Wallflower – Meaning, Origin and Usage

We are sure you have seen people at school or at work who tend to drift towards the edges of the group. Perhaps you are a person who likes to lurk during social functions instead of becoming actively engaged. If this is the case, then you have encountered or become a wallflower.  This article will discuss how the phrase “wallflower” came to be, what it means, and some similar phrases with opposite meanings. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The meaning of the word is that of a shy or introverted person. This person would rather not be in the spotlight and would rather stay in the background. The word can also refer to a type of flower (usually the sweet-scented stocks plant) or to being a wallflower, meaning to dance alone against the wall at a ball.

The other meaning of wallflower is a bit more negative, and it refers to a person considered uninteresting. This person is usually not included in social activities and is often left out of conversations. Another meaning is an unattractive person, especially one who is not popular with the opposite sex.

Example Usage

  •  He’s a bit of a wallflower.
  • “She’s the wallflower of the group.
  • I’m not very good at social gatherings, so I tend to be a wallflower.
  • Why do you think she’s so much more of a wallflower than me?

Origin

The word wallflower evolved in the sixteenth century to mean a plant that grows in gardens and is native to southern Europe. In colloquial terms, a wallflower is any woman who sits by the party wall without a partner. This term is first recorded in the year 1820. They typically prefer to observe rather than participate in social activities and are often shy when approached by other people.

Phrases Similar to Wallflower

Several phrases are similar to ‘wallflower,’ such as

  • “Shrinking violet” is someone shy and withdrawn
  • “Loner” is someone who prefers being by themselves
  • “Nerd” or “geek” – someone who is considered to be uninteresting
  • “Modest violet” – a timid person

Phrases opposite to Wallflower

Some phrases have the opposite meaning:

  • ‘Social butterfly’: Someone who likes being around others and is outgoing and friendly.
  • “Life and soul of the party” – a person who is the center of attention at a social event
  • “Party animal” – a person who enjoys going to parties and socializing with others
  • “Social butterfly” – a person who is lively and outgoing in social situations
  • “Mingler:” A ‘miller’ is a person who mingles with a crowd of people at a party or event.
  • “A rose among thorns” refers to someone who stands out in a group.

What is The Correct Saying?

“Wallflower” is a metaphor to describe someone shy and not very noticeable.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Wallflower

Here are some of the most common incorrect pronunciations of a wallflower:

The most common incorrect pronunciation of wallflower is “wallflowers.” It is likely because the word looks like it should be plural. However, the correct pronunciation is “wallflower.”

“Walls flowers” is also incorrect pronunciation. It is likely because people think that the word is two words, “walls” and “flowers.” However, this is not the case.

Another common incorrect pronunciation is “wall’s flower.” It is not right to put an apostrophe in the word wallflower, as it is not a possessive word.

Some people may incorrectly say “wallflower” as “wildflower.” While both types of flowers are beautiful, they have different meanings.

It is recommended that you avoid using wallflower for a senior citizen or someone with a disability, as this could be construed as an insult.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Wallflower

You can use it in an informal context as a noun or adjective. As an adjective, wallflower describes something that is not fashionable or appealing.

  • That pretty lady is a wallflower.
  • You should dance with one of the wallflowers over there.
  • I don’t want to be nothing more than a glorified wallflower at the party.

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