This is one of my all time favorite botanical names. I honestly expected this name to be used more than it is.
It is believed that lavenders may have first originated in Asia. The Ancient Greeks called this flower nardus, after the Syrian city of Naarda. Now the plant is located throughout Africa, the Mediterranean, Arabia, South-East India, and Northern Iran. Because the flowers cross-pollinate very easily, there are countless variations of lavender. The flowers come in blue, purple, or lilac.
There are two different etymologies listed for Lavender (pronounced "LAV-in-der"). One states that it's derived from the Latin lividus, meaning "livid" or "bluish." But it is more likely derived from lavere, another Latin word meaning "to wash." The plant was given this name because it was often used to scent fabrics and perfume bathwater.
In Ancient Rome, one pound of lavender flowers cost as much as a farmer's monthly wages. They believed that using this flower in bathwater would restore the skin. It was the Romans that first introduced lavender to Britain. Lavender also used to be an old occupation name for a washerwoman, and another word for prostitute.
There are many other uses for this plant besides perfuming. It was the Ancient Greeks that discovered lavender's ability as a relaxant, they frequently used it in incense. This ability to relieve anxiety and induce sleep was proved by scientists. It is also used as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, an insect repellent. Culinary items include lavender sugar, syrup, marshmallows, scones, and tea. But it must never be ingested by those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as lavender products are toxic to infants.
Lavender is also the name of a color, meant to describe a light shade of purple that is darker than lilac. In Western culture, this color symbolizes many things. It is often associated with sensuality and decadence, which may be in part because of the plant's historical use. In Victorian flower symbolism, lavender represents concealment, cleansing, or affection. In Wicca, all types of purple are believed to bring spiritual power and psychic ability.
As I stated before, Lavender has never appeared in the top 1,000 baby names in the United States. It was trendy in England during the Edwardian Era, which flower names were popular. But I don't think the character in Harry Potter is going to help it's image. Lavender Brown was the silly, nauseating girlfriend of Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. However, I first came in contact with this name because of another character from a different well loved children's book. In Roald Dahl's Matilda, Lavender is the good friend of the lead character.
This name might receive criticism for being "new and made up," but documentation indicates otherwise. Lavender has a history of use as a surname, much to my surprise. For variations you could look at what this plant is called in other languages, Lavendre from Anglo-French, Lavendula from Middle Latin for example. It's a very soft sounding name that goes very well with Rose and Lily, so this could be a more unique option for people who love those names. It's definitely on the list for my potential future daughter.