It is thought that the human eye can distinguish up to 10 million different colors with a quarter of people able to see up to 100 million. Your computer monitor has the capacity to display 16,777,216 colors, the Pantone Color system consists of 2,058 colors and even Crayola offer crayons in a staggering 170 different colors.
And yet, if asked what color something is we invariably say, ‘well, it’s a sort of bluey-green’ or ‘pinkish-red’. No more, people! Today we’re going to expand our vocabulary to include the whole color spectrum, giving special attention to those colors that have a particularly interesting backstory.
Read on for 9 beautiful words for colors you’ve never heard before.
Discovered by the Ancient Greeks who hung copper plates over hot vinegar to create a special green pigment with which they painted or mixed up worrying medicines, Verdigris means literally, ‘green of Greece’. If you want to see Verdigris in the flesh you need only look up at the beautiful face of the Statue of Liberty.
To be incarnate means to have bodily form and, yes, that’s where we’re going with this one. Incarnadine once meant flesh-colored but in Macbeth Shakespeare used incarnadine to mean blood-red, changing its meaning forever.
I will never tire of the way this word feels as it slides off your tongue. Titian, real name Tiziano Vecellio, was one of the greatest artists of the sixteenth century. Many of Titian’s paintings featured women with distinctive brownish-orange hair, the world took notice and a new color was born.
The color Jasper gets name from an opaque quartz stone which itself got its name from an ancient Hebrew word that may have meant glittering or polish.
Commonly used by Renaissance artists, sinoper was a rich, rusty red colored pigment that contained the iron-rich mineral hematite. The name comes from the town Sinope in Turkey from where the pigment was first imported to Europe.
The word gingerline came from the 17th century Italian word for yellow, ‘giallo’ and means a rich, orangey-yellowy color, not at all unlike bright ginger hair.
The Ancient Greek word for jaundice, ‘icteros’ is responsible for this one. A particularly sickly yellow color, the word icterine is often used to describe birds with yellow in their plumage.
If the Nazis can be praised for one thing and one thing only it is their military attire. Feldgrau, or field grey, is the precise color of the field uniform of the German Army between 1907 and 1945.
The color amaranthine came from the Greek word ‘amarantos’ which meant unfading. The word Amaranth was used to name an imaginary, undying flower that was, presumably, a deep red-purple color and there you have the two uses of the word today. Lovely stuff.