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The Orange Color or the Orange Fruit: Which Word Came First?

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Have you ever wondered how the word “orange” came to be? Why is it that the same word is used to describe both a fruit and a color? Is there a connection between them, or is it just a coincidence? In this article, we will explore the origin of the word “orange” and its association with both the color and the fruit. We will also examine how language and culture influence the naming of colors and how the word “orange” has a unique position in the history of color terms.

Historical Background of Orange

The Orange Color or the Orange Fruit: Which Word Came First?

The orange fruit is believed to have originated in China, where it was cultivated as early as 2500 BC. From there, it spread to other parts of Asia, such as India and Persia, where it was valued for its medicinal and culinary uses. The word “orange” derives from the Sanskrit word “nāraṅga,” which means “orange tree” or “orange fruit”. This word was borrowed by other languages, such as Persian (“nārang”), Arabic (“nāranj”), and Old French (“orenge”), which eventually gave rise to the modern English word “orange”.

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Naming of the Color

The Orange Color or the Orange Fruit: Which Word Came First?

The word “orange” was first used to describe the fruit, not the color. In fact, the color orange was not recognized as a distinct color until the 16th century. Before that, it was considered a shade of yellow or red, depending on its hue. For example, in the Middle Ages, the color of carrots was called “red” and the color of apricots was called “yellow”. It was only after the introduction of the orange fruit to Europe that the word “orange” began to be used to describe the color as well. This was influenced by the popularity and availability of the fruit, as well as the linguistic changes that occurred in the transition from Old French to Middle English.

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Language and Cultural Connections

The word “orange” is not unique to English. Many other languages use the same word or a similar word to refer to both the fruit and the color, such as Polish (“pomarańcza”), Italian (“arancia”), Nepali (“suntala”), and Mandarin (“chéngzi”). This shows that the association between the fruit and the color is not arbitrary, but rather based on a common origin and a shared perception. However, not all languages have a word for the color orange. Some languages, such as Irish (“flannbhuí”), Turkish (“turuncu”), and Hawaiian (“ʻalani”), use a compound word that means “yellow-red” or “flame-colored” to describe the color. This reflects the different ways that languages categorize and name colors, depending on their cultural and environmental contexts.

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The color orange also has different meanings and associations in different cultures. In some cultures, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, the color orange is considered sacred and auspicious, as it represents the fire of the sun, the energy of life, and the renunciation of worldly desires. In other cultures, such as China and Japan, the color orange is associated with happiness, creativity, and enthusiasm, as it is the color of the harvest, the autumn, and the chrysanthemum flower. In contrast, in some Western cultures, such as Europe and America, the color orange can have negative connotations, such as danger, warning, and prison, as it is the color of traffic cones, hazard signs, and jumpsuits.

Linguistic Anomalies and Rhyming Challenges

The word “orange” is notorious for being one of the few words in the English language that has no true rhyme. The only words that come close to rhyming with “orange” are “door hinge” and “foreign,” but they are not perfect rhymes, as they have different vowel sounds or syllable structures. This poses a challenge for poets and songwriters who want to use the word “orange” in their verses. Some of them resort to using slant rhymes, such as “range,” “change,” or “strange,” or using creative wordplay, such as “four-inch” or “porridge”.

The word “orange” also faces some linguistic challenges when it comes to naming the color. As mentioned earlier, the word “orange” was not originally a color term, but a fruit term. This means that it does not follow the usual pattern of color terms, which are usually derived from nouns or adjectives, such as “blue” (from “blow”), “green” (from “grow”), or “brown” (from “brun”). The word “orange” is also an exception to the rule that color terms are usually invariant, meaning that they do not change their form according to number, gender, or case, such as “red,” “white,” or “black”. The word “orange” can be both a noun and an adjective, and it can change its form according to number, such as “oranges” or “orangey”.

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Before the word “orange” became widely accepted as a color term, there were other names or descriptions used for the color, such as “saffron,” “tawny,” “amber,” or “gold”. Some of these names are still used today, especially in artistic or poetic contexts, to convey different shades or nuances of the color orange. For example, “saffron” can suggest a bright yellow-orange, “tawny” can imply a brownish-orange, “amber” can evoke a warm golden-orange, and “gold” can indicate a rich metallic-orange.


In conclusion, we have seen that the word “orange” has a fascinating history and a complex relationship with both the fruit and the color. We have learned that the fruit orange came before the color in terms of naming, and that the word “orange” evolved from different languages and cultures over time. We have also discovered that the word “orange” has a unique position in the history of color terms, as it is one of the few words that is both a noun and an adjective, and one of the few words that has no true rhyme. The word “orange” also reflects the connection between language, culture, and the naming of colors, as it shows how different languages and cultures perceive and categorize colors differently. The word “orange” is not just a word, but a symbol of the diversity and richness of human language and culture.


  1. Britannica – Orange Fruit
  2. National Geographic – The Surprisingly International History of the Orange
  3. Online Etymology Dictionary – Orange
  4. Merriam-Webster – Why Is the Word Orange the Same as the Fruit?
  5. Live Science – Why Are Oranges Orange?
  6. ThoughtCo – What Color Is Orange?
  7. Mental Floss – How Did Orange Get Its Name?
  8. Dictionary.com – Orange
  9. Grammarphobia – The Color Orange
  10. FluentU – Orange in Different Languages
  11. Color Meanings – Orange Color Meaning
  12. BBC Future – How Many Colors Do We See?
  13. Learn Religions – The Color Orange in Buddhism
  14. Color Matters – All About the Color Orange
  15. RhymeZone – Rhymes for Orange
  16. Bustle – Words That Rhyme With Orange (Sort Of)
  17. ThoughtCo – What Is a Color Term?
  18. ThoughtCo – What Is an Invariant?
  19. Grammar Monster – Adjectives That Are Also Nouns
  20. Thesaurus.com – Orange
  21. Color Psychology – Orange
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I'm Michael, a young enthusiast with an insatiable curiosity for the mysteries of science and technology. As a passionate explorer of knowledge, I envisioned a platform that could not only keep us all informed about the latest breakthroughs but also inspire us to marvel at the wonders that surround us.
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