Posted by: Jack Henry | January 12, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Fancy Colors

Oh, my. I stumbled on a fantastic article from Merriam-Webster. Over the next couple of days, let me share a few of my favorite things: English, history, art, colors, raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens! I apologize in advance if you are colorblind, or if it seems like some of the descriptions of color from M-W seem like they are colorblind.


Color: Vivid reddish orange

About the Word: Spanish painter Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (who painted in the late 1700s and early 1800s) was so fond of this vibrant color that vermilion also became known as goya.

The word vermilion traces to the Late Latin vermiculus, meaning "kermes." Kermes are the dried bodies of insects (of the genus Kermes) used to produce this ancient red dye.

Full Definition: a strong red that is deeper than geranium, yellower and deeper than geranium red, and bluer and deeper than average cherry red

Verdigris Green

Color: Yellowish green

About the Word: Verdigris came into English in the 14th century from the Anglo-French vert de Grece, literally, "green of Greece." Ancient Greeks manufactured this pigment by hanging copper plates over hot vinegar in a sealed container.

When copper naturally oxidizes, a verdigris green film forms on its surface—as it has, for example, on the Statue of Liberty.

Full Definition: a moderate yellowish green that is greener, lighter, and stronger than tarragon or average almond green and paler and slightly greener than malachite green


Color: Brownish orange

About the Word: In the paintings of the great sixteenth-century Italian artist Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian, women often have distinctively brownish-orange hair. Such depictions (including "Madonna and Child," shown here) inspired the color name titian.

Full Definition: a brownish orange that is less strong, slightly yellower and lighter than spice, slightly yellower and lighter than prairie brown or Windsor tan, and slightly redder and darker than amber brown or gold pheasant [KC – I call foul! I’m watching
The Crown right now, and not a single Windsor is tan!]


Color: Light grayish brown

About the Word: Bisque is probably a shortened and altered form of biscuit (meaning "earthenware or porcelain after the first firing and before glazing"), which comes in turn from the Anglo-French (pain) besquit, "twice-cooked bread." One example of twice-cooked bread, a teething biscuit, can indeed be the color of such earthenware.

Full Definition: a light grayish brown especially used in textiles


[KC – I had no idea that puce was this color! When we were kids, we’d use it as part of an insult, and we all thought it was greenish or something ugly—probably because it sounded like
“pew” or “puke.”]

Color: Dark red

About the Word: Puce entered English from French, where puce translates as "flea." The relationship between the flea and the color is complicated…but almost certainly one connection is the flea’s hunger for blood.

Full Definition: a dark red that is yellower and less strong than cranberry, paler and slightly yellower than average garnet, bluer, less strong, and slightly lighter than pomegranate, and bluer and paler than average wine

I’ll go over the remainder of the list next time. Until then, I hope your world is now brighter and more colorful!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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