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[pur-puh l] /ˈpɜr pəl/
any color having components of both red and blue, such as lavender, especially one deep in tone.
cloth or clothing of this hue, especially as formerly worn distinctively by persons of imperial, royal, or other high rank.
the rank or office of a cardinal.
the office of a bishop.
imperial, regal, or princely rank or position.
deep red; crimson.
any of several nymphalid butterflies, as Basilarchia astyanax (red-spotted purple) having blackish wings spotted with red, or Basilarchia arthemis (banded purple or white admiral) having brown wings banded with white.
adjective, purpler, purplest.
of the color purple.
imperial, regal, or princely.
brilliant or showy.
full of exaggerated literary devices and effects; marked by excessively ornate rhetoric:
a purple passage in a novel.
profane or shocking, as language.
relating to or noting political or ideological diversity:
purple politics; ideologically purple areas of the country.
verb (used with or without object), purpled, purpling.
to make or become purple.
born in / to the purple, of royal or exalted birth:
Those born to the purple are destined to live in the public eye.
Origin of purple
before 1000; Middle English purpel (noun and adjective), Old English purple (adjective), variant of purpure < Latin purpura “kind of shellfish yielding purple dye, the dye, cloth so dyed” < Greek porphýra; cf. purpure, porphyry
Related forms
purpleness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for purple
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The robe of fine Milesian texture, was saffron-coloured, with a purple edge.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • "But there should be another one," cried the man in the purple coat.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • To one familiar with savage peoples there could be no doubt that these were close to the purple.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • They dropped from his grasp, and I saw that his fingers were purple and black.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • Gather the grapes when they are full grown, but before they begin to purple.

British Dictionary definitions for purple


any of various colours with a hue lying between red and blue and often highly saturated; a nonspectral colour
a dye or pigment producing such a colour
cloth of this colour, often used to symbolize royalty or nobility
the purple, high rank; nobility
  1. the official robe of a cardinal
  2. the rank, office, or authority of a cardinal as signified by this
the purple, bishops collectively
of the colour purple
(of writing) excessively elaborate or full of imagery: purple prose
noble or royal
Derived Forms
purpleness, noun
purplish, adjective
purply, adjective
Word Origin
Old English, from Latin purpura purple dye, from Greek porphura the purple fish (Murex)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for purple
n., adj.

Old English purpul, dissimilation (first recorded in Northumbrian, in Lindisfarne gospel) of purpure "purple dye, a purple garment," purpuren (adj.) "purple," a borrowing by 9c. from Latin purpura "purple color, purple-dyed cloak, purple dye," also "shellfish from which purple was made," and "splendid attire generally," from Greek porphyra "purple dye, purple" (cf. porphyry), of uncertain origin, perhaps Semitic, originally the name for the shellfish (murex) from which it was obtained. Purpur continued as a parallel form until 15c., and through 19c. in heraldry. As a color name, attested from early 15c. Tyrian purple, produced around Tyre, was prized as dye for royal garments.

Also the color of mourning or penitence (especially in royalty or clergy). Rhetorical for "splendid, gaudy" (of prose) from 1590s. Purple Heart, U.S. decoration for service members wounded in combat, instituted 1932; originally a cloth decoration begun by George Washington in 1782. Hendrix' Purple Haze (1967) is slang for "LSD."


c.1400, from purple (n.). Related: Purpled; purpling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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