The Meaning of a Rose

The Meaning of a Rose image by Maureen Katemopoulos


To a gardener, roses are the reward, for years to come, of carefully tending rose bushes. Roses add color and beauty to the landscape, and bring pleasure to those who admire them outdoors or receive them in a bouquet. But aside from the gardener's definition, the rose enjoys other meanings in terms of symbolism, medicine, brand names, cosmetics and religion.


Special meanings are associated with roses of different colors. The red rose stands for love, and the white rose for purity, the pink rose represents romance or joy, and the peach rose means "Thank you" or friendship. Interestingly, in Victorian times, sending a yellow rose was a sign of jealousy, although today it is a sign of friendship, or an apology. Lavender or light purple roses are symbols of enchantment or beauty, while deep purple roses are sometimes selected for anniversary bouquets or arrangements. Not everyone pays heed to or is even aware of these meanings, though.


Since ancient times, people have valued the rose for its medicinal merits. During the first century, the Roman historian and naturalist Pliny recorded 32 maladies that could be relieved by rose applications. Rose hips are known to contain antioxidant flavonoids. Rose hip powder extracted from the dog rose (Rosa canina) is said to provide relief from pain and stiffness for knee or hip osteoarthritis. Rose hips are also used to brew herbal tea.

Brand Names

The red rose is recognized the world over as the symbol of love. But the name "Red Rose" is also known globally as a brand of tea established in Canada in 1894. Red Rose was sold to Brooke Bond & Co., of England, in 1932, and became an important addition to the teapot in households everywhere. In the United States that process started in the 1920s. Red Rose tea is a blend of black teas from Sri Lanka, Kenya, India and Indonesia. Similarly, "Old Country Roses" is a line of Royal Albert porcelain.


The rose is synonymous with beauty, so it seems only natural that it is an important part of the cosmetics industry. Crushed rose petals yield the rose oil that is used to make perfume. Major producers of rose oil are Bulgaria, Iran and Germany.


In the Catholic tradition, Saint Theresa of Lisieux (1873 to 1897), also called "The Little Flower," is closely identified with the rose. Saint Theresa was a French nun who died at the age of 24, of tuberculosis. It is said that a Jesuit priest, Father Putigan, performed two novenas to Saint Theresa, asking that if his prayers were heard, she should send him a rose as a sign. Apparently, he received a rose in the course of both novenas, and in both cases, his prayers were answered. Saint Theresa has millions of devotees worldwide, and many have reported receiving a sign of roses from her in answer to their prayer petitions.

Keywords: Red rose, Rose hips, The Little Flower, Symbolism roses

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Maureen Katemopoulos has been a freelance writer for more than 25 years. Her articles on travel, the arts, cuisine and history have appeared in publications such as "Stanislaus Magazine," "Orientations," "The Asia Magazine" and "The Peninsula Group Magazine." She holds a Baccalaureate degree in journalism from Stanford University.

Photo by: Maureen Katemopoulos