Origin and usage
The noun primrose probably came into English from an Anglo-Norman word ‘primerose’, although it neither is nor resembles a rose. It was first recorded in the early 15th century.
The modest primrose appears in early spring as the snowdrops fade, along with early daffodils and crocuses. It is a kind of primula, as is the cowslip, another early spring flower of the countryside, though both are much less flashy than their cultivated cousins. Just as the primrose is not a rose, the evening primrose is not a primrose, though they both have yellow flowers. Primrose is also a colour, pale yellow like its floral namesake. 22nd March is Mother’s Day in the UK this year; it always falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent and three Sundays before Easter. The day was previously known as Mothering Sunday, a day when young people working away from home were given permission to go home and attend their local church with their families. Since the event always fell in spring, the returning children started gathering wild flowers, often primroses, on the way to or from church to give to their mothers. Influenced by the American festival, which is observed in May, this tradition has morphed into a more general occasion for giving cards and gifts to mothers as a sign of appreciation and love. The entry for primrose is one of many in Macmillan Dictionary that are enhanced by images.
cowslip, primula, evening primrose