a fragrant shrub noted for its beauty and its thorns, cultivated from remote antiquity, Old English rose, from Latin rosa (source of Italian and Spanish rosa, French rose; also source of Dutch roos, German Rose, Swedish ros, Serbo-Croatian ruža, Polish róża, Russian roza, Lithuanian rožė, Hungarian rózsa, Irish ros, Welsh rhosyn, etc.), probably via Italian and Greek dialects from Greek rhodon "rose" (Aeolic brodon).
Greek rhodon probably is ultimately from or related to the Iranian root *vrda-. Beekes writes that "The word is certainly borrowed from the East, probably like Arm[enian] vard 'rose' from OIran. *urda." Aramaic warda is from Old Persian; the modern Persian cognate, via the usual sound changes, is gul, source of Turkish gül "rose."
The form of the English word was influenced by the French. Used as a color name for a light crimson by 1520s (earlier rose-color, late 14c.; rose-red, early 13c.). As "person of great beauty or virtue," early 15c. A rose-bowl (by 1887) is one designed to hold cut roses.
The Wars of the Roses (by 1823; in 1807 as Wars of the Two Roses) was the English civil wars of 15c., the white rose was the badge of the House of York, the red of its rival Lancaster.
As an adjective, "of a rich red color characteristic of the rose," by 1816. Earlier adjectives were rose-red (c. 1300); rose-colored (1520s).
Roses often are figurative of favorable circumstances, hence bed of roses, attested from 1590s in the figurative sense. (In 15c. to be (or dwell) in flowers meant "be prosperous, flourish.") To come up roses "turn out perfectly" is attested by 1959; the image, though not the wording, is by 1855. To come out smelling like a rose is from 1968.
Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon ii.1) is attested from 1610s, named for the fertile strip of coastal Palestine (see Sharon), but the flower has not been identified. The name has been used in U.S. since 1847 of the Syrian hibiscus.
updated on September 29, 2021