15 Shades Of Green: Where We Got These Colorful Words

Green or emerald green?

As one of the most common colors around us, green gets a lot of love from the English language. Why just say “green,” when words let you specify shades so beautifully?

Emerald is a brilliant, deep green, like the gemstone from which it takes its name. Early evidence for use of emerald as color word comes from William Shakespeare in the early 1600s. Prior to that, the term, which comes to us from the Greek smaragdos meaning “green gem,” was connected to the precious green stone called beryl.

Maybe because of the rarity of the gemstone, emerald green is often used to reflect 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.”


Is the green you’re looking at more of a celadon? This color name can be traced to French literature of the 1600s (in French, it’s céladon).

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, on top of the trendy green-yellow color, it’s also fun to say when someone asks you what color your wall is painted, right?

They named the liqueur 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 prized for carvings and jewelry.

Amazingly, the word jade can be traced back to the Latin ilia, which means “flanks, kidney area.” In ancient times, those were the parts of the body that the stone was thought to treat.

kelly green

Kelly green is a strong and vibrant yellow green. Handed down from the popular Irish surname Kelly, the name of this color first became known 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 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 a 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.

Recently, popular reflections of the color mint look less like the plant’s vivid green, and more like a milky greenish-blue.


How do you like your mint? If Thin Mints are your preferred cookie treat, you’ll enjoy learning about the names of the most popular Girl Scout cookies.


Olive is an ocher green or dull yellow green, like an unripe olive fruit. 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 US 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 considered sacred by the Roman goddess Venus and used as a 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

Hunter green, sometimes called hunter’s green, is a dark green with a yellowish cast.

The name emerged in the late 1800s, when it was the favored color of dress among hunters. Hunter green now competes with a range of color and design options, like olive drab and camouflage, for a 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. This is one for when you can’t decide on a particular color … you get the benefit of a combination of three!

A rarer type of citrus with a thick rind is also called a citron!

Paris green

The color name Paris green comes to us from an extremely toxic powder of the same name that was once used to kill rats in Paris.

The powder itself ranged in color from pale to deep hues of green, depending on how finely it was ground. It has also been used as an insecticide, wood preservative, and pigment!

Brunswick green

Brunswick green originally referred to green pigments formed from copper compounds, but it now can refer to any of the 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. It’s unclear whether this is the shade of an actual four-leaf clover … but we’d venture a guess that it’s pretty darn close.


If you can get your hands on a four-leaf clover to confirm its color, we’d call that pretty lucky. Learn some whimsical words to use instead of lucky.


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 word comes from the Old French term halequin, meaning “a malevolent spirit.”

Hooker's green

This is our only shade of green that’s an eponym (a word based on or derived from a person’s name). Hooker’s green isn’t named after the people you think though …  it is named after botanical illustrator William Hooker, the official artist of Horticultural Society of London, who primarily painted fruit on the bough (take a look at the delicious apples from his 1818 book Pomona Londinensis). His 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.


How often do you eat your greens? If you’re a salad lover, head over to the debate on whether potato salad is really a salad.

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