular subject in art and literature. Their beauty and elegance have inspired artists and writers to use them as symbols for various emotions and ideas.

One of the most common symbolic meanings of lilies in art and literature is purity. The white lily, in particular, has been used to represent purity and innocence. In Christian art, lilies are often depicted in scenes of the Virgin Mary or other saints to symbolize their purity and holiness.

In addition to purity, lilies have also been used to symbolize renewal and rebirth. This is particularly true of the Easter lily, which blooms in the spring and is associated with the resurrection of Jesus. The lily’s ability to bloom anew each year after a period of dormancy makes it a powerful symbol of renewal and hope.

  • One notable example of lilies in literature is in T.S. Eliot’s famous poem, “The Waste Land.” In the poem, the lily is used as a symbol of rebirth and the possibility of new life after destruction and despair.
  • In William Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet,” Ophelia gives a bouquet of flowers to her brother Laertes that includes lilies, which are said to symbolize purity and virtue.
  • The novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the lily as a symbol of both purity and death. The character of Daisy, who represents beauty and purity, wears a dress adorned with lilies, but the color of the dress is a deathly white.

Finally, lilies have also been associated with the transience of life and the importance of living in the present moment. The brevity of the lily’s bloom, which lasts only a few weeks, has been used to remind people to appreciate the beauty around them while they can.

Lilies paintingLiliesClaude Monet
Lilies sculptureLiliesAuguste Rodin
Lilies drawingLiliesVincent van Gogh

Lilies in art and literature continue to inspire and fascinate people around the world. Whether they symbolize purity, rebirth, or the transience of life, lilies will always hold a special place in our hearts and imaginations.

Symbolism of the Color of Lilies

Lilies are popular for their beauty, fragrance, and versatility as they come in various colors. Each color is associated with a unique symbolism that gives insight into the significance and meaning of lilies.

Number 6: Harmony and Balance

In numerology, the number 6 is known for its harmonious and balanced traits. Hence, a bouquet of six lilies symbolizes harmony, balance, and tranquility. This number is prevalent in Chinese culture, where it signifies wealth, success, and good luck.

  • A gift of six white lilies symbolizes purity, innocence, and spirituality.
  • Six red lilies convey passionate love, desire, and devotion.
  • Six yellow lilies represent happiness, joy, and cheerfulness.

Lilies are often used in flower arrangements with six flowers to evoke a sense of serenity, peace, and calmness. They are also used in feng shui to enhance the energy flow in the home or office and create a harmonious and balanced atmosphere.

Other Symbolism of Lilies

Aside from their color, lilies have other symbolism that varies depending on their type and cultural context. For instance:

• In Christianity, white lilies represent the purity and innocence of the Virgin Mary, while the Easter Lily symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.

• In Greek mythology, lilies were associated with Hera, the goddess of marriage, and symbolized fertility and motherhood.

• In Japan, the lily of the valley represents good luck and prosperity, while the tiger lily symbolizes the courage and strength of character.


WhitePurity, Innocence, Spirituality
RedPassionate Love, Desire, Devotion
YellowHappiness, Joy, Cheerfulness

Lilies have been a popular flower in many cultures and have various meanings and symbolism. The color of lilies plays a significant role in conveying the intended message and expression of the giver. Therefore, understanding the symbolism of lilies’ colors can help us choose the perfect bouquet for any occasion.

Lilies as a Sign of Mourning or Sorrow

For centuries, the lily has been a symbol of mourning or sorrow. It’s often used in funeral arrangements, and the white lily, in particular, is associated with the peace and tranquility that comes after death.

  • According to Christian tradition, the lily was born from the tears shed by Eve after her expulsion from the Garden of Eden. As such, the flower came to symbolize the sorrow and sin of humanity.
  • In Greek mythology, the lily was said to have grown from the milk of the goddess Hera. When her husband Zeus brought their son Hercules to suckle, some of the milk spilled onto the earth and gave rise to the lily. Hercules, in turn, became a symbol of strength and resilience in the face of tragedy.
  • In Japan, the lily is known as the “flower of sorrow” and is often placed at the graves of those who have passed away. The flower is thought to represent the transience of life and the impermanence of all things.

Despite the association with mourning, the lily can also represent hope and renewal. In Christianity, the Easter lily is often used to symbolize the resurrection of Christ and the hope of eternal life.

It’s worth noting that the number 7 is also significant in the context of lilies and mourning. In many cultures, the number 7 is associated with death and mourning, and there are a few different explanations for why this is.

Seven days of mourningJewish tradition
Seven days for the soul to travel to the afterlifeAncient Egyptians
Seven years of bad luckWestern superstition

Whether or not you believe in the significance of numbers, the lily remains a powerful symbol of grief and loss. With its delicate beauty and subtle fragrance, it’s a reminder that even in the midst of sorrow, there is still something to be celebrated and cherished.

Lilies in Weddings and Special Occasions

Lilies have been long cherished for their beauty and fragrant scent, making them a popular choice in various special occasions. Here we will delve into the meaning behind lilies in weddings and other events.

  • Weddings: Lilies in weddings symbolize purity, innocence, and new beginnings. The most popular lilies used in weddings are the white lilies which are often used in bridal bouquets and centerpieces. The color white is symbolic of the bride’s purity and the beginning of the couple’s new life together. Lilies can also be used as decorations in the wedding ceremony and reception because of their elegant appearance and fragrance.
  • Funerals: Lilies are often seen at funerals as they represent the restoration of the soul of the departed to a state of innocence. The color white lilies are the most common ones used in this event for the same reason they are used in weddings.
  • Other Celebrations: Lilies are popular in other celebrations such as anniversaries, christenings, and religious ceremonies due to their symbolic meanings. For anniversaries, lilies symbolize the couple’s purity and the continuation of true love. In christenings, lilies represent the baby’s purity and new beginnings. For religious ceremonies, lilies represent hope, faith, and the restoration of innocence.

The Number 8

The number 8 has a special significance in Chinese culture and is believed to bring good luck, prosperity, and longevity. Lilies, especially the white ones, are often given in bouquets of 8 because they symbolize the same things. The Chinese word for “eight” (ba) sounds similar to the word for “prosperity” (fa) and is considered lucky. A bouquet of 8 lilies, therefore, is a popular gift for weddings and other special occasions, wishing the person receiving it a long and prosperous life.

Lily TypeSymbolism
White LilyPurity, innocence, and new beginnings
Yellow LilyJoviality, good fortune, and gratitude
Pink LilyWealth, prosperity, and love
Red LilyPassion, love, and desire

Overall, lilies are not only beautiful flowers but also have a deep and significant meaning. They are a great choice for weddings and special occasions to celebrate love, purity, and longevity. The number 8 adds an extra layer of symbolism and can bring good luck and prosperity to the receiver.

The Connection between Lilies and Femininity

Historically, lilies have been associated with femininity and have been used in a variety of ways to represent this connection. One of the most prominent ways that lilies have been used to symbolize femininity is through their association with the Virgin Mary.

In Christian tradition, the white lily is said to symbolize the purity and innocence of Mary, making it a popular symbol in religious art and iconography. However, the association between lilies and femininity extends beyond religion.

Lilies have also been associated with motherhood and fertility, due to their association with spring and new beginnings. Their delicate beauty and sweet fragrance have made them a popular gift for new mothers or as a decoration for baby showers.

The Symbolic Meaning of the Number 9 in Lily Arrangements

  • The number 9 is often used in lily arrangements to symbolize femininity and purity.
  • The number 9 is considered to be a sacred number in many cultures, including Chinese and Japanese cultures, and is associated with luck and good fortune.
  • In Chinese culture, the number 9 is associated with the Chinese Emperor and was used to designate the imperial family.

The Many Varieties of Lilies and Their Symbolic Meanings

Lilies come in many different varieties, each with their own unique symbolism and meaning. Some of the most popular types of lilies include:

  • Calla lilies, which are often associated with marriage and new beginnings.
  • Tiger lilies, which are said to represent wealth and prosperity.
  • Stargazer lilies, which are associated with ambition and success.

The Language of Lilies: A Guide to Their Symbolic Meanings

Lilies are often used in floral arrangements to convey specific messages or emotions. In fact, the symbolism of lilies is so rich and varied that there is an entire language dedicated to their meanings. Here are just a few of the symbolic meanings of different colored lilies:

WhitePurity, innocence, and simplicity
PinkFemininity, admiration, and gratitude
YellowJoy, friendship, and new beginnings
OrangeEnthusiasm, confidence, and pride
PurpleSuccess, wisdom, and royalty

By understanding the symbolism of different types and colors of lilies, you can use them to express your feelings and emotions in a unique and meaningful way.

Lilies in Traditional and Alternative Medicine

Lilies have not only been a popular floral symbol since ancient times, but they have also been used for their medicinal properties. These elegant flowers have been known to hold many natural compounds that can be used to bring balance to our mental and physical well-being. Let’s take a closer look at some of the medicinal uses of lilies in traditional and alternative medicine.

  • Treats anxiety and depression: The scent of lilies is believed to have calming effects on our nervous system. Inhaling lily oil or sniffing fresh lilies can help reduce anxiety and stress levels, promoting relaxation and a positive mood.
  • Relieves respiratory issues: Lilies contain mucilage, which is known to soothe and protect the respiratory system. Lilies are often used to make tea that can be taken for conditions like bronchitis, asthma, and coughs.
  • Reduces inflammation: Lilies contain chemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties, which can provide relief for conditions like arthritis, joint pain, and skin allergies.

Throughout history, lilies have been used in both traditional and alternative medicine. From treating respiratory issues to reducing inflammation, these stunning flowers have proved to be a valuable natural source of healing.

In addition to these medicinal uses, lilies are also used in the beauty industry for their anti-aging properties. The bulbs of certain lily species have been known to stimulate collagen production, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Lilies also contain antioxidants that can protect the skin from free radicals and environmental damage.

Lily TypeMedicinal Properties
Madonna LilyAntimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that aid in wound healing and respiratory issues.
Asiatic LilyAnti-inflammatory properties that help reduce arthritis and joint pain.
Oriental LilyAntioxidant properties that are beneficial for skin health and anti-aging purposes.

Overall, lilies possess a range of medicinal properties that make them a valuable resource for healing and wellness. The next time you catch a whiff of this beautiful flower, remember to appreciate its natural healing abilities.

What Do Lilies Symbolize: FAQs

1. What is the traditional meaning behind lilies?

Lilies are typically associated with purity, innocence, and beauty. They are often used in religious ceremonies and weddings for their traditional meaning.

2. Do different colors of lilies have different meanings?

Yes, different colors of lilies can have different meanings. For example, white lilies symbolize purity and virtue, while pink lilies represent admiration and joy.

3. Can lilies also represent death?

Yes, certain types of lilies, like the Easter Lily, can represent death and resurrection. They are often used in funeral arrangements.

4. What cultures have a significant meaning for lilies?

Lilies have a significant meaning in many cultures, such as Chinese, Greek, and Roman cultures. In China, lilies represent good luck and prosperity, while in Greek mythology they are associated with the goddess Hera.

5. Are lilies appropriate for all occasions?

While lilies are often associated with weddings and religious ceremonies, they are also appropriate for other occasions such as birthdays, Mother’s Day, and anniversaries.

6. Are lilies toxic to pets?

Yes, some types of lilies, such as the Easter Lily, can be toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure. It’s best to avoid having lilies around cats or other pets.

7. Can lilies be used for anything other than decorations?

Yes, lilies can be used for other purposes such as cosmetics and medicinal purposes. For example, the Tiger Lily is used in Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading about what lilies symbolize! Lilies are a beautiful and versatile flower that can be used for various occasions and purposes. Remember to always be cautious around pets when using or having lilies around. If you have any other questions about flowers or symbolism, feel free to come back and visit us again later.