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There are a number of different species of flower with yellow centers and white petals that are called daisies, but the reason they are called daisies is because one of them in particular grew in England as Old English was developing.
That species would spend its days looking up at the sky, rain or shine and then as darkness came on would fold its white petals over its yellow center and settle down for the night.
It was kind of like an eye looking up at the heavens.
That yellow middle gave it an especially sunny look during the day.
So people began calling this cheery little flower the eye of the day, which, rendered as day’s eye you can quickly see becoming daisy.
Another welcome flower is the daffodil. In Greek a lily was called asphodelos and the “d” at the beginning of daffodil appeared on, and overtook, an already existing English word affodil after that d-less version had been in use for about 150 years.
Perhaps a less delightful etymology than that for daisy is the one for the flower known as cowslip.
The reason cowslip is called cowslip is because it tends to grow well when it has the help of a little extra nutrients and moisture as might be left behind by a passing cow.
That slip part of cowslip really does refer to the sloppy gloppy leavings of those bovine fertilizers.
Five days a week Charles Hodgson produces Podictionary – the podcast for word lovers, Thursday episodes here at OUPblog. He’s also the author of several books including his latest History of Wine Words – An Intoxicating Dictionary of Etymology from the Vineyard, Glass, and Bottle.