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Is azure a blue?


The word “azure” refers to a bright blue color like that of a clear sky. So in that sense, azure is indeed a type of blue. However, the term can also refer specifically to the pigment ultramarine blue. So azure describes a shade of blue, but there are different blues that can be considered azure.

The Meaning and Origins of Azure

The word azure dates back to the 13th century and comes from Old French and Medieval Latin roots meaning “sky blue.” It was originally used to describe the intense blue color of lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone that was ground up to make ultramarine pigment. This pigment was very expensive and seen as precious.

Over time, the word azure expanded to refer to any bright, deep sky blue. It evokes images of beautiful blue skies and clear waters. So while azure is a blue, it typically refers to the most vivid blues inspired by nature.

Azure as a Color Name

In color theory, azure is considered a spectral color, meaning it has its own wavelength of light on the visible spectrum. Azure exists between blue and cyan on the color wheel. It is similar to, but distinct from, other shades of blue:

Blue Description
Navy A very dark blue, like the deep sea
Sky Blue A light, pale blue, like a sunny sky
Azure A vivid, intense medium blue

So in color terms, azure occupies its own spot among shades of blue. It is brighter than navy and darker than sky blue.

Azure Pigments

As mentioned, the first azure pigment was ground lapis lazuli. This produced an extraordinary, expensive blue. Later, the pigment ultramarine blue was developed to imitate the blue of lapis lazuli at a lower cost.

Ultmarine blue gets its name from “ultramarinus” which means “from beyond the sea.” This refers to how lapis lazuli traveled to Europe from Afghanistan.

Today, synthetic blue pigments are classified as azure paints. This includes:

– French ultramarine
– Ultramarine blue
– Manganese blue

These vivid blues are much more achievable for artists than the lapis lazuli-based pigment of the past. They allow painters to capture the bright blue of an azure sky.

Distinguishing Azure from Other Blues

So how can you tell azure apart from other shades of blue? Here are some key distinguishing factors:

Blue Lightness Intensity Green Hues
Navy Very dark Muted No
Sky Blue Very light Pale Yes, has turquoise hints
Azure Medium-light Vivid No

While azure is a type of blue, it stands apart with its bright, vivid nature and lack of green undertones. It differs from both darker blues like navy and lighter blues like sky blue.

Examples of Azure

To get a better sense of azure, here are some real-life examples of where you might encounter this vivid blue:

– The daytime sky – Azure conveys the bright blue of a clear, cloudless sky.

– Mediterranean waters – The blue seas along southern Europe are a quintessential azure, deeper than sky blue.

– Bird feathers – Tropical birds like kingfishers and parakeets often sport bold azure plumage.

– Gemstones – Both lapis lazuli and blue topaz display the saturated blue tone of azure.

– Paints – Azure paint includes ultramarine blue, a vivid medium blue used by artists.

– Fabrics – Azure silks and linens were historically dyed with precious lapis lazuli-based pigments.

– Heraldry – Azure appears in many coats of arms to represent the blue sky, rivers, or oceans.

So in summary, azure describes a specific bright, intense blue inspired by the natural world. While it is a type of blue, the term azure has come to signify only the most vivid blues. So azure can be considered a blue – but it is a blue unlike any other.

Technical Definitions of Azure

In more technical contexts, azure may also refer to Microsoft’s cloud computing service Azure. Launched in 2010, Microsoft Azure provides services like computing power, storage, networking, and software to business and organizations.

The name “Azure” was chosen in part because the sky represents the cloud. Azure evokes the blue sky where clouds live. This gives the product a feeling of openness, clarity, and availability.

So in the technology industry, azure has taken on an additional meaning unrelated to color. Here, azure refers to Microsoft’s suite of cloud services accessible across devices and platforms.


In summary:

– Azure originated as a term for the vivid blue of lapis lazuli and the sky.

– It refers to a specific bright, intense blue between navy and sky blue.

– Azure is considered a spectral color and occupies its own place among shades of blue.

– It is distinguished by its saturated, vivid nature without green hints.

– The term is also now used for Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure.

So while azure describes a specific type of blue, the word has expanded beyond just color to take on other technical meanings. But at its roots, azure conveys beautiful, bold blues from nature.


[1] Azure.

[2] Origin and meaning of azure.

[3] Azure (color).

[4] Blue-Azure.

[5] Pigment through the Ages – Azure Pigment.

[6] Ultramarine.

[7] Microsoft Azure.