How Did the Color Orange Get Its Name?

The color orange gets its name from the fruit. Mentions of the fruit by this name are found in British records as early as 14th century. According to the Oxford Etymology Dictionary, the name also was being applied to the color by the middle of the 16th century. The association between the color and the fruit occurred after Christopher Columbus introduced the fruit tree to the Caribbean in 1493 and Ponce de Leon took orange seeds to North America in 1513.

More facts about the orange:

  • The name "orange" went through several incarnations before its translation into English. The term passed through several languages, including Sanskrit and Arabic, before undergoing a process that is known as metanalysis, the dropping of the first letter and the addition of that letter to the end of the word. The English word is often thought to be based on the Italian or French translations.

  • There is no consensus on how people described the color of the fruit before the middle of the 16th century. Descriptions of fruit that is amber, yellow, red or gold might have been in reference to the fruit of the bitter Persian orange trees as well as the sweet oranges brought to Europe from India.

  • Orange trees were not cultivated in Hawaii until the late 18th century.

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