Working with colour everyday, it is not surprising one may need a few more descriptive words for certain colours than just red, blue green, etc. I’m all for simplicity but sometimes, we may need to describe a colour more specifically. When someone requests amending a design element to blue, what do they mean? A sky blue? Royal Blue? Navy blue? I thought it might be fun to search the good old fashioned dictionary and see what other descriptive words we can apply to colour.
[sey-buh l] adjective: very dark; black.
[niv-ee-uhs] adjective: resembling snow, especially in whiteness; snowy.
[si-neer-ee-uh s] adjective: ashen; ash-colored; grayish: a cinereous bird.
[see-pee-uh] adjective: of a brown, grayish brown, or olive brown similar to that of sepia ink.
[pon-soh] noun: a vivid red to reddish-orange colour.
[zan-thik] adjective: of or pertaining to a yellow or yellowish colour.
[suh-roo-lee-uhn] noun: deep blue; sky blue; azure.
[smuh-rag-din] noun: emerald-green in colour.
[am-uh-ran-thin, -thahyn] adjective: of a dark reddish-purple colour.
It may surprise you that these unusual colour names are not the product a of a modern fad. The Elizabethans, for example named the colour Magenta not after its chemical components, but to honour the Battle of Magenta (a town in Lombardy), which had been fought earlier that year during the second Italian war of independence. Crayola and paint companies have all played their part in mysterious colour naming. So why? In the following paper by Elizabeth G. Miller and Barbara E. Kahn, professors of marketing at Boston College and the Wharton School, respectively, they report that consumers love to solve the riddle of an ambiguous name. They naturally assume the message is positive and search for the meaning, thus adding value to the product as a whole.
Of course, this kind of descriptive terminology is useful in some instances but would never work in the pantone system, where numbers are a necessity to cover the huge amount of colour variations. The hex system has adapted an interesting n at times, poetic combination of the two.
It just feels nice to expand the vocab a little, don’t you think?
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