Burdock is one plant that has the distinction of being used over a long period of time, and by many different cultures, obtaining along the way many different names. Names by which Burdock has been known by and/or associated with are; Bardana – a name used by the Native Americans; Beggar’s Buttons; Burr; Clot bur; Cockle Buttons; Common Burdock; Edible Burdock; Fox Clote; Great Bur; Great Burdock; Gobo – in Japan; Happy Major; Lappa; Love Leaves; Personata; Philanthropium; Niu Bang Zi – in China; and Thorny Bur.
In many books, and on many websites, the common consensus that the Latin name, Arctium Lappa, is derived from the two sources. The first part seems to originate from the Greek word arktos or “a bear” referring to its rough-coated fruits. The second part is from the Latin word lappare or “to seize”, referring to the burs that cling to passersby in an attempt to propagate and spread its seed. Another explanation of its name origin is found in the book ‘A Modern Herbal’ by Mrs. M. Grieve, wherein she writes, “The plant gets its name of ‘Dock’ from its large leaves; the ‘Bur’ is supposed to be a contraction of the French bourre, from the Latin burra, a lock of wool, such is often found entangled with it when sheep have passed by the growing plants.
An old English name for the Burdock was ‘Herrif,’ ‘Aireve,’ or ‘Airup,’ from the Anglo-Saxon hoeg, a hedge, and reafe, a robber – or from the Anglo-Saxon verb reafian, to seize. Culpepper gives as popular names in his time: Personata, Happy Major, and Clot-bur.”