Friday, 15 August 2014

Daisy - The Day's Eye

Close up of a daisy
Photo by Nick Fullerton

DAISY

Noun, adjective & verb.
[Old English dæges ēage day's eye, the disc of the flower being revealed in the morning.]

A1 noun. A small European wild and garden plant of the composite family, Bellis perennis,
with a flower of yellow disc and white rays (also common daisy).
Also, a flower-head or flowering stem of this plant; a flower-head resembling that of the daisy. OE

A2 noun. (A flowering stem of) any of various similar plants. Usually with specifying word. LME

A3 noun. A first-rate person or thing. (Earlier in sense B2). US. slang. M19

B1 attrib. or adj. Resembling a daisy. E17

B2 attrib. or adj. First-rate, excellent. slang (chiefly US). M18

C verb trans. Cover or adorn with daisies. Chiefly as daisied. E17

The humble daisy deserves its place in Lexicolatry for many reasons other than its fascinating etymology. Did you know, for example, that daisies can be found on every continent of the world except Antarctica? And they're edible (or at least the leaves are, and can be eaten raw in salads). Also, in case you hadn't noticed, and despite the fact that we mow them from our lawns with indifferent abandon, they're sublimely, delicately, perfectly pretty. And as for the etymology of daisy, it comes from the Old English for day's eye, due to the opening of its flower at dawn; if you ignore that day's eye sounds like a Brummie saying daisy, that etymology is almost as pretty as the flower itself.
Photo by Pete

Do you like daisies?

Do please make a chain of your finest comments in the flower box below.

4 comments:

  1. What beautiful bright pictures, I thought. Fresh as a...
    Ah.

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  2. Daisies are found in many other fields, not all of them green. Daisy is an acronym with over twenty uses in the Military, Business, IT, Medicine, etc.
    If you then have a ring of interconnected daisies i.e. a Daisy Chain, it is even more far reaching into electrical and electronic systems, computer hardware, software, and network systems. In fact you can Daisy Chain just about anything from train coaches to pints of Old Peculier. Maybe that’s why we talk about buying the next round.
    It’s surprising how the “delicate, perfectly pretty” and petaliferous Daisy has quietly planted itself in so many aspects of everyday life the world over. Maybe there is a darker side?

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    Replies
    1. Daisies have always been associated and symbolic of childhood innocence but perhaps a tad more on the darker side, daisies have also been an emblem of deceit. Robert Greene makes a reference to this allusion of 'dissembling daisy' in his 1592 work 'A Quip for an Upstart Courtier' and Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet gives a daisy to the queen to signify "that her light and fickle love ought not to expect constancy in her husband".
      The common euphemism in English "pushing up daisies" for death is another venture over to the dark side of 'daisy' connotations.
      As far as I know, the idiomatic Old English dæġes ēaġe (“day's eye”) giving us the modern name 'daisy' seems to be a uniquely English language name for the flower which Chaucer mentions in his poem "Legend of The Good Woman" (1380s)
      "That well by reason men call maie, the daisie, or else the eie of daie."
      In Welsh the daisy is llygad y dydd (eye of the day) which is probably a calque of the English while its botanical Latin name is Bellis perennis ("everlasting beauty")

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