In my last Writer’s Resource post, I used Ingrid’s Color Thesaurus to give writers a great cheat-sheet on different color names to use in their writing to create a more vivid picture for the readers. I steered away from rarer or lesser known terms for colors because any time the reader does not know what a word means, it pulls them out of the story to go Google it.
During my research for the last post, I ended up collecting a list of obscure color names I had not seen before anyway, so I knew I had to put together a follow-up post. Use these words wisely, dear writers!
Without further ado, here are twenty-five bonus color names!
Verdigris comes from the French “vert de Grece”, meaning “green of Greece”. This color was produced in Ancient Greece on copper artworks, and is also the natural color produced by copper when it oxidizes. For example, it can be seen on the Statue of Liberty.
This shade of brown is named after the famed sixteenth-century Italian artist Tiziano Vecellio, more commonly known as Titian. The women in his portraits often have this distinctive shade of hair color.
Smalt is the name of the pigment made when grinding up cobalt glass, which is known for its distinctive blue color. The word itself is from a Germanic word meaning “to melt”, since the color is obtained by fusing together potassium carbonate, silica, and cobalt oxide.
Also the word for a reversible fabric woven with patterns, damask is a shade of greyish red. It is named after the damask rose, which bears the same color and was named after the Syrian city of Damascus.
This shade of medium purple is named after a variety of orchid called the cattleya labiate, which itself was named after William Cattley, a well-known botany patron in England in the 1700s with an enthusiasm for orchids.
Glaucous comes from the Latin word glaucus, meaning “bluish-grey or green”. Not only is it a color name, but the word also means the waxy, bluish-grey coating on the surface of some plants, like grapes, or the color of camouflage on some species of animals, like birds or sharks.
Having nothing to do with the 1980’s film of the same name, xanadu is a green-grey shade commonly seen on the leaves of the Philodendron plant.
Wenge is the color of the wood from a specific tree, the Millettia Laurentii, which is native to certain parts of Africa. The color of the wood is so distinctive that the word was created to describe it.
From the Greek word smaragdinos, meaning “emerald”, smaragdine is an old word for the shade of green that most people refer to as emerald.
Sarcoline is an antiquated word literally meaning “flesh-colored”, from the Greek word for “flesh”.
Not only is mikado a bold shade of yellow, the word is also: a serial killer in the DC Comics universe, a glacier in Antarctica, an 1885 comic opera, an archaic name for an Emperor of Japan, and a genus of beetle.
This one is a two-fer (two for one):
Desire. Lust. Yes, these are real color names (shades of pink and red respectively).
Desire was named in 2011 by Resene Paints, a popular paint company in New Zealand and Australia, but the shade can now be found listed on websites like Wikipedia and Find the Data. From the Resene website: “Resene Desire is a heated up dynamic pink, full of eagerness and sensual appetite.”
I wasn’t able to find much about the color Lust, but it is also listed on Wikipedia, Facts.co, and Find the Data as a shade of red, so I’m going to count that as official enough. Find The Data helpfully let me know that it is close to a Sherwin-Williams shade of red called “Fireworks”, which seems appropriate.
Fulvous is a brownish-yellow or tawny color meaning used to describe the appearance of certain breeds of birds, and sometimes even families of fungi.
Falu is Swedish in origin, named for the copper mines in the city of Falun. The color later became popular to paint on wooden barns and cottages. Brick homes were expensive at the time, so painting the buildings a falu shade was supposed to mimic the color of bricks. It is still a popular choice for houses in Sweden’s countryside.
Eburnean, from the Latin eburnus meaning “ivory”, is used to denote a shade of yellow-ish white, similar to the shade of ivory.
Coquelicot is a French word for a poppy, and now in English means the orange-reddish tint of the flower.
Amaranth is a bright, reddish-magenta shade that comes from the amaranth flower. The shade above is usually referred to as “amaranth red”, because the flower can also present as a lighter, pinker hue known as “amaranth pink”.
Feldgrau, which translates as “field gray”, is most often found in military uniforms, particularly in Germany. The shade was common in German uniforms from 1907 to 1945, was used by both the post-war East German and West German armies, and sometimes is even used as a word for the army in general. Similar shades have been used for Chilean and Swedish military uniforms as well.
Fallow is one of the oldest color names in the English language, recorded as far back as the year 1000. It gets its name from the color of a field when it is fallow, which is a stage of crop rotation when nothing is planted intentionally to improve the next crop.
This light, pastel blue shade isn’t just a color, but it represents something much bigger. Yep, the United Nations (the international organization provided to help countries with human rights, social progress, economic development and more) has it’s own color. It can be seen in their logo, their flag, the color scheme of their entire website, and also on their peacekeeper uniforms.
Somewhere between saffron and mustard lives gamboge, a yellow pigment that is partly transparent. Gamboge is named after the gamboge tree, most often found in Cambodia, which when tapped excretes a dark yellow resin. Not only is the color used as a watercolor and as a wood varnish, but it is also commonly used for the robes of Theravada Buddhist monks.
Prussian blue is from a pigment of the same name, which is a strongly colored dark blue color. Also sometimes known as Paris blue or Berlin blue, it is a favorite of painters and can be seen in Vincent van Goghs Starry Night. Prussian blue used to be a Crayola crayon name until 1958 when it was changed to “midnight blue” due to a teacher recommendation. They felt that children would no longer be able to relate to Prussian history enough to understand that this color is named after the shade of the Prussian military uniforms, and apparently Crayola agreed.
This one is another two-fer:
These two whimsical colors are from Crayola crayons named in the 90’s. Unlike most colors of their crayons which get their names from Crayola color experts or the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Bureau of Standards book called “Color: Universal Language and Dictionary of Names”, these colors were both named by children.
In 1992, Crayola ran a “Name the New Colors” contest. They released boxes of crayons with 16 new un-named colors, and asked for submissions. After receiving almost 2 million suggestions, they picked the final names and released a commemorative box with the names and ages of the winners, but subsequent boxes would label these crayons with their new name on regular wrappers. Razzmatazz, a berry colored shade of pink, was named by Laura Bartolomei-Hill, aged 5. Tickle Me Pink, a fun bubblegum shade, was named by Sam Marcus, aged 12.
I hope you guys enjoyed Part Two of this series! I loved it so much, it might just be spawning its own color-name-themed category… stay tuned!