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Iris Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Iris including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Iris Overview

  • Meaning: Iris means “rainbow.”
  • Gender: The name Iris is predominantly female.
  • Origin: Iris is Greek. It was the name of the goddess of the rainbow.
  • Pronunciation: The name is most commonly pronounced as “EYE-russ” or “EYE-riss.”
  • Popularity: Iris is a popular name and was number 127 for newborn girls in the United States in 2020.
  • Nicknames: Irie, Izzy, Sissy, Ris, Rissie, Rissy, Riz, Riza.
  • Variations: Duhovka, Iiris, Inteachán, Iridie, Írisz, Rainelė, Sant Martí, Varaviksne, Vella.
  • Namesakes: Iris Adrian (American actress), Iris Apfel (American fashion icon), Iris Bannochie (Barbadian horticulturist), Iris Davis (American athlete), Iris Murdoch (Irish and British novelist).

What Does Iris Mean?

The name Iris means “rainbow.” Originally, the name was Greek, and when transliterated as “Íris,”there is little variation in spelling.

Because of the spectrum of colors visible in a rainbow, “Iris also developed associations with the colored ring around the eye and flowers in the Iris family.

What Is the Origin of the Name Iris?

Iris has many associations. Today we hear it and think of everything from eye color to flowers. But the origin of the name Iris is older than that.

In Greek Mythology, Iris is a lesser goddess in the Olympic Pantheon. She’s the goddess of the rainbow, and she gives her name to her creation (1).

Since the rainbow acts as a highway between Olympus and earth, Iris doubles as the Greek messenger goddess, running down her rainbow to bring messages to heroes and favored mortals.

Iris often gets lost in translation because the better-known Hermes takes on the role of godly messenger.

To further conflate Hermes and Iris, many sculptures of Iris give her wings and a staff, like Hermes. However, because of her connection to Hera, it’s also usual to see her with a pitcher of water, ready to pour it out and use the refracted light to travel to Earth (2).

However, parents who know their Iliad will remember that, whereas Hermes functions as guardian and guide, it’s Iris everyone sends after the Greeks and Trojans with divine messages (3).

The shift from Iris to Hermes as a prominent divine intercessor occurs somewhere between the Iliad and the Odyssey (4). By the time of the latter’s release, Hermes runs the godly errands.

How Popular Is the Name Iris?

Despite history’s relegation of Iris to the lesser Olympic pantheon, the name is a popular one.

Flower names were at their most popular during the Victorian era, partly because the concept of the ‘language of flowers” as a way to send encoded messages was in vogue.

Iris reached the height of its popularity during the 1930s. While it afterward faded out of use, its recent popularity with celebrities helped it make a comeback.

In 2020, Iris held the 127th spot for girls born in the United States (5).

How Do I Pronounce Iris?

Since Iris is a name borrowed almost directly from the Greek, there isn’t much variation in its pronunciation.

Typically, you say Iris by stressing the first syllable, as in “EYE-russ.”

However, while the first I of Iris always remains long, there is some variation in the stress placed on the second syllable.

Alternatively, you may hear Iris pronounced “EYE-riss” with a short “I,” rather than a “U.” As a rule, pronunciation depends on whether you are in North America or Europe, but there are exceptions.

Is Iris a Boy or Girl Name?

Perhaps because of its association with the messenger goddess of the rainbow, Iris is almost always a female name. The Victorian preference for naming young girls after flowers cemented this practice.

Variations of Iris

Iris may have started as a Grecian goddess, but many other languages have variations on the name Iris. Here are variations to consider:

  • Duhovka (Czech)
  • Iiris (Estonian, Finnish)
  • Inteachán (Erse)
  • Iridie (Albanian)
  • Írisz (Hungarian)
  • Rainelė (Lithuanian)
  • Sant Martí (Catalan)
  • Varaviksne (Latvian)
  • Vella (Galacian)

Nicknames for Iris

Choosing a nickname for a name as short as Iris requires a little creativity. Consider the following:

  • Irie
  • Izzy
  • Sissy
  • Ris
  • Rissie
  • Rissy
  • Riz
  • Riza

Similar Names to Iris

If you aren’t sure about Iris, there are many similar names, either with similar meanings or origins. Great choices include:

Middle Names for Iris

When it comes to choosing a middle name for Iris, many people choose another flower name or a name of similar origin. Here are some that go well with Iris:

Sibling Names for Iris

There is also a wide variety of options when it comes to finding sibling names that go well with Iris. Some of the most popular are:

For a Brother:

For a Sister:

Famous People Named Iris

Since Iris is a name that ages well, history is rife with interesting Irises. Here are some of the most notable:

  • Iris Adrian: American actress.
  • Iris Apfel: American fashion icon.
  • Iris Bannochie: Barbadian horticulturist.
  • Iris Davis: American sprinter/athlete.
  • Iris Murdoch: Irish and British novelist.

Iris in Popular Culture

Iris is also a popular name in pop culture. Some of the best-known fictional Irises include:

  • Iris: Character in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
  • Iris Adams: Character in “The Sims”series.
  • Iris Amacitia: Character in “Final Fantasy XV.”
  • Iris Chase Griffin: Protagonist in “The Blind Assassin.”
  • Iris Cygnet: Character in a series of books by Aveyard.

Iris FAQs

So that’s everything you need to know about the name Iris. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the name Iris.

What Does Iris Mean Spiritually?

The spiritual significance of the name Iris is that it means “wisdom” and “hope.”

What Does Iris Mean in Hebrew?

In Hebrew Iris means “flower.”

Why Are Irises Associated With Death?

Iris’s role as the gods’ messenger meant she also helped guide the dying to Hades (6). When her name became synonymous with the iris flower, they absorbed her symbolism and became associated with death and the underworld.

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