r) KEY NOUN:
- Any of numerous herbs of the genus Erysimum of the mustard family, having fragrant yellow, orange, or brownish flowers.
- Any of several perennial herbs of the genus Cheiranthus, especially C. cheiri.
- One who does not participate in the activity at a social event because of shyness or unpopularity.
- A security, company, or industry that is out of favor with investors.
The sweet-smelling flowers of Cheiranthus cheiri
came to be called wallflowers
because they often grow on old walls, rocks, and quarries. The plant name is first recorded in 1578. It is not known who first made the comparison between these delicate flowers and the unpartnered women sitting along the wall at a dance, but the figurative sense is first found in an 1820 work by Mrs. Campbell Praed entitled County Ball.
Although originally used to describe women at dances, the word is now applied to men as well and used in situations remote from a ballroom.