Its source is laurus, a Latin name meaning "The bay, or laurel, plant."
In the ancient world, laurel leaves were used to fashion the crowns of victorious athletes, poets and soldiers.
As the Roman poet Ovid explains, this practice had its origins in the story of the god Apollo's pursuit of the beautiful nymph Daphne. Scorning his advances, she ran from him until he overcame her. She called on Peneus the river god for help, and he transformed her into a laurel tree.
Apollo still loved her, and took her leaves as his special symbol. As he was the god of poetry, music, science and just about every other human accomplishment, laurel crowns came to be used to adorn Apollo's champions.