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What Do Water Lilies Symbolize?

By Mary Schimenz Hopkins ; Updated July 21, 2017
Water lilies are religious and cultural symbols.
water lilly image by Alan Pickersgill from Fotolia.com

A water lily is also known as a lotus. Depictions of the lotus can be traced back to the tombs of ancient Egypt. The water lily is an important symbol in many religions including Buddhism and Hinduism.

Egyptian Symbolism

The water lily symbolized Upper Egypt and was used, along with the papyrus flower, symbol of Lower Egypt, to depict a united country. The blue water lily was sacred to the Egyptians to whom it represented the sun and rebirth.

Hindu and Buddhist Symbolism

Water lilies are an important religious symbol in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. They symbolize resurrection in both spiritual arenas because many of the lilies close their flowers at night and reopen in the morning at first sunlight. Buddhists regard the water lily as a symbol of enlightenment because of the beautiful bloom that emerges from the mud. They also consider the water lily a symbol of purity, spontaneous generation and divine birth.

Bridal Bouquest

Contemporary brides sometimes choose flowers for their bouquets based on the symbolism of the blossom. A water lily represents purity of heart.

Fun Facts

There are more than 70 species of plants in the Nympheaceae family, including the water lily. The three types of water lily are the night, tropical and hardy.


Water lily flowers can be pink, yellow or white.
lily image by Mirek Hejnicki from Fotolia.com

Water lily flowers can be pink, yellow or white. They are aquatic plants found in lakes, ponds and the edges of streams.


About the Author


Mary Schimenz Hopkins has freelanced for more than 20 years for such clients as Miller Brewing, Master Lock and local marketing agencies and hospitals. She has taught writing, worked as on-air personality for Milwaukee radio and served as fashion editor and columnist for a monthly magazine. Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts from Marquette University and a Bachelor of Arts from Mt. Mary College.