The first attestation we have of the noun carnation in English is from a 1533 French language textbook, when it was used to describe the rosy pink color of the flowers, with their name developing from that sense only a few years later. The word was borrowed, unsurprisingly, from French, where it was spelled the same way and also referred to the hue. Beyond that, spellings vary and etymologists have hotly debated the origin. One theory was that it was at least in part influenced by the word coronation, because of the crown-like resemblance of the petals. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, suggests that it's from the Latin word carnatio, meaning "fleshiness", the connection again being the color. Finally, I've written about this before, but carnatio is from Latin caro and Proto-Indo-European sker, meaning "flesh" and "cut", respectively.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.