Which Came First, Orange the Fruit or Orange the Color?

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Is an orange orange because it’s an orange?
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The word “orange” traces its roots back to Sanskrit naranga.

Orange is a color that’s in between yellow and red on the spectrum. An orange is an orange-colored fruit. So which came first, orange the fruit or orange the color?

First, a little history. The word “orange” traces its roots back to Sanskrit naranga, which was their word for both the fruit and the tree it grew on. Over the years, that word became the old French orenge, which then entered Late Middle English in the fourteenth century as orange.

So if that’s how the name of the fruit came about, where did the name of the color come from? Well, as you’ve probably guessed by now, the name of the color came from the fruit. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the word orange as a color was in a will written in 1512, fewer than 200 years after it first entered the lexicon as the name for the fruit.

Before orange was the name of the color, people typically referred to it as saffron, which existed in the English language before orange did. Or they’d simply call it yellow-red (for a reddish orange) or yellow-saffron (for a more yellowish orange). 

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