Taraxacum - Names


The Latin name Taraxacum originates in medieval Persian writings on pharmacy. The Persian scientist Al-Razi around 900 (A.D.) wrote "the tarashaquq is like chicory". The Persian scientist and philosopher Ibn Sīnā around 1000 (A.D.) wrote a book chapter on Taraxacum. Gerard of Cremona, in translating Arabic to Latin around 1170, spelled it tarasacon.

The English name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French dent de lion meaning "lion's tooth", referring to the coarsely toothed leaves. The plant is also known as blowball, cankerwort, doon-head-clock, witch's gowan, milk witch, lion's-tooth, yellow-gowan, Irish daisy, monks-head, priest's-crown and puff-ball; other common names include faceclock, pee-a-bed, wet-a-bed, swine's snout, white endive, and wild endive.

The name "dandelion" is a cognate of the names in many other European languages, such as the Welsh dant y llew, Italian dente di leone, Catalan dent de lleó, Spanish diente de león, Portuguese dente-de-leão, Norwegian Løvetann, Danish Løvetand and German Löwenzahn. The colloquial German word Pusteblume (blow-flower) refers to the children's game of blowing away the seeds of the ripe taraxacum flower.

In modern French, the plant is named pissenlit (or vernacular pisse au lit). Likewise, "piss-a-bed" is an English folk-name for this plant, as are piscialletto in Italian, pixallits in Catalan and meacamas in Spanish. These names refer to the strong diuretic effect of the plant's roots, either roasted or raw. In various north-eastern Italian dialects, the plant is known as pisacan ("dog pisses"), because they are found at the side of pavements.

In France, it is also known as laitue de chien (dog's lettuce), salade de taupe (mole's salad), florin d'or (golden florin); cochet (cockerel); fausse chicorée (false chicory); couronne de moine (monk's crown); baraban.

In several European languages, the plant, or at least its parachute ball stage, is named after the popular children's pastime of blowing the parachutes off the stalk: Pusteblume German for "blowing flower"), soffione (Italian for "blowing", in some northern Italian dialects), dmuchawiec (Polish, derived from the verb "blow"), одуванчик (Russian, derived from the verb "blow").

In other languages, the plant is named after the white latex found in its stem, e.g., mlecz (derived from the Polish word for "milk"), mælkebøtte (Danish for "milk pot"), kutyatej (Hungarian for "dog milk"), маслачак (Serbian, from маслац meaning "butter"). The Lithuanian name kiaulpienė can be translated as "sow milk". Similarly, in Latvian it is called pienene, derived from piens ('milk'), as in Catalan is used lletsó (derived from the word llet that means "milk").

The alternative Hungarian name gyermekláncfű ("child's chain grass") refers to the habit of children to pick dandelions, remove the flowers, and make links out of the stems by "plugging" the narrow top end of the stem into the wider bottom end.

In Bulgarian and Macedonian, its name (respectively глухарче and глуварче) is derived from the word for 'deaf' (глух, глув), because of a traditional belief that dandelion parachutes can cause deafness.

In Turkish, the dandelion is called karahindiba meaning "black endive or chicory". While the root flesh is white, the outer skin of the root is dark brown or black.

In Swedish, it is called maskros ('worm rose') after the small insects (thrips) usually present in the flowers.

In Finnish and Estonian, it is called voikukka and võilill, respectively, meaning "butter flower", referring to its buttery colour. Similarly, in Croatian, the name of this plant (maslačak) is derived from the noun maslac, meaning butter.

In Dutch, it is called paardenbloem, meaning "horse-flower".

In Chinese, it is called pú gōng yīng (蒲公英), meaning "flower that grows in public spaces by the riverside".

In Persian, it is called qasedak (قاصدک), meaning the "small postman", because of a belief that it brings good news.

In Portuguese, it is called dente-de-leão, also meaning "lion's tooth". Portuguese children also call them "o teu pai é careca" (your dad is bald) due to a game which consisted on blowing on a dandelion. If it was left with no seeds, that would mean the other kid's dad was bald.

In Greek, its seed (and most often the plant itself) is called a kleftis (κλέφτης) meaning "thief" because it is very difficult to catch once airborne.

In Cyprus, the plant is called a pappous (παππούς) meaning "grandfather" due to the white-coloured seed head resembling the white hair of an older man.

In Romanian it is generally called păpădie, but other rare regional names have been documented, like buhă, cicoare, crestățea, lăptucă, lilicea, mâță, papalungă, pilug, turci, curu-găinii, floarea-broaștei, floarea-găinii, floarea-mălaiului, floarea-sorului, floarea-turcului, floare galbenă, gălbinele-grase, gușa-găinii, ouăle-găinilor, papa-găinii, părăsita-găinilor or pui-de-gâscă.

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