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Shades of Blue
Saturdays are perfect days for chromatic surprises. Surprise–we're talking about the color blue today!
Another one of the big seven in the rainbow, blue can be found everywhere from beautiful skies to breathtaking oceans. Blue doesn’t just describe how you feel when your luck’s gone bad; this color has been associated with some of life’s greatest joys, e,g, Baby Blue.
Many shades of this primary color are named for gems (turquoise, sapphire, lapis lazuli), colleges (Cambridge, Columbia, Duke), flowers (cornflower, periwinkle), and even planets (Uranian, Neptune). What about the ones with more esoteric associations?
aquamarine describes an oceanic blue named for the roots AQUA- meaning water and MAR- meaning sea.
cerulean, the color of sky and rare warblers, took a tortured route (as did the word celestial) from the Latin caelum meaning heaven or sky.
blurple is a portmanteau of blue and purple used to describe the color of the Discord logo.
cobalt is a lovely color with a disturbing history; the word comes from the German word kobold, meaning goblin, gnome, or imp. 17th century miners believed that troublesome goblins replaced this element in their ore with a substance that emitted toxic fumes when smelted.
cyan is a bright shade of light blue confusingly named from the Greek word kyanos meaning dark blue.
navy blue is a dark shade of blue originally called marine blue, until it became synonymous with the British Royal Navy in 1748–there’s also a less culturally dominant Air Force blue.
teal describes both a color and a group of lovely little freshwater ducks in the same genus as the mighty Mallard. The Eurasian Teal sports this deep blue-green on its head and underwings.
ultramarine, a truly deep shade of blue, comes from the roots ULTRA- meaning beyond and MAR- meaning sea.
Indigo deserves a special shout out, since this intense violet-blue holds its own contested slot in the rainbow. Whether you think indigo is more blue or more violet, its name still comes from the same place: India, from which the popular plant-based dye was imported.
(If you love learning about the etymology of colors, check out our exploration of Shades of Red.)