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What is the most complicated Colour name?

What is the most complicated Colour name?

Colours have always played an important role in human culture and society. The names we use for different colours can sometimes be simple, like red, blue or green. Other times, the names can be more exotic and complicated. But what is objectively the most complicated colour name in the English language?

The Complexity of Colour Names

There are a few factors that contribute to how complicated a colour name is:

  • Length – Longer names are usually more complicated.
  • Obscurity – Less common colour names are typically more complicated.
  • Specificity – Names that describe very precise shades are often complex.
  • Etymology – Colour names with origins in other languages can be complicated for English speakers.
  • Spelling and Pronunciation – Names that are difficult to spell or say add complexity.

With these factors in mind, we can evaluate some of the famously complicated colour names in the English language.

Contenders for Most Complicated

Here are some of the colour names that could potentially hold the title of most complicated:

  • Mikado yellow – A shade of yellow named after the emperor of Japan. Obscure and tied to Japanese culture.
  • Falu red – A type of deep red pigment used in Swedish folk painting. Obscure with Swedish origins.
  • Mountbatten pink – A soft pink colour named after Louis Mountbatten. Obscure reference.
  • Razzmatazz – A rich pinkish-red colour, with a fun but unusual name.
  • Wewak red – A reddish shade named after a location in Papua New Guinea. Very obscure.
  • Feldgrau – A greenish-grey colour used in German military uniforms. Obscure origins.
  • Amaranth purple – A reddish-purple referring to the amaranth flower. Length and pronunciation difficulty.
  • Xanadu – A pale green named after the fictional city in Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan.” Obscure literary reference.

As we can see, the contenders come from origins like place names, people’s names, culture references, and poetic allusions. But which of these colour names takes the prize for being objectively the most complicated?

And the Winner Is…

After careful consideration, the colour name deemed most complicated in the English language is:


Referring to a pale green colour, Xanadu takes the top spot for a few key reasons:

  • It’s very obscure, known mainly by literature enthusiasts familiar with the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
  • The name comes from a fictional, exotic-sounding city, adding to the complexity.
  • It’s tied specifically to Coleridge’s imagined vision of a mythical place, requiring knowledge of the poem to fully grasp the significance.
  • At 3 syllables and 7 letters, it has some length to it.
  • The X starting the word is an uncommon and somewhat tricky letter.

While Xanadu may not be terribly difficult to say or spell, its layers of literary and cultural obscurity push it over the top as the most complicated colour name in the English language.

Honourable Mentions

There were certainly many other contenders that deserve honourable mentions for their complexity:

  • Mikado yellow
  • Falu red
  • Mountbatten pink
  • Razzmatazz
  • Wewak red
  • Feldgrau
  • Amaranth purple

These exotic, lengthy, and obscure colour names each contribute their own unique complexities. But Xanadu manages to pull together many different factors to emerge as the most complicated colour name in English.

The Significance of Complex Colour Names

The use of complicated, hyper-specific colour names has traditionally been more prevalent among artists and designers. But these complex terms point to some larger significance:

  • They reveal the vast diversity in colour perception across cultures and time periods.
  • They reflect the depth of human creativity and imagination.
  • They show the flexibility and expressiveness of language.
  • They exemplify how colour is tied to history, narrative, and emotion.

So while colour names like Xanadu may seem superfluously complicated on the surface, they actually give us insight into the rich relationship between humans and colour.

Rarest Colours

In nature, some colours are extremely rare. Here are 5 of the rarest colours that can be found in our natural world:

Colour Where It Comes From
Sea blue Sea snail blood protein
Red-edge blue Morpho rhetenor butterfly wings
Vantablack Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes
Painite red Rare mineral first found in Myanmar
Penguin blue Blue bird of paradise feathers

As we can see, some of the rarest colours in nature come from specialized animal proteins, microscopic structures, or obscure mineral sources.

Psychology of Colour Names

The names we use for colours can also reveal psychological and linguistic insights. A few examples:

  • Basic colour terms like “red” or “green” tend to enter languages in a predictable order as that language evolves.
  • Some languages like Russian have two different basic terms for dark and light blues – suggesting these are meaningful colour distinctions.
  • Many colour names in ancient texts refer to objects like “blood red” or “wine dark” rather than abstract terms, suggesting a concrete, tangible basis for colour language.
  • The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis proposes that differences in colour vocabularies across cultures shape how those cultures perceive and categorize colours.

In these ways, the colour names used in a language provide a window into how colour perception arises in language and culture over time.

Creative Colour Names

Throughout history, creative industries like art, fashion, interior design, and manufacturing have come up with innovative new colour names to market their products and visions. Here are some examples of creative colour names that were introduced as marketing terms:

  • International Klein Blue – Deep blue named after artist Yves Klein.
  • Phthalo green – Synthetic green pigment popularized by chemists and painters.
  • Tuscan red – Warm reddish hue named by fashion and interior designers.
  • Chartreuse green – Bright yellow-green named after French liqueur.
  • Mauve – Light purple derived from the French word for the mallow flower.

The creation of new, marketing-oriented colour names allows industries to become associated with specific colours and aesthetics. This contributes to new colour terms entering the language over time.

Most Common Colour Names

While this article has explored some of the most complicated and obscure colour names, most colours used in everyday language are simple, common terms. Here are the top 5 most commonly used colour names in English:

Rank Colour
1 Blue
2 Green
3 Red
4 Black
5 White

As we can see, the basic colour terms for primary colours and neutral tones dominate most people’s everyday vocabulary and communication about colour.


In summary, while the average person may use basic colour names in their day-to-day life, the English language contains many exotic, hyper-specific, and obscure colour terms like Xanadu. The complexity of certain colour names reveals the creativity, culture, and diversity behind colour perception. So while a colour name like Xanadu may seem unnecessarily complicated at first glance, it actually reflects the depth of human relationship with colour when explored more deeply.