This is abstracted from the Oxford English Dictionary entry for clove-gillyflower. It supports the contention that by Digby's time (1600s), the word clove-gillyflower probably applied to the flower, and not to the spice.


The simple girofle, gilofre was the original name of the spice; but in OFr. clou de girofle (= `girofle nail', from the shape) came into popular use at an early date; thence the Eng. clowe of gilofre or more commonly clowe-gilofre. This was commonly shortened at length to clowe, clove, for the spice; the full name adhering to a flower, the `clove-pink', smelling like the spice. Finally with the corruption of gilofre, to gillyflower, the latter name without clove, has passed on to various scented flowers, having no connexion either with the spice, or with the `clove-pink'.

1. The spice clove. Obs.

Quotes given from A. 1225, C. 1386, C. 1400, C. 1420, 14.., and 1486.

2. A clove-scented species of Pink (Dianthus Caryophyllus), the original of the carnation and other cultivated double forms.

Quotes given from 1538, 1578, 1594, 1597, 1657, A. 1755, and 1861.