How Do Colors Get Their Names?

How Do Colors Get Their Names?

By: Rhonda Wessel My daughter is learning her colors and recently asked me, “Mom, How do colors get their names?”  I responded with, “Well, there are people whose jobs are to give colors names.”   Of course, my 5-year-old daughter is in the “everything has twenty questions phase.”  I love her curiosity and wanting to learn though.  She asked how the primary colors got their names and why are they called primary colors, and did you know that when I mix red and blue it makes purple?  Well, since I have not had a class on colors since college I had to do a little research online. There are several explanations out there about how colors got their names but one of the most common ones is the explanation below that I found on answers.yahoo.com: How did colors get their names? “According to Merriam-Webster Online, all go back to Old High German words for red, yellow and blue. This indicates that the names of these colors originated long ago during the time when the English (the Germanic Anglo-Saxon tribes) were semi-barbaric and did not have writing. Thus no record survives of how these colors got their names or who named them. Of the secondary colors, Green comes from the Old English word Growan, “to grow”; Orange comes from the Sanskrit word Narange, which is the word for the orange tree; Purple is from the Latin word Purpura, which refers to the fantastically expensive Phoenician purple dye. Again, no one knows what person came up with these names.” Try explaining this to a 5-year-old.  I am sure she will love art class when she starts school.   It was a good history lesson in color names for me as well.  As designers we deal with colors almost daily whether it’s selecting paints, fabrics, carpeting, wallcovering, and etc.  Pantone Inc. is the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries.  I think it would be a fun job to mix paints and tints to come up with new colors and names!

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