The scientific name Solidago probably comes either from the Latin solidus = solid or from solidare = to unite, make whole, and refers to the healing qualities of the plant. The epithet virgaurea is composed of the Latin virga = rod and aurea = golden, and corresponds to the English name goldenrod.
Goldenrod was unknown in ancient times. The first written mention of goldenrod is found in the works of the Spanish physician Arnald of Villanova (1240-1311), who used the plant to treat bladder disorders.
The German botanist, physician and Lutheran minister Hieronymus Bock (1498-1554) assumed that the Germanic tribes had already been using goldenrod, in particular to heal wounds, and that they gathered the plant to have ready if it appeared likely that they would face war or conflict. Martin Luther (1438-1546) is thought to have valued goldenrod highly and treated his numerous ailments with it.
In the Middle Ages goldenrod was known by the name Heydnisch Wundkraut (heathen woundwort) in Germany. During the process of Christianisation an attempt was made to rename it St Peterís staff wort. However, the attempt failed and people clung tenaciously to the old term.