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. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy philosophy, trivia, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.