a name given to various plants, not all related or alike, 1540s, from Latin lotus, from Greek lotos, a word used as a name for several plants before it came to mean Egyptian white lotus (a sense attested in English from 1580s). It is perhaps from Semitic (compare Hebrew lot "myrrh"). The plant bears a prominent part in the mythology of India, Egypt, China. The Homeric lotus later was held to be a North African shrub, from which "a kind of wine" [Century Dictionary] can be made. The name has also been given to several species of water-lilies and a bean that grows in water. The yogic sense is attested from 1848.
It was believed to induce a dreamy forgetfulness, hence lotus-eater "one who finds pleasure in a listless life" (1812) is from Greek lotophagoi, mentioned in "Odyssey," book IX (see lotophagi).