15 Shades of Green: Emerald Etymologies
Emerald is a brilliant, deep green, like that of the gemstone from which it takes its name. William Shakespeare was one of the early adopters of emerald as a color name in the 1600s; prior to that, the term, which comes to us from the Greek smaragdos meaning "green gem," was bound to the precious green stone of beryl. Perhaps because of the rarity of the gemstone, emerald as a color name is often used to connote an exquisite or precious quality, as in Emerald Isle, a poetic name for Ireland made popular by the Irish writer William Drennan in his poem "When Erin First Rose." Emerald can also refer to a size of type in printing and a small, bright green hummingbird.
This color name can be traced to French literature of the 17th century. Céladon was the name of a character who wore green clothes in Honoré d'Urfé's novel L'Astree. The term can also refer to any of several Chinese porcelains having a translucent, pale green glaze.
This name comes to us from a group of Carthusian French monks who concocted an aromatic liqueur, light green with a yellowish tinge in color, and named it chartreuse, after the mountain range in the Alps where their first monastery, La Grande Chartreuse, was built.
Jade is a shade of green, varying from bluish green to yellowish green that takes its name from the ornamental stone highly esteemed for carvings and jewelry. The word jade can be traced back to the Latin ilia, meaning "flanks, kidney area," parts of the body that the stone was thought to treat in ancient times.
Kelly green is a strong and vibrant yellow green. Handed down from the popular Irish surname Kelly, the name of this color first arose in the United States in the early 1900s. Kelly is of uncertain origin; though it may mean "bright-headed," another theory holds that it's be derived from the Old Irish word ceallach meaning "war" or ceall meaning "church." (The word kelly also can refer to a man's hat, as a derby or straw skimmer, taken as representative of a stage Irishman wearing such a hat.)
The color name mint is borrowed from the name of the bright green aromatic plant. The plant's name can be traced to the Greek minthe, which was the name of a nymph in Greek mythology who was transformed into the sweet-smelling herb by Persephone.
Olive is an ocher green or dull yellow green, as of the unripe olive fruit. The word olive comes to us from the Greek elaia. Olive is often used to describe a Mediterranean complexion, having won out over now-obsolete variations such as olivander and olivaster. Olive drab refers to a grayish green, and has been used to refer to uniforms of the U.S. Army. The word drab, in addition to meaning "dull" or "lacking in spirit," is a color name for a dull gray, or a brownish or yellowish gray.
Myrtle green is a dark green with a bluish tinge. The name comes from the myrtle plant, a shrub with fragrant white flowers and aromatic berries, which was held sacred by the Roman goddess Venus and used as an symbol of love in festivals. This ancient association accounts for later uses of the word myrtle to refer to garlands, wreaths, and in a figurative sense to indicate honor or affection.
Hunter green, sometimes called hunter's green, is a dark green of yellowish cast. The name emerged in the late 1800s, when it was the favored color of dress among hunters. The word hunter can be traced to the Old English huntian meaning "chase game" or hentan, "to seize." Hunter green must now compete with a range of color and design options, such as olive drab and camouflage, for the favored position in the hunter's wardrobe, but it can boast the honor of being selected as the official primary color for the New York Jets.
Citron is a grayish-green yellow color. It stems from Old French word for "lemon" and is unsurprisingly related to the word citrus. A rarer type of citrus with a thick rind is also called a citron.
The color name Paris green comes to us from a highly toxic powder of the same name that was once used to kill rats in Paris. It has also been used as an insecticide, wood preservative and pigment. The powder itself ranged in color from pale to deep hues of green, depending on how finely it was ground.
Brunswick green originally referred to green pigments formed from copper compounds, but can now be used to refer to very dark hues of green that resemble those pigments. The pigment was named for the city in which it was first made, Brunswick, or Braunschweig, Germany. Another shade of green used in British Rail passenger locomotives was erroneously called Brunswick Green, even though the railway never used the official green from Germany.
The choice shade of green for St. Patrick's Day, the color shamrock takes its name from the national emblem for Ireland. The word shamrock is from Irish word seamróg for "clover." It entered English back in the 1500s.
This vibrant shade is halfway between green and chartreuse on the color wheel. Off of the color wheel, the word harlequin can refer to a comedic character in traditions of Italian theater that wore colorful clothing and diamond-patterned tights. The term can also be used to refer to snakes with bright, diamond-pattern scales. The adjectival form of harlequin meaning "fancifully varied in color" can be traced to the costumes of harlequins. The word comes from the Old French term halequin, meaning "a malevolent spirit."
This is our only shade of green that is an eponym. Hooker's green is named after botanical illustrator William Hooker, the official artist of Horticultural Society of London, who primarily painted fruit on the bough, like the apple pictured here from his 1818 book Pomona Londinensis. His eponymous green, which he invented to suit the particular shade he needed, is a combination of Prussian blue and gamboge, a deep yellow shade, and continues to be favored by watercolorists.
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