chicken and egg debate, but we wanted to know: which came first, orange the fruit or orange the color? Both scenarios are possible, but in the case of orange, the color was named after the fruit.ave you ever picked up a bag of oranges at the grocery store and thought to yourself, “I wonder why this is the one fruit that shares a name with a color?” The question of orange (the fruit? the color?) may not be as profound as the
Let’s start with life pre-orange (the fruit).
Orange trees aren’t native to Europe. They came to the continent during the Middle Ages, when they were brought over on the Silk Road.Oranges didn’t make their way to England until the 13th century, but the color was there long before that. After all, leaves all over the world turn orange every autumn, sunsets descend into the same orangey glow, and orange flowers can be found in many places throughout the realm.
So you might be surprised to find out that English speakers didn’t name the fruit after the color they were so familiar with — instead, they finally got a name for the color they’d been seeing from this new-found citrus.
When oranges (the fruit) first came to Europe, colors were described as some variation on either white, black, blue, red, yellow or purple. Unlike the chicken, we can follow the etymological trail, and know with certainty that the fruit came first — by 300 years no less. The first instance of the word in Anglo manuscript, “pume orange,” dates back to the 13th century (and it was adapted from old French “pomme d’orenge” ). And the first use of the word to describe the color is first noted in the 16th century.
So how did we get the color orange?
Orange trees were first called “nāringa,” a Sanskrit word that eventually became “naaranj” in Arabic. The word “naaranj” arrived with the fruit when Islamic settlers made their homes in Italy and Spain. To this day, “orange” (both the fruit and the color) is called naranja in Spanish. Italy, as well as English-speaking Europe, dropped the “n” at the front of naaranj through metanalysis, where the n at the beginning of a word gets attached to the determiner “a.” In simpler terms, orange was probably “norange” for a brief spell before becoming “an orange.”
OK, when did yellow-red become orange though?
while the color’s first recorded use came about at the beginning of the 16th century. By this point, oranges were a common fruit Europeans could find in marketplaces across much of the continent. It probably helped that the Renaissance was underway at the same time, and artists were looking for new words to describe all of the vivid colors they were painting with.
Some facts that support the argument
- There is an orange tree in Europe called “Constable” that is estimated to be almost 500 years old.
- Lightning kills more orange trees annually than any disease.
- Temple Oranges and Murcott Honey Oranges are actually hybrid oranges, being crossed with tangerines.
- Over 25 billion oranges are grown in the United States every year. That’s enough oranges for every American to eat about 83 oranges a year.
- Christopher Columbus brought the first orange seeds to the New World on his second voyage in 1493. On this same voyage, he also brought seeds for lemons and citrons.
- Navel oranges are named for their belly-button-like formations on the opposite side from the stem. As a general rule, the bigger the navel in the orange, the sweeter it will be.
- There is no single English word that rhymes with orange. There are however half rhymes such as “hing”, “syringe”, “sporange”, etc. There are also proper nouns that come very close to being a perfect rhyme with it, such as “Blorenge”, which is a mountain in Wales, and “Gorringe”, which is the last name of the US Naval Commander who discovered and named Gorringe Ridge in 1875.