Tag Archives: word list

Fascinating Words for Colors (and the Battle of Magenta)

Imagine not having a word for “yellow” or “beige” or “orange.” For many years, English got by with a lot fewer words for color than we have today.

By

Mignon Fogarty,

Grammar Girl

 

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Colors are such fundamental, tangible things that it’s hard to imagine not having names for them, but the number of words for colors varies widely by language and for many, many years, English got by without a lot of the color names we take for granted today.

In nearly all languages, the first colors to get names are black and white.

Black

“Black” comes from very old words that meant “to burn” or “burned.” But the same old words also gave us “blake,” which is a now obscure word that meant pale, pallid, and ashen. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary says that it is often difficult to tell which of these two colors is meant in Old English texts when the context doesn’t make it clear. And to make it even more complicated, at some point, “black” could also be used to describe something bright, shining, or glittering, perhaps related to the idea that something that is burning is all those things. So it took “black” a while to be limited to what we think of as black today.

White

“White” is a little more straightforward. In Old English, it meant “bright and radiant, or clear and fair.” It could be describing something we think of as white such as snow, milk, or an old person’s hair, but it could also describe something transparent, or something light yellow, pale gray, or silver. Online Etymology Dictionary says “White” is also one of the oldest surnames in English, originally referring to people with fair hair or a fair complexion.

There are still languages today that have just two words for colors that are essentially white for all light or warm colors and black for all dark or cool colors.

Red

That surprised me, but one thing that surprised me most was that the next color almost all languages name is red—one theory is that it’s because it is the color of blood.

Although black, white, and red all likely go back to the prehistoric language Proto-Indo-European (PIE), Online Etymology Dictionary states that red is “the only color for which a definite common PIE root word has been found.

Red shows up in a lot of place names where it referred to the color of natural elements such as rocks and soil. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary lists Radcliffe, Radclive, Redmile, Redford, and Rattery, all from 1086, and slightly later Radly and Redhill. The same root for “red” also likely gave us the word for the color “rust.”

In those early days though, “red” was probably the name for the color rust, as well as purple, pink, and orange.

In fact, we call people redheads instead of orangeheads because at the time we started calling them anything, the word “orange” hadn’t entered the language as a color word, and the word “red” included the orangey color of red hair.

Interestingly, the Irish writer Stan Carey told me that the Irish word for red hair is different from the general Irish word for red.

Grue

After red, most languages add a word for either yellow or a spectrum that includes both green and blue that language experts sometimes call “grue.” Since blue and green are so prevalent in nature, I would have expected one of them to be the third word more languages would add, but I was wrong!

You can think of these as the five base colors that most languages have: black, white, red, yellow, and green/blue. And English today is described as having 11 main color words: those five base colors (black, white, red, yellow, and green/blue) plus brown, orange, pink, purple and gray, but some languages have more or different words. For example, Russian, Greek, and Turkish have separate words for light blue and dark blue.

Gray, Brown, and Orange

Gray and brown are both very old words that go back to Old English, and orange came from the color of the fruit after oranges were introduced to Europe, around the mid-1500s.

Purple

Purple was originally a shade of crimson “obtained from mollusc dye” and associated with people of importance such as emperors, kings, cardinals, and so on. It came to describe many colors in the spectrum between red and violet. The color we think of as purple today was first called purple in the 1400s.

Pink

Pink is especially interesting. According to the OED, “pink” originally referred to “a greenish-yellow lake pigment made by combining a vegetable coloring matter with a white base such as a metallic oxide.” It seems like that first “pink” was more of a description of the process than the color, since the OED notes there were colors such as green pink, brown pink, rose pink, and pink yellow. The origin of the word is unknown, but in the 1600s, the word “pink” also started being used to mean the light red color we think of today. The origin of the greenish-yellow pink and the light red pink are both listed as unknown, and it’s unclear to me whether etymologists think they are related, but I think not.

This second pink—the one we think of today—probably comes from the color of the flower Dianthus, but the flower probably got its name from the spiky, scalloped shape of its petals because if you’ve ever used pinking shears, you know that “pink” has another meaning: to cut a scalloped or zigzag edge on fabric. Earlier, it also meant to punch holes or slits into fabric. So the “cut fabric” meaning of pink came first, the flower Dianthus was called a pink because of the shape of its petals, and then we got the color pink from the color of the Dianthus flowers.

But English also had a different word to describe the color pink before we started using “pink.” In the 1500s and into following centuries you could use the word “incarnate,” which comes from the Latin word for “flesh.” It doesn’t look like it was used alone the way we use colors alone today, as in “That flower is pink.” Still, you could describe something as “an incarnate color,” meaning a pink or fleshy color, or say you picked “incarnate clovers,” meaning pink clovers.

Colors from Nature

Colors continued to come from nature through the 1700s. For example, ultramarine, a blue color, comes from Latin that means “beyond the sea,” probably because the color originally came from a blue pigment from the mineral lapis lazuli which came from Asia.

The late 1700s gave us “maroon,” from the French word for the color of a chestnut, and “puce,” from the French word for flea or the color of a flea (yes, the insect).

Colors After Chemical Dyes

Advances in chemistry in the mid-1800s that allowed manufacturers to make synthetic dyes led to an explosion of new colors, and the fashion industry in particular embraced the ability to add novelty to its products and drove the adoption of many new color words. According to a book called “Bright Modernity: Color, Commerce, and Consumer Culture”:

“Women’s magazines disseminated the names of new colors and sometimes their origins. Acquiring this knowledge was part of keeping up with fashion for the  middle-class female consumer.”

Many of these new color words came from French. Some of the colors this new era gave us include the following:

  • Mauve: The French word for the color of the mallow plant’s flower
  • Ecru: From the French word for “raw or unbleached” because it is the color of unbleached linen
  • Beige: From the French word to describe the color of undyed, unbleached wool
  • Burgundy: Referring to the color of wine through the Burgundy region in France
  • Turquoise: From the Old French word for “Turkish” because the turquoise-colored stone was originally imported from the Turkish region

The mid-1800s also gave us “aquamarine,” which comes from Latin and means “sea-water,” and “khaki,” which comes from the Urdu word for “dusty.”

Tangerine, the fruit, got its name in the mid-1800s because that particular type of orange was imported from Tangier, and it started being used as a color word in 1899.

There are so many more interesting color words, and I just learned that Kory Stamper from Merriam-Webster is writing an entire book about color words, but I’ll end with the two words that got me started on this grand expedition into color words in the first place: magenta and solferino.

Magenta was originally patented in 1859 by a French chemist and called “fuchsine,” after the fuchsia flower, but soon thereafter was changed to honor a French military victory over the Austrians near the northern Italian town of Magenta. And solferino is a bright crimson purplish red or purplish pink (sources disagree) named around the same time as magenta after a village in northern Italy, again because of a battle that took place in the region.

Solferino also appears to be a coloring that can be added to liquor, at least it was in 1866 when it was used as a tincture that was mentioned alongside caramel and turmeric in the book The Independent Liquorist. The author described solferino as “The handsomest, as well as the most powerful color known to the trade.”

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

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55 American English Words Derived from Algonquian Languages

American English has been enriched by the widespread adoption of words based on vocabulary of Native American tribes, including the many tribes that spoke (and, in some cases, still speak) one of the Algonquian languages of what is now eastern North America. The following is a list of such terms, more or less commonly used, most of which refer to animals or plants or products derived from them.

apishamore (Algonquian): a buffalo-hide saddle blanket
babiche (Míkmaq): a leather or sinew thong or thread
caribou (Míkmaq): a species of large antlered mammal
caucus (Algonquian): a group of people who meet to discuss an issue or work together toward a goal; also a verb
chipmunk (Odawa): any of various small rodent species that are part of the squirrel family
chinquapin (Powhatan): a dwarf chestnut tree or its nut
cisco (Ojibwe): a whitefish
hackmatack (Algonquian): a type of larch tree, or its wood
hickory (Powhatan): a type of tree or its wood, or a cane or switch made of the wood
hominy (Powhatan): soaked and hulled corn kernels
husky (based on shortening of the Cree word from which Eskimo is derived): a type of dog; the adjective husky is unrelated
kinkajou (Algonquian): a Central and South American mammal
kinnikinnick (or killikinnick or killickinnick) (Unami Delaware): a mixture of dried leaves and bark smoked like tobacco, or the plant (also called bearberry) from which the materials are taken
mackinaw (Menomini): a heavy type of cloth used for coats and blankets, or a coat or blanket made of the cloth, or a type of trout
moccasin (Algonquian): a soft leather shoe or a regular shoe resembling a traditional moccasin, or, as “water moccasin,” a species of snake or a similar snake
moose (Eastern Abenaki): a species of large antlered mammal
mugwump (Eastern Abenaki): originally, a war leader, but in American slang, a kingpin, later a political independent, or someone neutral or undecided
muskellunge (Ojibwe): a pike (a type of fish)
muskeg (Cree): a bog or swamp
muskrat (Western Abenaki): an aquatic rodent
opossum (Powhatan): a marsupial (sometimes possum)
papoose (Narragansett): an infant
pecan (Illinois): a type of tree, or the wood or the nut harvested from it
pemmican (Cree): a food made of pounded meat and melted fat, and sometimes flour and molasses as well
persimmon (Powhatan): a type of tree, or the fruit harvested from it
pipsissewa (Abenaki): a type of herb with leaves used for tonic and diuretic purposes
pokeweed (Powhatan): a type of herb
pone (Powhatan): flat cornbread; also called cornpone, which is also slang meaning “countrified” or “down-home”)
powwow (Narragansett): a Native American medicine man, or, more commonly, a Native American ceremony, fair, or other gathering; also, slang for “meeting” or, less often, “party”
puccoon (Powhatan): a type of plant, or the pigment derived from it
pung (Algonquian): a box-shaped sleigh drawn by one horse
punkie (Munsee): an alternate name for a biting midge, a type of fly
quahog (Narragansett): a type of edible clam
Quonset hut (Algonquian): a trademark for a type of prefabricated structure with an arched corrugated-metal roof
raccoon (Powhatan): a type of mammal noted for its masklike facial markings, or the fur of the animal
sachem (Algonquian): a chief of a Native American tribe or confederation of tribes; also, a leader in the Tammany Hall political machine
sagamore (Eastern Abenaki): an Algonquian tribal chief
shoepac (Unami Delaware): a cold-weather laced boot
skunk (Massachusett): a type of mammal known for spraying a noxious odor in defense, or the fur of the animal; also, slang for “obnoxious person”
squash (Narragansett): any of various plants that produces fruit, also called squash, that is cultivated as a vegetable; the verb squash, and the name of the ball-and-racquet game, are unrelated
squaw (Massachusetts): a Native American woman or, by extension, a woman or a wife; the word is widely considered offensive
succotash (Narragansett): a dish of green corn and lima or shell beans
terrapin (Powhatan): one of various types of turtles
toboggan (Míkmaq): a wooden sled with the front end curved up and, by extension, a downward course or a sharp decline (the activity of using such a sled is called tobogganing); also, a slang term for a winter stocking cap with a pom-pom or a tassel
tomahawk (Powhatan): a light ax used as a throwing or hacking weapon; as verb, it means “use a tomahawk”
totem (Ojibwe): an object, usually an animal or plant, serving as a family or clan emblem, or, more often, a carved or painted representation, often in the form of a pole fashioned from a tree trunk and carved with figures representing one’s ancestors (also, a family or clan so represented); by extension, any emblem or symbol
tuckahoe (Powhatan): a type of plant with an edible root, or the edible part of a type of fungus
tullibee (Ojibwe): any one of several types of whitefish
wampum (Massachusett): beads of polished shells used as ceremonial gifts, money, or ornaments; also, slang for “money”
wanigan (Ojibwa): a tracked or wheeled shelter towed by a tractor or mounted on a boat or raft
wapiti Shawnee): another word for elk
wickiup (Fox): a hut or shelter made of a rough frame of vegetation
wigwam (Eastern Abenaki): a hut or shelter made of a rough frame of vegetation or hides
woodchuck (Algonquian): a type of marmot (a small mammal); also called a groundhog

Source: dailywritingtips.com

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25 Word Lists for Writers

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Beyond Paper Editing

Editors’ tips for writers

Thursday, 10 July 2014

by Corina Koch MacLeod
@CKmacleodwriter

I like lists—especially word lists. They help me to make sense of the world. Below is a round-up of useful word lists for writers. Use them to check for and address potential problems in your writing.

Needless Words

We all do it—use words that clutter up our writing. If you know what those words are, you can hunt them down and obliterate them.

10 Words to Cut From Your Writing at Entrepreneur

Needless Words at Tech Tools for Writers. This word list is nicely packaged in a macro that you run in Microsoft Word.* Talk about a timesaver.

*See this 30-second video for how to add a macro to Word.

Craft Words

There are parts of the writing craft that many writers struggle with at some point in their writing journey—telling too much instead of showing, for example. Some clever word wranglers have taken the time to create word lists that can help you to attend to common writer missteps:

TellingWords at Tech Tools for Writers—identifies words that may indicate instances of telling

-ly Words at Tech Tools for Writers—highlights adverbs often used in dialogue, which may indicate that you’re telling instead of showing. Often, he said and she said will suffice.

Historical Words

If you’re writing historical fiction, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with vocabulary from the time period in which you’re writing. These word lists will take you back in time.

100 Words that Define the First World War at the Oxford English Dictionary

Flapper Speak: Dictionary of Words from the 1920s and 1930s, by Margaret Chai Maloney

Glossary of 80s Terms at In the 80s

Genre Words

Some genres of writing have their own vocabularies. Learn the words genre readers will expect to read.

A Glossary of Science Fiction Jargon, by Eric S. Raymond

Sensual Words for Romance Writers, by Annette Blair

Gangster Glossary at Night of Mystery

Hard Boiled Slang Dictionary at Classic Crime Fiction

English Dialect Word Lists

For tips on writing with dialects, refer to How to Write Authentic Dialects, by Arlene Prunkl. These word lists will take you the rest of the way, eh!

A List of Quaint Southernisms at Alpha Dictionary

Glossary of English and British Words at Project Britain

Glossary of Canadian English at Wikipedia.org

Words from Other Languages

If you’re writing a book set in a another place, or if a character’s cultural background is of importance to the story, seasoning your story with the occasional foreign word or phrase is de rigeur.

French Phrases Used in English at the Phrase Finder German Loan Words in English at About.com

Russian Words Used in English at Daily Writing Tips

Spanish Words Become Our Own at About.com

The Yiddish Handbook: 40 Words You Should Know at Daily Writing Tips

Confusable Words

It’s easy to confuse words that look or sound similar, or that mean something other than what you think they mean. These lists will help you to sort out some of the more common confusables.

Misused Words by Daily Writing Tips

Commonly Confused Words by Oxford Dictionaries

10 Words that Don’t Mean What You Think They Do at Daily Writing Tips

Misspelled Words

Your word processor’s spell check can catch most of your misspellings, but not all of them. Here are some words that sneak through spell check or trip up writers.

Common Misspellings

Words Often Misspelled Because of Double Letters

There are many more lists that I can add to this round-up. If you have a favourite word list, tell us about it in the comments below.

 

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