Skip to Content

What is a rare name of a color?

What is a rare name of a color?

There are numerous color names that most people are familiar with, like red, blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, etc. However, there are also many rare and unusual color names that are not as commonly known. These uncommon color names are often very specific shades or highly descriptive phrases for certain colors. Some examples of rare color names include chartreuse, vermilion, ochre, cerulean, azure, mauve, magenta, viridian, puce, taupe, cyan, sepia, and ocher.

In this article, we will explore some of the rarest and most unique color names and their origins. Discovering these rare color terms can expand our knowledge and vocabulary for describing colors more precisely. Learning about the histories behind these uncommon names also provides interesting insights into the cultures and languages from which they emerged.

The Origins and Meanings Behind Rare Color Names

Many rare color names come from foreign languages and cultures. For example, the name “chartreuse” for a yellowish-green hue comes from a French liqueur made in a Carthusian monastery called La Grande Chartreuse in the 18th century. The original drink was steeped with 130 herbs, plants, and flowers which gave it its distinctive green color.

“Vermilion” is a vivid red-orange pigment that originated in ancient times from grinding a mineral called cinnabar. Cinnabar was highly prized by the Romans and Chinese for its rich scarlet color which resembled the red dye made from the kermes insect. The word comes from the Latin “vermiculus” meaning little worm, referring to the kermes dye.

“Ocher” or “ochre” refers to a deep yellow earthy pigment made from clay that contains hydrated iron oxide. It was used since prehistoric times in cave paintings and pottery, derived from the Greek word for yellow-green “ohkhros.” Ancient hunter-gatherers and artists would forage for the colored clays in the local terrain.

“Cerulean” is an azure blue tint named after the sky and was possibly invented by medieval painters. The word stems from the Latin “caeruleus” meaning dark blue, blue or blue-green. It was particularly used to describe the brilliant blue pigment made from ground lapis lazuli gemstones.

Some rare color names come from foods and flowers. “Amaranth” is a reddish-purple hue named after the amaranth flower. In ancient Greece, the amaranth flower was a symbol of immortality. “Celadon” is a pale greyish green inspired by the light green glaze of ancient Chinese celadon pottery. “Sangria” is a purplish red color named after the fruity Spanish wine punch.

Unusual and Specific Color Terms

Beyond colors named after external items, some rare names are very specific descriptions of shades and tints. For example, “taupe” is a dark tan grayish brown. The word comes from the French noun meaning mole, named after the color of the animal. “Puce” is a purple brown or dark pink that gets its name from the French word for flea.

“Mauve” is a pale purple that was coined after the French name for the mallow flower. “Ecru” means raw or unbleached, referring to the natural beige color of unprocessed fibers like silk or cotton. “Beige” also stems from the French word for a natural wool color.

“Verdigris” is a bluish green hue that resembles corroded copper, named after the French words for green “vert” and Greek “gris”. The color “puce” is a dark yellowish shade of brown. The name comes from the Latin word “pullus” meaning dark animal or chicken. It described the grayish color of fleas that lived on chickens.

Some modern rare color names are invented by paint companies and designers. For example, “Glidden green”, “Mountbatten pink” and “Falu red” were named after paint suppliers. “Feldgrau” was a greenish grey used in German military uniforms. “Razzle dazzle” was a camouflage pattern of clashing colors used on warships.

Cultural and Geographic Color Names

From a cultural perspective, many rare color names reflect the environments and natural features of different countries and regions. For example, “wisteria” is a light purple named after the dangling blossoms of the wisteria vine. “Aubergine” is an eggplant purple inspired by the color of this beloved vegetable.

The turquoise gemstone inspired the name for a greenish-blue color. “Khaki” is a light tan or dusty color that originated from the Urdu word for soil or dust in India where the fabric got its name. “Denim” also stems from the French name for fabric woven in Nimes. The iconic blue jeans take their name from the blue de Nimes fabric.

“Umbria” is a warm earthy brown like the tone of the Italian landscape which gives this color its name. “Pistachio” is a pale green the same hue as the seeds of this tasty nut. “Verdant” is any lush green similar to dense vegetation. “Burnt sienna” and “raw umber” come from the richly hued clays around the Italian city of Umbria that pigment makers foraged.

“Arsenic” is a lurid green-yellow that resembles the toxic element. “Gamboge” is a radiant yellow derived from the resin of gamboge trees in Cambodia, also known as yellow pigment. Colors named after places like Navajo white, Tuscan yellow, Bombay yellow, and Saudi Arabia green connect back to their geographic or cultural origins.

Rare Animal-Inspired Color Names

Certain hues are named after the striking colors of animals. For example, “cochineal” comes from the crimson hue of cochineal beetles that live on cacti in Mexico. These insects produce an intense red dye that was used by ancient Aztecs.

“Mikado yellow” is inspired by the orange-yellow hue of the Mikado pheasant native to Japanese forests. “Tyrian purple” is the regal violet-red dye made from mucus of sea snails which was reserved for Roman and Byzantine royalty.

“Zinnwaldite brown” is named after a type of crystal found near Zinnwald, Germany which has a coppery red-brown color resembling dried blood. “Falu red” is the Scandinavian paint pigment that captures the rich rufous tone of Red Kite falcons in the region.

“Titian” is a vibrant reddish-orange that recalls the luxuriant hair color often depicted in subjects of the 16th century Venetian painter Titian. “Vandyke brown” is a deep reddish brown earth pigment, named after the 17th century Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck who frequently used this shade.

Some imaginative writers have invented colorful descriptors for shades which reflect animal hues. For example, “ferrous duck” could describe a brownish gray like an iron duck. “Lemon tiger” may denote striped yellow and black. “Verdant hummingbird” could paint a mental image of lush green with an iridescent throat. The possibilities are endless for further animal-inspired color names.

Exotic Sounding Color Names

Some of the most exotic and mysterious sounding rare color names include:

– Iced coffee – a subdued tone of opaque beige coffee

– Folly – a light whimsical pink

– Enoki – a pale ivory white resembling the slender enoki mushroom

– Heliotrope – a purple hue akin to the heliotrope flower tinted by the sun

– Falernian – a rich wine red evoking the grapes of Mount Falernus

– Tempest – a stormy blue-gray like thunderclouds gathering

– Ibis – a white resembling the snowy Ibis bird wading through moonlit marshes

– Nanohanacha – a mottled green with yellow undertones like an abstract painting

– Inchworm – a bright kelly green found on some caterpillars inching across leaves

– Yainshen blue – a slate blue with a light azure radiance like the feathers of a kingfisher

The vivid imagery conveyed through these colorful and exotic names allows us to imagine the pigments and dyes that may have produced these tones. Although many of these shades may not correspond to mass produced colors today, the evocative names spark our mind’s eye to picture their potential hues. Like rare spices and aromas, these color names engage the senses and kindle our curiosity to mentally reconstruct their allure.


In summary, rare color names provide a treasure trove to expand our vocabulary and visual imagination around color. From foreign languages like French, Urdu, Latin and Greek, to specific environmental hues of flora, fauna and terrain, these uncommon terms give nuanced specificity in describing color shades and tints. Cultural, historical and geographic color names infuse additional meaning to the tones they depict. As well, imaginative writers and paint suppliers have crafted many expressive names that conjure images of animals, foods, textiles and nature. When we learn these color names, it enriches our capacity to discuss color and revel in the nuances of all the beauty the spectrum holds. What rare color terms have you discovered that fired your imagination?