Colors are one of the first things you learn as a child, and while you may have started with the typical red, yellow, blue and green, your color vocabulary may have expanded with your first box of Crayola crayons. Each crayon in a 24-crayon box was labelled according to its exact name, like cerulean, apricot or indigo. When the company expanded to 120 crayons in a box, color fanatics had a field day with so many new and interesting colors in the box.
But there are well more than 120 colors out there. How about some of the colors that didn’t make it into that big box of crayons?
Check out these 12 odd color names that didn’t quite make the cut.
This very rich shade of burgundy mixed with brown can be commonly used to describe leather. The name is taken from the town from which it came from – Cordova, Spain – and is also coincidentally or not, known for its fine leather production.
A deep saffron or mustard color, the name gamboge is named so because it is the color of the gum resin of the eastern Asian trees where it resides. This gum resin is used as a yellow pigment to dye Buddhist monks’ robes. While the color is gorgeous, the product it is named after may not be so gorgeous, especially when used as a purgative in traditional medicine. The medicine might make you heave, but the color won’t!
While this color is the name of vomit, it actually has nothing to do with puking, unlike Gamboge. William Shakespeare coined the color puke in Henry IV: Part 1, when he wrote of a puke-stocking. The color is a dull, dark brown, which seems certainly fitting of its name.
The colors of a peacock’s feathers are so inspirational, one of them has its own name. Pavo comes from the electric blue color, that is a mix between blue and deep turquoise, you see on a peacock.
Banan, you guessed it, comes from the color of a ripe banana. While you may have previously believed the color to be yellow, it is actually banan – a color all on its own.
6. Drake’s Neck
Another bird-inspired color, a drake is a male mallard and the beautiful colors you see on his neck are called drake’s neck. The color was first emulated in the early 18th century for a rich green-colored dye that has an iridescent feel to it.
Not only do birds inspire colors, but other animals in nature do as well. Fallow got its name from the light brown fur on the back of a deer. This gentle color is of a tannish brown and mixes well with white and black in furnishings and fashion.
Does that come in Xanadu? The meaning of the word Xanadu is an idealized place of great and magnificent beauty. It sounds like a color you should definitely have in your home or wardrobe, doesn’t it? When you make Xanadu a color, it is actually a shade of gray-green, the same as you’d see on a philodendron leaf. Philodendrons being of magnificent beauty? That may be up for debate.
You may know this color by its translation – oxblood – and you may have guessed it to be a blood-colored rich shade of red. Named as early as the 1200s in China, sang-de-boeuf was named after a pottery glaze that came to light from heating and mixing copper and iron at high temperatures.
10. Goose Turd Green
Yes, another bird-inspired name, but it didn’t come about because of beautiful feathers or plumage, but instead because of excrement. Goose turd green shockingly does look like the color of a good goose bowel movement, in a very bright green. In the Elizabethan days, dressmakers decided to give bizarre names to colors in the hopes of making their dresses more appealing to buyers. Obviously, every woman wants a dress in the color of bird poop.
If you’ve never been, you probably wouldn’t guess that a color named drunk-tank would be a bright shade of pink. Drunk-tank is also known as Baker-Miller pink, after its inventors, who discovered during experimentation that the color was very calming. It was then used in prisons and holding cells (and drunk tanks, no less) to keep prisoners calm.
You may have heard of puce, but you may not have realized that the name translates in French to the word flea. The dark red with tones of yellow and blue was so named after the color of a flea, with a connection to the flea’s hunger for blood. After Marie-Antoinette had a gown made in the color, Louis XVI exclaimed that it was puce and the name stuck. Soon after, everyone had clothing made in puce and because the shades varied, there was a distinction made between the young and the old flea.
Now that you know a few more odd color names, how about testing your knowledge by playing some color-themed quizzes?