A Rose by any Other Name

Origin of A Rose by Any Other Name

The real origin of this phrase is unknown, but it is said that it was coined by William Shakespeare. In Act-II, Scene-II of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says this phrase in reference to family, and the family name of Romeo. She says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By Any Other Name would smell as sweet.” This implies that his family name has nothing to do with their love, and they should be together. Since Capulets and Montagues hate each other, love is forbidden merely due to these names.

Meaning of A Rose by Any Other Name

The importance of a person or thing is the way it is; not because of what it is called. Simply, it means the names of things cannot affect what they actually are. This line is, in fact, very profound, suggesting that a name is just a label to distinguish one thing from another. It neither has any worth, nor gives true meaning. Only an individual or thing has a worth when it deserves it; for example, even if we call a rose by an entirely different name, it would smell the same as it does by its name “rose.” Likewise, Juliet links this with Romeo, that his name is just a label, and that he would stay the same for her.

Usage of A Rose by Any Other Name

This phrase is very common is poetry and everyday life. For instance, poets and lovers call their beloveds by different names, like rose, lily, and shining star. Usually people name their pets with human names and many other names. It is used in birthday or celebratory speeches to flatter the person that he is praiseworthy. It can be used in awards ceremonies to call legends and keynote speakers. However, it is best used with its conjoined sentence, “What is in a name.”

Literary Source of A Rose by Any Other Name

Juliet says this phrase in lines 43-44, Act-II, Scene-II of Romeo and Juliet. This phrase implies Shakespeare’s belief that a name means very little, but the individual’s worth counts.

“Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? …O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By Any Other Name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

(Romeo and Juliet, Act-II, Scene-II, Lines 38-49)

Juliet is trying to argue that, though Romeo is from a rival’s house and named Montague, it does not matter to her, as long as they both love each other.

Literary Analysis of A Rose by Any Other Name

The idea of this line is love, beauty, and family names. In this line, Juliet talks to herself, rehearsing that Romeo’s family is a meaningless and an artificial convention. She loves him as a person not due to his family name, Montague. Out of his love for Juliet, Romeo rejects the name of his family, and vows as Juliet’s lover, as she asks him to be “new baptized” and “deny (his) father.” In fact, this line encapsulates the tragedy and central struggle of the entire play. This is not only evocative but highly suggestive phrase when combined with the previous one.

Literary Devices

  • Run on Line: The idea moves into next line, as there is a run on line.
  • Metaphor: Smell is a metaphor for qualities or characteristics related to flowers.