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Shades of Red
Saturdays are perfect days for chromatic surprises. Surprise—we’re talking about the color red today!
Red makes an impact. This primary color, one of the big seven in the rainbow, stands out everywhere. Most shades of red are named for flora (rose, poppy), fauna (coral, salmon), or minerals (garnet, ruby). However, some words for this dramatic color have more obscure origins:
cardinal is named for the robe worn by Catholic cardinals, whose title derives from Latin cardinalis, meaning chief or principal.
carmine and crimson both derive from the Arabic qirmiz, describing a valued red dye produced from an insect.
maroon describes the color of a type of chestnut, from Greek maraon meaning sweet chestnut.
scarlet comes from a word in many languages describing a rich cloth, which eventually became conflated with a brilliant red that might color such cloth.
vermilion ultimately comes from the root VERM- meaning worm, in reference to that influential insect from which red dye was made.