What Does White Lily Symbolize? Exploring the Meanings and Significance of this Elegant Flower

Have you ever seen a white lily? While it may just look like a pretty flower, it holds a lot of meaning and symbolism. White lilies are often associated with purity, virtue, and innocence. In fact, they are often used in religious ceremonies for these exact reasons.

The white lily has been used in many cultures throughout history as a symbol of something pure and good. In Greek mythology, it is said that white lilies grew from the breast milk of Hera, the queen of the gods. Christians have also used the white lily as a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who is often depicted with the flower. The white lily is even the national flower of Slovakia, where it symbolizes love, peace, and freedom. So not only is the white lily visually stunning, but it also carries a lot of weight in terms of symbolism.

History of the White Lily as a Symbol

The white lily has been a powerful symbol for centuries, and has been featured in religious iconography, royal crests, and even has become the national flower of France. Here’s a look at the historical significance of this beautiful flower.

  • Ancient Greece – The Greeks believed that the goddess Hera milk created the lilies when she spilled some of it on the ground while breastfeeding Heracles. They associated the white lily with femininity, motherhood, and birth.
  • Christian tradition – In Christian tradition, the white lily is a symbol of purity, innocence, and divine motherhood. It is often associated with the Virgin Mary and is featured in many paintings of the Annunciation.
  • European royalty – The white lily became a popular symbol among European royalty in the Middle Ages. It was used in crests and coats of arms to represent purity, nobility, and loyalty.

In the modern era, the white lily continues to be a symbol of elegance, purity, and grace. It has even been chosen as the national flower of France, which has long been associated with the lily, even though it is formally called the Fleur-de-lis.

Religious Significance of White Lilies

White lilies have been a part of religious and spiritual traditions around the world. They are associated with different meanings and beliefs, depending on the culture and religion. Here are some of the religious significance of white lilies:

  • In Christianity, the white lily symbolizes the purity, innocence, and virginity of the Virgin Mary. According to legend, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear the son of God, he presented her with a white lily as a symbol of her divine pregnancy. That’s why the white lily is also sometimes called the “Madonna lily.” During Easter, white lilies are commonly used in church decorations to represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life.
  • In Buddhism, the white lily represents the purity of body, speech, and mind, and the attainment of spiritual enlightenment. In some Buddhist traditions, white lilies are used in offerings to the Buddha and as decorations during meditation retreats.
  • In Hinduism, the white lily represents purity, fertility, and prosperity. It is associated with the goddess Saraswati, who is the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. White lilies are often used in Hindu weddings and other auspicious occasions.

As you can see, white lilies are powerful symbols of spirituality, purity, and hope across different cultures and religions. Their beauty and fragrance continue to inspire people to connect with their higher selves and the divine.

The Meaning of White Lilies in Art

The white lily has been a popular symbol in art throughout history. This elegant flower is often depicted in various artworks, and its meaning varies depending on the context. In this article, we will explore the different meanings of white lilies in art.

The Symbolism of White Lilies in Christianity

  • In Christianity, the white lily represents purity, innocence, and chastity.
  • The flower is often associated with the Virgin Mary, who is portrayed holding a white lily in many artworks.
  • White lilies are also a common motif in Easter celebrations, symbolizing resurrection and new beginnings.

The Use of White Lilies in Victorian Art

During the Victorian era, white lilies were popular symbols in art and literature, especially in the context of romantic love.

Artists often depicted the flower in portraits of women, representing their beauty, purity, and virtue.

The Importance of the Trinity in White Lily Symbolism

In addition to its association with the Virgin Mary, the white lily also holds significance in the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

The flower is said to symbolize the three parts of the Holy Trinity: the stem represents the Father, the petals represent the Son, and the stamen represents the Holy Spirit.

Part of the FlowerRepresentation in the Holy Trinity
StemThe Father
PetalsThe Son
StamenThe Holy Spirit

The use of white lilies in art, therefore, holds deeper meaning beyond its physical beauty. Its symbolic value adds layers of significance to various artworks, making it a meaningful subject for artists throughout history.

Traditional Uses for White Lilies in Weddings and Funerals

White lilies have been a symbol of purity, innocence, and sympathy for centuries. They are a popular choice for weddings and funerals because of their symbolic meaning.

  • Weddings: In weddings, white lilies are commonly used as centerpieces, bouquets, and decorations. They symbolize purity, innocence, and eternal love, making them a popular choice for brides. Lilies are also believed to bring luck and good fortune to newlyweds.
  • Funerals: White lilies are commonly used in funeral arrangements as they symbolize the restoration of innocence for the deceased. They also represent the restored innocence of the soul of the departed, making them a fitting tribute. The lily’s pure white color and delicate petals also represent the purity and innocence of the departed.

White lilies have traditionally been used in both weddings and funerals because of their elegant and timeless beauty. They are a classic and elegant choice for any occasion, whether it is a joyous wedding or a somber funeral.

When selecting white lilies for a special event, it is important to choose the right type of lily for each occasion. For weddings, calla lilies and oriental lilies are popular choices due to their large and elegant flowers. For funerals, white stargazer lilies are commonly used for their delicate fragrance and stunning appearance.

Lily TypeSymbolic Meaning
Calla LilyPurity and holiness
Oriental LilyFertility and abundance
Stargazer LilySympathy and remembrance

Whichever type of white lily is chosen, they will add a touch of elegance and beauty to any special event. Their symbolic meaning and delicate petals make them a perfect choice for both weddings and funerals, bringing a sense of purity and innocence to any occasion.

White Lilies in Literature

Throughout literature, white lilies have been used as symbols of purity, innocence, and spirituality. The beauty of the flower has been revered by poets and writers, who have used its symbolism to convey a range of emotions and ideas. Here are some examples:

  • In William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” Ophelia distributes flowers to the characters, each of which has a symbolic meaning. The white lily represents the idea of rebirth and the restoration of innocence.
  • Emily Dickinson, a famous American poet, wrote a poem entitled “The White Heat Beneath,” in which she uses the white lily as a symbol for the purity of love.
  • Langston Hughes, a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, wrote a short story called “One Friday Morning,” in which a young African American girl named Nancy uses a painting of a white lily to represent the strength and resilience of her race in the face of discrimination.

One of the most famous literary works to make use of the white lily as a symbol is undoubtedly “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. In the novel, the white lily represents the pure and innocent nature of Dorian’s love interest, Sibyl Vane. As Dorian descends into a life of hedonism and debauchery, he loses touch with this purity, and the white lily withers and dies.

The white lily has inspired many writers and poets throughout history, and its symbolism continues to be used today. Whether representing spiritual purity or the resilience of the human spirit, the white lily remains a powerful and evocative symbol in literature and beyond.

Cultivation and Care of White Lilies

White lilies are a popular and elegant flower that symbolize purity, innocence, and beauty. These flowers are native to Europe, Asia, and North America, with over 100 species available. Growing white lilies requires a certain level of care and maintenance. Here are some tips on cultivating and caring for white lilies:

  • Location: White lilies need a sunny and well-drained location in your garden. They prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH level of 6.0-6.5.
  • Planting: White lilies should be planted in the fall or early spring, about 6 inches deep and 9-12 inches apart. They should be watered thoroughly after planting.
  • Watering: White lilies require consistent watering during their growing season, which is usually in the spring and summer. They need at least 1 inch of water per week.

White lilies need to be protected from harsh weather conditions such as strong winds and frost. Proper care and maintenance can help prevent pests and diseases that can damage the plant. Here are some additional tips for caring for white lilies:

Deadheading: White lilies should be deadheaded regularly to encourage blooming and prevent seed formation. Deadheading is the process of removing the faded flowers by cutting the stem above the first set of leaves.

Fertilizing: White lilies need to be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer once in the spring and once in the fall. This will ensure that the lilies receive the right amount of nutrients necessary for growth.

Bulb Storage: When the foliage of the white lilies begins to fade in the fall, it is a sign that they are entering their dormant phase. After the foliage has died back completely, the bulbs should be dug up and stored in a cool, dry place until the next planting season.

Common Pests and DiseasesSymptomsTreatment
Red Lily BeetlesHoles in leaves, red beetles on the leavesManual removal of beetles. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to kill remaining beetles and their larvae.
Gray MoldBrown or gray spots on leaves and flowers, soft and mushy textureRemove diseased leaves and flowers. Improve air circulation and avoid overhead watering. Use a fungicide spray.
Bulb RotYellowing leaves, soft and mushy bulbsDig up the bulbs and remove infected parts. Let them dry for a few days before replanting.

By following these cultivation and care tips, you can enjoy the beauty of white lilies in your garden for years to come.

Types of White Lilies

White lilies have been admired and used for various purposes throughout history, ranging from religious symbolism to ornamental decoration. In this article, we will explore the different types of white lilies and the meanings behind their unique appearances.

Number Seven: The Madonna Lily

The Madonna lily is perhaps one of the most well-known and revered types of white lilies. It is a tall flower, averaging up to 3 feet in height, and its bulbous white flowers are said to represent purity and virginity. The Madonna lily has been frequently depicted in artwork throughout history, most notably in religious paintings, symbolizing the Virgin Mary’s purity and innocence. The number seven, frequently associated with biblical and religious symbolism, is significant in the case of the Madonna lily as it is said to represent the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The Madonna lily is commonly grown in gardens and is widely available in florists, making it an excellent choice for bridal bouquets.

Here are some other types of white lilies:

  • The Easter lily: A fragrant trumpet-shaped flower, commonly gifted during Easter celebrations, the Easter lily symbolizes purity and hope.
  • The Oriental lily: This type of lily is native to Asia and is known for its intoxicating fragrance and large, showy flowers. The Oriental lily usually blooms in white but can have pink or yellow accents.
  • The Asiatic lily: With smaller flowers than the oriental lily, the Asiatic lily has a wider range of color variations, including the pure white hybrids. They come in a vibrant range of colors such as red, orange, pink, white, and yellow, making them an excellent choice for arrangements and gardens.

The Symbolism Behind White Lilies

White lilies have played a significant role in various cultures and traditions throughout history, and their symbolism is still relevant today. In Christianity, white lilies represent purity, renewal, and the resurrection of Christ. The ancient Greeks associated lilies with birth and motherhood, while the Romans saw them as symbols of luxury and wealth. Nowadays, white lilies are frequently used in wedding bouquets, where they represent love, devotion, and purity.

Lily TypeMeaning
Madonna LilyPurity and Virginity
Oriental LilyIntoxication and Extravagance
Asiatic LilyPurity and Innocence

The different types of white lilies carry with them their own unique meanings and cultural significance, making them a popular choice for various occasions and celebrations. By understanding the symbolism behind these exquisite flowers, you can make an informed decision when selecting them for your next occasion.

White Lilies in Asian Culture

White lilies hold significant cultural value in various Asian cultures. They are praised, especially in Japan and China, as a symbol of purity, elegance, and rebirth. Here, we will focus on the significance of white lilies in certain Asian cultures.

The Number 8

In both the Chinese and Japanese culture, the number 8 is considered a symbol of good fortune. The petals’ number on a white lily flower is often eight, which is an important factor in representing good fortune to these cultures.

  • In Chinese culture, the number eight is associated with wealth, success, and prosperity; hence, it is also called the ‘lucky number’.
  • In Japanese culture, white lilies are seen as the sign of the three major summer seasons. They believe that these flowers bring good luck and happiness during the summer
  • Meanwhile, in Korean culture, the number eight represents happiness and is widely regarded as a lucky number. They associate the white lily with love, and it is often given in bouquets to express feelings of love

The Significance of White Lilies in Japanese Culture

White lilies are highly regarded in Japan, symbolizing the divine nature of life and purity. It holds spiritual and aesthetic significance among the Japanese, representing rebirth and renewal. Such values are reflected in their language, where white lilies are referred to as ‘yuri’ in Japanese, meaning a symbol of restoration, and the imagery of the flower is associated with the start of new life or new beginning.

In the Japanese culture, white lilies are also significant in the religious context. It is used in funerals as a symbol of a peaceful soul’s passing and new life. Similarly, the flower is also commonly used in traditional weddings, symbolizing the purity and beauty of the bride.

The Significance of White Lilies in Chinese Culture

White lilies have been cultivated in China for over two thousand years and have been associated with various meanings, ranging from mourning to fertility and good fortune. In Chinese culture, the white lily is often called ‘bailian,’ translating as ‘one hundred white flowers.’ It is considered to be the ultimate symbol for purity, innocence, and honor.

Good FortuneThe eight petals on a white lily flower represent good fortune and financial prosperity. The number eight is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture.
MourningWhite lilies are often used as flowers for funeral services. They symbolize the soul’s restored innocence and the peaceful passing of a loved one.
FertilityWhite lilies are also considered symbols of fertility, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Overall, white lilies are deeply rooted in the Asian culture, especially in Japan and China, as symbols of purity, good fortune, and new beginnings. They have been an essential part of their history and traditions, and it still holds significant cultural value to this day.

Medicinal Properties of White Lilies

White lilies have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and are known for their many health benefits. Here are nine ways white lilies can improve your health:

  • Treating wounds: White lilies have antiseptic properties which make them an ideal choice for treating wounds. If you have cuts or bruises, apply a paste made from powdered lily bulbs to the affected area to prevent infection and reduce swelling.
  • Relieving pain: If you’re suffering from chronic pain, white lilies may be able to help. The plant contains compounds that have analgesic properties, providing relief for conditions such as arthritis, migraines, and neuralgia.
  • Reducing inflammation: White lilies have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This makes them an effective remedy for conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and arthritis.
  • Fighting infection: White lilies contain compounds that have antimicrobial properties, which makes them effective in fighting bacterial and fungal infections. They can be used in the treatment of conditions like thrush, urinary tract infections, and skin infections.
  • Lowering blood pressure: White lilies contain compounds that can help to lower blood pressure, making them an ideal choice for people who suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure.
  • Relieving anxiety: If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, white lilies can help to calm your nerves. The plant contains compounds that have a sedative effect, helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and promote relaxation.
  • Improving digestion: White lilies have been used for centuries to improve digestion. They can help to soothe an upset stomach, stimulate the appetite, and promote healthy bowel movements.
  • Boosting immunity: White lilies are filled with antioxidants, which can help to strengthen the immune system and protect against disease. They can be especially helpful in the treatment of conditions like colds, flu, and other viral infections.
  • Wound healing: If you have cuts or bruises, white lilies can help to speed up the healing process. The plant contains compounds that can help to stimulate cell growth and repair tissue damage, promoting faster healing.

As you can see, there are many reasons to consider incorporating white lilies into your health regimen. Whether you’re looking to soothe pain, reduce inflammation, or simply improve your overall health and wellness, this versatile plant is a great choice.

It’s important to note that white lilies should always be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, and should not be used in place of traditional medical treatment.

Medicinal PropertiesDescription
AntisepticCan be used to treat wounds and prevent infection.
AnalgesicProvides relief for chronic pain.
Anti-inflammatoryReduces inflammation throughout the body.
AntimicrobialEffective in fighting bacterial and fungal infections.
Anti-hypertensiveHelps to lower blood pressure.
SedativeCalms the nerves and reduces feelings of anxiety.
DigestiveImproves digestion and promotes healthy bowel movements.
Immune-boostingStrengthens the immune system and protects against disease.
Wound healingStimulates cell growth and speeds up the healing process.

White lilies are a great natural remedy for a wide range of health issues and can be a great addition to your health and wellness regimen.

Edible Uses of White Lilies

White lilies are not only popular for their beauty, but they also have a variety of uses in cooking and medicine. Here are some of the edible uses of white lilies:

  • Lily bulbs: The bulbs of white lilies, also known as Baihe, are a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese cuisine. They are often used in stir-fries, soups, and stews for their crunchy texture and mild flavor.
  • Lily petals: The petals of white lilies are also edible and can be used in a variety of dishes. They can be added to salads, used as a garnish, or used to make tea.
  • Lily seeds: The seeds of white lilies are often used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments. They can also be eaten roasted or boiled.

White lilies contain a variety of nutrients and compounds that make them a healthy addition to your diet. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

However, it’s important to note that not all parts of the white lily plant are edible. The leaves and stems contain toxic alkaloids that can cause digestive problems and other health issues if ingested in large quantities. As with any new food, it’s important to consume white lilies in moderation and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

What does white lily symbolize?


1. What is the meaning of white lily?
White lily is a symbol of purity, innocence, humility, and faith.
2. Is white lily associated with any religion?
Yes, white lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, as well as purity and innocence in Christianity.
3. What does white lily mean in Japanese culture?
In Japan, white lily symbolizes the fleeting moments of life, purity, and the ephemeral nature of beauty.
4. Can white lily be a symbol of sympathy?
Yes, white lily is a symbol of sympathy and is commonly used in funerals to honor the deceased.
5. Can white lily be given as a gift?
Yes, white lily is a popular flower to give as a gift to signify purity, innocence, and sincerity.
6. Are there any superstitions surrounding white lily?
Yes, one superstition is that giving a bouquet of lilies to a pregnant woman will cause a difficult childbirth.
7. What other colors of lilies are there with different meanings?
Some other colors of lilies include pink, which symbolizes love and admiration, and yellow, which symbolizes happiness and thankfulness.


White lilies are a popular flower that symbolize purity, innocence, and faith. They are associated with religion, sympathy, and gift giving. In cultures such as Japan, they also represent the ephemeral nature of beauty. Despite some superstitions surrounding them, white lilies remain a beautiful and thoughtful flower to give or receive. Thank you for reading and stop by again soon!